Philosophy’s “world famous” moisturizer has a reputation that precedes itself. Endorsed by celebs, top derms and plastic surgeons?  Check.  2007 Best of Sephora Winner? Yep. Frequent best-seller at beauty.com stores as well as traditional brick-and-mortar stores?  You bet.

Hope in a jar.  That’s quite a statement, especially at the discount rate of $38 for two ounces of the stuff.  But what miracles can this cream claim?  Purportedly, a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles, skin discoloration, rough texture and dehydration. This, in addition to lending the user a cherubic rosy glow.

So what does what and why?  And what’s so hopeful about the contents of this jar?  Let’s take a look…

A few reasons to believe… (the special ingredients)

The lactic acid lauryl lactate is a gentle exfoliant, acting here as sort of a "mini-peel"  to reduce fine lines and smooth skin.

Tocopheryl acetate, or vitamin E, is a naturally occurring antioxidant isolated from vegetable oil.  Studies on mice indicate that it prevents the formation of pre-mutagenic DNA changes, known to be important in skin carcinogenesis (cancer).

The oat-derived polymer beta-glucan, also an antioxidant, is what gives “hopeful” users a "rosy glow,"  at least according to the Philosophy pitch.  The truth is that beta-glucans do stimulate immune cells in the skin, accelerating tissue repair, fighting off bacteria, and healing wounds; they also have been shown to provide a small level of protection from the sun.  Even more promising, preliminary research indicates that they are capable of penetrating deep down into the skin, more so than other ingredients, to deliver significant skin benefits.

Retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, has been shown to increase collagen, DNA, skin thickness, and elasticity. For those who have had irritation to retinal, clinical results have shown vitamin A palmitate - the ester of retinol combined with palmitic acid - to be a more stable alternative for improving skin's texture and smoothing out fine lines.

Panthenol is a vitamin B5 derivative that acts as a lubricant on the skin surface, giving the skin a soft and smooth appearance. It is important to note, however, that Panthenol is not absorbed through the skin and thus has limited effects that are not due to its provitamin character. A small number of people find it irritating.

Keeping the faith… benign ingredients, and round-of-the-mill moisturizers.


Behenic acid, a cleansing and thickening agent derived from a fatty acid; behenoxy dimethicone, semi-synthetic compound, acts as a skin conditioner; glyceryl stearate Se, an emulsifying agent taken from palm or corn oil; glycerin - a humectant, or moisturizer, from sweet alcohol; behenyl alcohol, a binder and emulsion stabilizer; pentaerythrityl tetracaprylate/tetracaprate, an emollient derived from fatty acids; benzyl alcohol, a preservative and an emulsifier that has been proven safe, although may be irritating to milder skin types; and xanthan gum—a stabilizer made from fermented sugar.

Doubts, heresies, etc…

There’s been much ado about lavender oil and lavender derivatives.  As mentioned in past posts, (see lavender and skin safety) lavender oil can be cytotoxic to human skin cells. Here, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil is used as a fragrance and moisturizer.

Propylene Glycol often functions as a humectant in cosmetics, but is also found in industrial anti-freeze, not to mention being the major ingredient in brake and hydraulic fluids.  Interestingly enough, its official safety sheet warns against skin contact because of strong irritation and possible kidney and liver damage!  In cosmetics, it is often used as a penetration enhancer, i.e. by altering the skin's structure, it allows other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin.

The silicone cyclomethicone, often used in cosmetics as an emollient, humectant, solvent and/or viscosity controlling agent, has beeb shown to cause skin irritation in moderate doses on animals. Stearic Acid is a known skin irritant.  Here, it is most likely used as a surfactant, cleansing agent, and/or emulsifying agent.

Triethanolamine usually provides a pH balance in cosmetics, and is often used with fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes the base for a cleanser.  It is a known irritant, and may well be a possible carcinogenic according to one animal study.


Parabens: methylparaben, propylparaben. Widely used as preservatives, parabens have been linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility and a host of other problems.  (For more info, check out "Preservatives and parabens and are they safe?") Diazolidinyl Urea is also a preservative.  There is strong evidence that it is a skin toxicant, with 1 in 1000 people reporting irritation from contact. Although modern formulations are said to be safer.

Ingredients:

water, lauryl lactate, behenic acid, behenoxy dimethicone, glyceryl stearate se, glycerin, behenyl alcohol, cyclomethicone, pentaerythrityl tetracaprylate/tetracaprate, tocopheryl acetate, benzyl alcohol, retinyl palmitate, stearic acid, panthenol, betaglucan, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, xanthan gum, triethanolamine, propylene glycol, methylparaben, propylparaben, diazolidinyl urea