I hate to contradict a colleague, especially one so passionate about a product line, but my experience with the Jurlique Herbal Recovery Eye Gel has been less than stellar.  Certainly, Jurlique must be praised for its biodynamic ingredients (it was awarded a gold medal in the green category in our Anti-Aging Olympics), and it must deliver real results that account for Claire's radiant skin revolution (click here to read her ode to Jurlique). But there is an exception to every rule, and Jurlique's Herbal Recovery Eye Gel simply does not live up to the superlative hype of the line as a whole.

With a lofty price tag of $121 and elegant packaging, I expected great things from this serum.  I wanted so much for it to brighten my eye area and firm the delicate skin, as promised on the label.  With high hopes, I began a new regimen of rubbing the gel under and around my eyes before bedtime.  My reaction can only be summed up by the word "OW!"  As a stinging sensation enveloped my eyes and tears flowed down my cheeks, I rushed to the sink to expunge whatever evils had just trespassed on my baby blues.  Three more attempts to apply the gel and three subsequent rinsings later, I finally gave up on Jurlique's herbal recovery eye gel.

Scouring the ingredients list for the offending agent, I could only find innocent, pretty things.  From eyebright to heartease extracts, the ingredients sound more soothing than irritating. There is a substantial share of evening primrose oil, difficult to harvest and very expensive to produce, which is an abundant source of an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid.  Panax ginseng root extract, whose genus name means "panacea" in Greek, is hailed for a number of medicinal purposes, though it lacks clinical corroboration.  Packed with flavenoids which reduce capillary fragility, ginkgo leaf extract is a potent antioxident and helps improve blood flow.  In addition to eyebright extract, which is a known remedy for tired eyes, there is a laundry list of plant extracts (I counted 16 in all). With such a rich abundance of botanical goodness, where does Jurlique eye gel's Achilles' Heel lie?

The first ingredient that gave me pause is arnica montana, typically used in preparations to treat sore muscles, bruises, sprains, and other conditions caused by overexertion.  Herbal journals warn against applying arnica to abraded skin since it is a significant irritant, and the American Journal of Contact Dermatitis has found it to be associated with a high incidence of skin sensitization.  Perhaps this harsh anti-inflammatory might not be the best choice for inclusion in an eye cream. Another item that popped out from the virtuous list of ingredients is retinyl palmitate, aka vitamin A, which is converted to retinoic acid after being absorbed into the skin.  Though it is a step on the metabolic pathway away from the extreme irritant retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate can sometimes cause inflammation, especially on sensitive skin.

If neither arnica montana nor retinyl palmitate is the culprit for the eye gel's painful effect, then the cause must lie in sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (it's even frightening to pronounce!)  This preservative, often mislabeled "natural," has been found to be both a moderate skin and eye irritant and a potential allergen in animal and human tests.  Even after washing with water, it can still sting the eyes, which would explain why my eyes continued to tear up after rinsing the gel completely off my face.  Like paraben-containing preservatives, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate can break down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that causes irritation to the eyes, reproductive organs, and respiratory system. I guess a little burning in your eyes should be the least of your worries!

All in all, I was rather disappointed with Jurlique's herbal recovery gel.  Though my skin does tend to be super sensitive and allergy-prone, any eye gel should be devoid of inflammatory ingredients and dubious preservatives.  You could get practically the same product for almost half the price if you went with Jurlique's Soothing Herbal Recovery Gel ($67), whose formula is probably better suited to the entire face than to the sensitive under-eye area.  As for the eye gel, before applying, you might want to be prepared with a wet washcloth for some much-needed relief!  It's not called "recovery" gel for nothing...

Ingredients in Herbal Recovery Eye Gel:

Aqua (Water); Glycerin; Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil; Alcohol; Panax ginseng Root Extract; Gingko biloba Leaf Extract; Arnica montana Flower Extract; Euphrasia officinalis (Eyebright) Extract; Rosa gallica Flower Extract; Bellis perennis (Daisy) Flower Extract; Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract; Echinacea purpurea Extract; Stellaria media (Chickweed) Extract; Viola tricolor (Heartease) Extract; Viola odorata (Violet) Extract; Spilanthes acmella Flower Extract; Xanthan Gum; Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate; Lactic Acid; PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate; Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract; Lecithin; Daucus carota sativa (Carrot) Root Extract; Fragrance (Parfum); Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A); Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E); Citrus grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract; Allantoin; Citral; Geraniol; Linalool; Limonene