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Are Pricey Anti-Aging Products Worth It?

High-end skin care
August 17, 2017 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments

A Truth In Aging community member recently asked me to look at a product called Cosmelan 2 Maintenance Depigmentation Cream, which I found on Dermstore.com selling for $300. I hadn’t heard of Cosmelan before and given the price, I was hoping to be wowed by this new discovery. Sadly, I was really underwhelmed and concluded that this hope-in-a-jar was way overpriced.

I realize that I am inviting condemnation from those who will point out that I’ve come to this conclusion without actually trying the product myself. That criticism is fair, but I believe a lot can be gleaned by analyzing the ingredients list of a product. You should in fact be able to tell right away what you are paying for. So, here is my criteria for assessing if a product is worth my hard-earned cash and how I applied it to Cosmelan 2.

Read into the product claims
I always start with the product claims. Are they vague and over-promising or clear and specific? Is the claim something that can be easily achieved? Or, is it a tall order? And most importantly, is there objective evidence to back up these claims? In the case of Cosmelan 2, it claims to be “an extremely effective lightening cream designed to reduce hyperpigmentation.” This is actually an ambitious claim, as hyperpigmentation is difficult to reduce in a really impactful way. Therefore, I would want to be confident that the active ingredients are going to live up to it. Finally, be sure to read the fine print. It is also worth noting that Cosmelan 2 is recommended for at-home use after a professional Cosmelan 1 treatment (cost around $650). So, the results from Cosmelan 2 may not be as claimed if you haven’t had the in-office treatment first.

Identify the actives
Cosmelan 2 is all about reducing hyperpigmentation. It contains several key actives that are relevant: Azeliac acid, kojic acid and alpha arbutin are all tyrosinase inhibitors. Research has shown that niacinamide will help reduce hyperpigmentation, although a study showed that was a “plateau” effect after four weeks of use. Two exfoliating ingredients, retinyl palmitate and salicylic acid will also be helpful for clarifying the complexion.

These are all decent, but they are ubiquitous and can be found in less expensive potions and lotions. The mere inclusion doesn’t add up to a $300 product. At this price, I would expect to see powerful peptides or growth factors. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be anything about this formula that gives an edge, such as modifications that would improve penetration. In contrast, see my article on how to treat sun spots for the latest developments in hyperpigmentation actives. But I will point out one Cosmelan ingredient that is intriguing: an extract of rumex occidentalis, which research has shown can treat melisma.

Consider concentrations
So, if the ingredients are decent but not standouts, could there be a price justification in the concentration of the actives? They are not revealed in this product and in any case may not matter if they are part of a smart delivery system. But this doesn’t appear to be the case with Cosmelan 2. There are some clues when reading an ingredients list as typically they are in descending order — the most dominant ingredient (usually water) will be the first. The first of the actives to be found on list here is azeliac acid, and it comes in as the twelfth ingredient. The others are scattered amongst a total of over 50.

Scan the non-actives
Of those 50-odd ingredients, there are an awful lot that play a role in the chemistry of a cream, but do not impart any benefits to the skin. This is one of the biggest detractors when it comes to premium pricing. I don’t want my money going on polymers, silicones and surfactants. Modern, independent formulators have proven beyond doubt that stable and effective products can be made without all these things and I know when I buy them that most of my money is going into the things that count.

Look out for irritants and toxins
I have seen far worse products than this one.  However, there are a few ingredients to be aware of including a couple of PEGs, titanium dioxide, retinyl palmitate (which can become phytotoxic in sunlight) and sodium metabisulfate. The last thing you want is to spend a huge chunk of change on a product that is going to irritate your skin and end up in the back of a bathroom drawer.

Cosmelan 2 Maintenance Depigmentation Cream Ingredient List: Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride & Glycerin & Ceteareth-25 & Sodium Dicocoylethylenediamine & PEG-15 Sulfate & Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate & Behenyl Alcohol & Glycery Stearate & Glyceryl Steearate Citrate & Gum Arabic & Xanthan Gum, Aqua, Azelaic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, Kojic Acid, Poloxamer 407, Glycerin & Rumex Occidentalis Extract, Salicylic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Niacinamide, Hydroxypropylstarch Phosphate, 1-methylpyrrolidine, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Butylene Glycol Dicaprylate / Dicaprate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alpha-arbutin, Aminoethylphosphinic Acid & Butylene Glycol, C12-C13 Alkyl Malate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Stearic Acid, PEG-8 Beeswax, C30-45 Alkyl Methicone, Alcohol, Bisabolol, Sorbitan Stearate, Dimethicone, Stearyl Dimethicone, Citric Acid, Sclerotium Gum, Phytic Acid, Glycirrhiza Glabra, Sodium Metabisulfate, Ascorbic Acid, Allantoin.

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