I am frequently asked what I think about Obagi skincare. My overall view, as mentioned in our profile of Obagi, is that I am personally not in favor of the line’s philosophy, which is to peel, peel and peel again. Peeling and frequent exfoliation (say, from a retinol) will give a short-term anti-aging boost, but over time the skin tends to become dry and dull. Putting this prejudice to one side, I focused fairly randomly on three Obagi products to get a better idea of whether the line was worth trying out. I found them shockingly disappointing.

Standing out as the worst, was Obagi Elastiderm Eye Treatment Cream ($89).  I have rarely come across an eye cream that has so little to recommend it – certainly not in the nearly $100 price bracket. With the exception of glycerin, a workaday moisturizer, you have to get past 19 assorted fillers and potential irritants to get to anything worthwhile.

And the worthwhile amounts to an unspectacular cast of vitamin E, licorice root extract, algae and blueberry. That’s it. The thought of paying $89 for this leaves me flabbergasted. Especially as this handful of actives are preceded by the likes of propylene glycol, silicones and plasticizers such as dipropylene glycol dibenzoate and then immediately followed by the irritant and possible neurotoxin phenoxyethenol, every controversial paraben known to man, sodium hydroxide (a toxin) and carcinogenic talc.

Obagi is probably best known for his Nu-Derm line. Randomly, I singled out Exfoderm ($58). Unsurprisingly, the main ingredient here is the exfoliator glycolic acid, backed by lactic acid.  As it goes this is fine (although it probably shouldn’t be used more than once or twice a week). Personally, I object though to paying nearly $60 for something that has a very high concentration of wax. But what is really worrying is that the wax is followed by triethanolamine. This is usually somewhere near the end of the ingredient list. But here in Obagi Nu-Derm Exfoderm it is the fourth ingredient. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says there is a strong evidence that triethanolamine is a human skin, immune system and respiratory toxicant

Finally, I took a look at Obagi’s Professional C line ($60.84 for 10% with price increasing with concentration).  This, at least, has the merit of being a relatively simple formula with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) being one of only four ingredients in total. Unfortunately, the other three are propylene carbonate, a solvent and plasticizer that apparently gets used in the making of lithium batteries, propylene glycol and an unidentified fragrance.

The next time someone asks me about Obagi, I will say unequivocally that it is not for me.

Ingredients in Exfoderm:

Purified Water, Glycolic Acid, Emulsifying Wax, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Lactic Acid, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Kalaya Oil, Stearic Acid, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Saponins

Ingredients in Professional C:

Propylene Glycol, Water, Propylene Carbonate, Ascorbic Acid, Fragrance.

Ingredients in Elastiderm eye cream:

Water, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, C13-15 Alkane, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Cyclopentasiloxane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Peg-100 Stearate, Dipropylene Glycol Dibenzoate, Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Stearyl Alcohol, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether Benzoate, Polyacrylamide, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetyl Dimethicone, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Xanthan Gum, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Laureth-7, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E Acetate), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Algae Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Sodium Hydroxide, Malonic Acid, Malachite, Zinc Carbonate, Silica, Talc, Alumina, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Mica (CI 77019), Iron Oxides (CI 77491).