Yum is Canadian company that tries so hard on so many fronts that I really wanted to give it a Truth In Aging seal of approval. The brand trumpets its products as gourmet food for the skin, as natural and organic as a green market. The "philosophy of purity" even extends to donating a portion of profits to charities that steward the environment or work to eliminate poverty. The problem is - and I feel almost churlish pointing this out - the good intentions don't make it all the way through their ingredients. Yum's Pearl Treatment Masque is a case in point.

I should, in all fairness, start with what's good about it. First, it makes a nice to change to have a facial mask that is as light as whipped cream (this is not one of those heavy clay masks that dry to a tight film). After 15 minutes, Pearl Treatment Masque has mostly sunk into the skin and then quickly rinses away to reveal a bright, clear and moisturized face. Some of that may be due to gluconolactone, which is composed of multiple water-attracting hydroxyl groups, which hydrate the skin, resulting in enhanced degrees of moisturization. Studies have also shown that it can provide up to 50% protection against UV radiation. There are other moisture givers here as well. Hyaluronate from yeast is not only a humectant, but also leaves a soft, moisture retentive film on the skin. Phytocollagen hydrates and nourishes.

The secret sauce here is pearl powder and, I have to say that, while the possibilities for anti-aging look interesting, the jury is still out. Proponents (documented in the Journal of Cell biology) say that conchilion (the thing in pearls that makes them pearly) acts like the protein keratin (which is found in skin, bones and hair), and has the ability to hydrate skin cells, promote skin cell metabolism, facilitate repair of damaged skin cells, and enhance peripheral circulation. Most observers say more research is needed.

Much less yummy than all of this is the preservative hydroxymethyl glycinate. This has been identified as releasing formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, by the European Union Working Party's (WP) Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products in their Methods of Chemical Analysis of Cosmetic Products report. I can't find anything good to say about sodium benzoate. If you mix sodium benzoate with vitamin C, benzene can form. And benzene is carcinogenic. In the UK, a Food Standards Agency survey of benzene in soft drinks found high levels of it in four brands, which were removed from sale. Even without getting mixed up with vitamin C, sodium benzoate seems best avoided. A study conducted by Peter Piper, a professor at Sheffield University in the UK and an expert in molecular biology and biotechnology, found that sodium benzoate damages cells. And I'm not really interested in getting to know potassium hydoxide any better. This is also called caustic potash and it can be extremely irritating to the skin and eyes and is toxic if ingested. Prolonged contact can cause discoloration of the skin (source). One study found that it can damage the skin barrier function, but it should also be said that the damage is dose dependent.

I was expecting that I'd be rooting for Yum and instead I feel a little disappointed that too much of Pearl Treatment Masque doesn't live up to what I'd call a "philosophy of purity".


Purified water, palmitic acid, stearic acid, vegetable glycerin, glyceryl oleate, sodium cocoyl isethionate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, oleic acid, hydroxymethyl glycinate, salicylic acid, sodium benzoate, gluconolactone, potassium hydroxide, phytohyaluronate (yeast), phytocollagen (yeast), glycosaminoglycans, kelp powder, Irish moss (carrageenan) extract, bladderwrack, sodium alginate, mirconized pearl powder, silk amino acids, hydroxypropyl starch, helichrysum italicum oil, bitter orange oil.