drugstore brands

Each year, a great deal of marketing dollars is devoted to hyping up the latest skin care offerings from big beauty brands. But for many of these products, a careful reading of the ingredients list is enough to make your skin crawl. I take a closer look at some of the most popular drugstore offerings as well as more natural alternatives that get the job done without all the nasties.

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum Fragrance Free

I am confused by Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum Fragrance Free ($22.99). As it says “fragrance free,” I did not expect to find fragrance listed in the ingredients. But it's there, right at the very end along with (on Olay’s website) a link to read more about their fragrance, where we are given a humongous list of all the chemical perfumes that might possibly be used. Odd. Apart from that, this is classic Olay Regenerist with the signature niacinamide (a form of vitamin B) up front and center and the peptide, Matrixyl. The rest are mostly unwanted laureths, PEGs, silicone and mineral oil.

Alternatives to Olay Regenerist

A great option is the comparably priced Blissoma Smooth A+ Perfecting Serum ($25.99), a treatment that contains 4% niacinamide. The base is an infusion of botanical juices, such as coriander and fennel, as well as rose and aloe. Plus there are no nasties — they even use radish root as the preservative.

Yes To Grapefruit Dark Spot Correcting Body Creme

Yes to Grapefruit Dark Spot Correcting Body Creme ($9.99) is both petrolatum and sulfate free. Compared to many drugstore brands, Yes is a breath of fresh air. In addition to grapefruit, I do like the addition of antioxidant gluconolactone; as a polyhydroxy acid, this will be doing the dark spot correcting. There's also an intriguing botanical called masterwort, which is an anti-inflammatory. Most of the ingredients are fairly benign with the exception of chemical fragrance and the preservative and toxin, sodium benzoate.

Alternatives to Yes to Grapefruit

How about a completely natural brightening formula that combines kojic acid, alpha arbutin, niacinamide, milk thistle and vitamin C to repair uneven skin tone? Sweetsation Lumi*Essence Body Organic Advanced Brightening Repair Treatment ($48 in the shop) works to correct dark spots, age spots and sun spots on body, neck and décolleté.

And for a grapefruit sensation, there’s Mukti Pink Grapefruit Body Lotion ($47). With so many natural ingredients, this body lotion looks good enough to eat. The shea butter and macadamia oils are a treat for the skin. Grapefruit is given an extra citrus charge with orange, mandarin and tangerine. At nearly 17oz (compared to 6oz with Yes), it lasts a good while.

Vichy ProEven Daily Eye Corrector

The surprising thing about Vichy ProEven Daily Eye Corrector ($40.50) is the price tag. Surprising, because I only checked on the price after scrutinizing the ingredients. Although niacinamide, a wrinkle reducer and skin lightener, is a very good ingredient, the only other things to write home about are licorice root extract, vitamin C and shea butter. The rest are the usual suspects of fillers, chemicals and preservatives. The value to cost ratio for this product is woefully low.

Alternatives to Vichy ProEvan

ProEven is positioned as an eye cream that helps with dark circles. Therefore, I would consider Skinfinite LOL Eye Serum ($49 in the shop). It has two kinds of peptides, Eyeseryl, and Haloxyl, for dark circles, plus green coffee, kiwi and evening primrose oil to relieve under-eye inflammation, increase blood circulation and improve wrinkles.

Sevani Ageless Eyes Revitalizing Eye Serum ($54 in the shop) is a 100% natural eye serum that hydrates while also helping with panda eyes. A blend of essential oils, including jojoba, argan, sea buckthorn berry and rosehip, encourages collagen production and minimizes the appearance of lines, wrinkles and dark circles


Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.

Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Hydration Mask

Boots No7 is a venerable British brand that has been around for most of my life. I always considered it a bit stodgy until it shot into the headlines a few years ago after customers stampeded stores for Boots No7 Protect & Perfect, a potion with the Matrixyl peptide. Protect & Perfect is a rather ghastly product that I was terribly allergic to. I don’t think I would fair better with its newer Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Hydration Mask ($16.99). Boots No7 boasts that this is a mask with ceramides, a hydrating agent that makes up 50% of our skin’s protective barrier. However, these are way down the ingredient list, with the most dominant being glycerin and petrolatum. The formula also has several parabens and phenoxyethanol.

Alternatives to Boots No7 Mask

For a ceramide fix, look at Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum ($35 in the shop). This is a great little serum that exfoliates with lactic and glycolic acids, brightens with a botanical complex called Gigawhite, plus has the peptide Matrixyl 3000 and ceramide-3.

