department store beauty products

Big beauty is launching a slew of new products to coincide with the fall season and get ahead of the holidays. New appears to be an elastic term, however, as many of the “new” products seem remarkably similar to their older versions. So when is new really new and when is it little more than the emperor’s new clothes?

Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging Power Serum ($55)

This Origins perennial is boasting a new formula, which is just as well, since the old version of Plantscription Anti-Aging Power Serum looked good enough but proved to be blah at best — at least when I tried it back in 2011. As far as I can tell, the only real addition to the formula is crithmum, a kind of samphire that grows on rocks by the beach. Origins claims that it is a gentle alternative to retinol. I found no evidence of this, nor that it has any exfoliating powers in general. I did come across a study that suggests it helps repair the skin and it does have the benefit of being unusual — one of the few other skin care products I have seen it in is Sciote Omni Phyto-Cell Face Creme ($115). Antioxidant pea seems to be another addition. The other ingredient in the “new” Plantscription Anti-Aging Power Serum that Origins makes a song and dance about is the bark of a tree called anogeissus latifolia. This was in the old formula and is composed of an ellagic acid that protects collagen. All in all, nothing new enough to entice me to try it again (I gave up after seven weeks back in 2011, having seen no results).

Chanel Le Lift Serum ($175)

Supposedly one of “two new intelligent antiaging serums,” Chanel Le Lift Serum remains an enigma. Differing from the existing Le Lift line, it majors on Resveratrol-12, patented by Chanel to be a very stable form of resveratrol, the antioxidant extracted (typically) from grapes. Which is all well and good but doesn’t justify what Chanel calls “smart technology that adapts to each woman’s specific needs.” Right now, I’m in need of a Chardonnay, but I doubt whether that’s what Chanel had in mind. I particularly like it when big beauty gets all geeky, as it has here with a special “substance” that has been dubbed 3.5-DA. This is what is supposed to be detecting and targeting specific women’s needs. This is supposed to be extracted from the tropical plant edulis morning glory (which apparently survives only on Planet Chanel because, here on Earth, I couldn’t find it). As it happens, morning glory is in the ipomoea family, as is sweet potato, which is actually what is noted on Chanel Le Lift Serum’s ingredients list.

Elizabeth Arden Flawless Future Powered by Ceramide ($60)

Ceramides have powered Elizabeth Arden for years now — and with good enough reason. Ceramides are natural components of human skin and recent studies reveal that they can also act as a signaling molecule that send messages to the rest of the body. The “signal” they perform is apostosis, programming a cell to die. Trying to refresh the ceramide theme, Elizabeth Arden has created little capsules (come to think of it, that’s not new either) that “create a vital force field against early lines.” Unfortunately, my lines are well past early. In any case, I shan’t be reaching for Elizabeth Arden Flawless Future because apart from ceramides and soy and yeast protein, there is little to recommend it — a formula that is sadly full of fillers, four glycols, harsh preservatives and PEGS.

Estee Lauder Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 25 ($45)

“Serum technology” in a foundation gets my attention. Traditionally, color cosmetics have done more harm than good with their complexion leeching toxins, so when along comes a foundation that promises to do good and evil, I am willing to look more closely. Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Makeup, unfortunately, has more harmful ingredients than good. The sunscreen active is mostly octinoxate, which has estrogen-like effects and should not be used by pregnant women. Sandwiched in between a substantial quantity of silicones and acrylics, there are some serum-like actives. These include a couple of peptides that are also in Estee Lauder-owned Clinique Smart. There’s also fish collagen, whey protein and some natural extracts that are also used across the Lauder sub-brands.

Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Melting Cleanser ($34)

I spotted Pure Truth Melting Cleanser in Sephora, and it not only looks to be genuinely new to the Ole Henriksen range, but not your average cleanser. It melts on contact to go from gel to oil to milk. This transformation seems to come about without anything too alarming lurking in the ingredients. The main ingredient (it comes before water in the listing) is ethylhexyl palmitate, which can be an irritant when used in high concentrations. It is mostly used to adjust the consistency of cosmetics and so probably plays a significant role in this cleanser’s metamorphosis. So, too, is the surfactant sucrose laurate, which helps oils mix with other ingredients. The oils include olive, cherry and cranberry.

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.