Skinfinite Platinum 1% Retinol ($63 in the shop). Yes, this has ceramide, but it also has 1% retinol. It is one of the few retinol creams that get my vote. It doesn’t seem to irritate, and there are good results within two months. Skin is hydrated with ceramide-2, shea butter and sodium hyaluronate, so unlike many retinols, Skinfinite Platinum is not drying.

Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Restructuring Treatment Cream

I don’t really understand how Aveeno gets away with being positioned as a natural brand. There are a lot of synthetics in Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Restructuring Treatment Cream ($18.99) before you get to shitake and mushroom stem cell. Having said that, one of them is a little intriguing: tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine, which studies have shown can give an instant, but superficial tightening effect for the skin. As for long-term lifting effects, two months of use showed only a 14% improvement. This molecule was apparently developed by RoC based on one that is used as a catalyst in polyurethane coatings. Hmm.

Alternatives to Aveeno

For a mushroom fest in a face cream that really is all-natural and boasts a useful SPF45, consider Prana Reishi Mushroom Shield ($42 in the shop). There are three types of mushroom stem cells and a very interesting plant called astragalus that can prevent our telomeres from shortening and help reduce DNA damage.

Vaseline Intensive Care Healing Serum

I suppose it is only reasonable to expect Vaseline Intensive Care Healing Serum ($8.41) to major on Vaseline, which is to say petrolatum. But surely there must be something that elevates this beyond a tube of an oil industry byproduct to be worthy of the appellation “serum.” Well, actually, no. There’s lemon and lime peel powders (which are, at best, astringents) and glycerin. The rest of the formula is mostly starch thickeners, preservatives (including parabens and phenoxyethanol) and potential irritants, such as arachidic acid.

Alternatives to Vaseline

Before your winter-chapped lips have you reaching for a pot of Vaseline, consider a much pleasanter alternative. Hyalogic Episilk Lip Balm ($6.95 in the shop) is formulated with hyaluronic acid to moisturize the lips along with protective beeswax, olive oil and rich butters.

Or there’s the versatile Sweetsation Choco*Smooch Organic Lip & Face Balm ($9) with nourishing argan, calendula, macadamia, honey and sea buckthorn to soften and revitalize chapped lips and dry skin without any nasties.

For a glycerin-based serum that is worthy of the name, try Amarte Aqua Veil Hydrator ($49). Admittedly, there’s silicone, but most of the formula is comprised of good botanicals such as cucumber and elderberry.

Nexxus Youth Renewal Shampoo

I am told that Nexxus smells like the old (and iconic) Farrah Fawcett Shampoo, and in some ways the formula seems to hark back to the (bad) old days when shampoos were a cocktail of harsh chemicals. This is frustrating because there are some good things in Nexxus Youth Renewal Shampoo ($14.89). There’s argan oil, soybean oil, the antioxidant ubiquinone, as well as hydrolyzed keratin and wheat protein. These ingredients could certainly be helpful for aging hair, indeed hair of any age. Sadly, though, they are marred by sulfate (I can’t believe anyone still formulates with these — although the milder version is used by Nexxus) along with four harsh preservatives and a sunscreen ingredient called benzophenone-4 that doesn’t work on its own and is a known irritant.

Alternatives to Nexxus

Truth Vitality True Volume Shampoo ($29 in the shop) is sulfate, silicone and paraben free. Instead it is loaded with powerful actives, including copper peptides for encouraging healthy hair growth and reducing shedding. Other hair-loving ingredients are anti-aging ferulic acid, carrot extract, caffeine and beta-sitosterol. This gentle shampoo has a light lather with an all-new fresh scent, and it effectively treats the hair and scalp. Regular use gives the volume and strength of youthful hair.

L'Oréal Triple Resist Reinforcing Conditioner

You can’t quibble with a price point of less than five bucks, but I am having a hard time figuring out how this very mediocre formula could reinforce the hair. L’Oreal says that Triple Resist Reinforcing Conditioner ($4.99) is “clinically proven” to help resist breakage and reinforce every strand. I think it must come to down to the silicone. According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, after rinsing, silicone leaves athin coating over each individual hair shaft, preventing “friction” when combing or brushing and hence reducing breakage. There’s some wheat protein and two amino acids, but basically this L’Oreal conditioner is packaged silicone.

Alternatives to L’Oreal

Although not completely squeaky clean, due to paraben preservatives, Osmotics FNS Revitalizing Conditioner ($26) has been formulated to strengthen the hair. Wheat amino acids aren’t just pixie dust here, but are a dominant feature. Plus, there are vitamins A, B, E and avocado and carrot oils. It’s a good conditioner for restoring shine and ideal for brittle or thinning hair.


Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.