If "brighter skin" is another way of saying "healthy skin," then the Argan Stem Cell + Chlorella Growth Factor Brightening Facial Scrub is a letdown. Marketed as a scrub that "removes impurities from your pores," this does contain beneficial antioxidants in the form of fruit extracts, moisturizing non-fragrant plant oils, and anti-irritants. Unfortunately, the antioxidants and anti-irritants are mostly wasted in such a formula because for them to perform their free-radical protection function, antioxidants must remain on skin—not be rinsed away as would be the case with a scrub.
The abrasive agents in this scrub are a blend of dried kelp and lemon peel granules. Dried kelp is an iffy choice due to its borderline overly abrasive texture, but without question, lemon peel is an ingredient that should've been left out.
Lemon peel is a problem for skin because it contains fragrant compounds that can exacerbate redness and inflammation in skin. Coupled with the essential oils from sage and spearmint that are also present, this may be a pleasant-smelling product to some, but these fragrance ingredients are big trouble for their potential to irritate skin (and irritation can cause an increase in oil production and breakouts). See More Info for additional details.
This brings us to the ingredient list as a whole, which appears to be incomplete. Rather than list ingredients like water or additives that help hold a formula together, Acure Organics seems to note only the ingredients that have the most marketing cachet. See More Info for additional details on why this is potentially a problem for your skin.
There's also the problematic nature of the preservative—Acure Organics notes potassium sorbate as its sole preservative ingredient. The brand notes this is a "food grade" preservative, which is accurate. However, potassium sorbate on its own isn't sufficient to provide protection against bacteria, mold, and yeast—existing research has demonstrated it to be effective only when combined with other preservatives like phenoxyethanol.
Despite the claims of Argan Stem Cell + Chlorella Growth Factor Brightening Facial Scrub, a scrub cannot unclog pores—and there are no impurities in skin that they are capable of removing (unless by "impurities, Acure Organics means dirt and oil). Scrubs, even when well formulated, are a good option for extra cleansing (like using a soft washcloth with your cleanser or a Clarisonic), but they don't replace a well-formulated AHA or BHA leave-on exfoliant in terms of anti-aging benefits, unclogging pores, or fading discolorations.
However, if you're in the market for a scrub that won't put your skin at risk for irritation (like this one can), then consider any of the higher-rated alternatives from other brands instead.
One last note: Please totally ignore the claims made about the plant and fruit stem cell ingredients this product contains (see More Info if you wish to read the considerable details explaining why). The notion that plant stem cells can "renew dormant cells, repair damaged cells, or regenerate healthy cells" may be true for a plant, but it isn't true for human skin.
Irritation's Connection to Oily Skin & Breakouts: Inflammation in skin is usually related to external factors such as irritation that damages the skin's barrier in numerous ways, whether you can see the reaction or not. When irritation on the surface of skin happens it activates specific chemicals called neuropeptides in the brain (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2007). Those substances are specifically the kind that regulates the hormonal system of the body.
When this happens, it leads to the formation of inflammatory chemicals directly in the oil gland. These inflammatory chemicals trigger an increase in oil production, which can increase the size of the pore, and the likelihood of acne—the more inflammation that occurs, the worse the risk (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002 & Dermatology, 2003).
Bottom line: Inflammation and its resulting irritation, whether internal or external (for this discussion externally it would be due to the use of irritating ingredients, hot water, overusing scrubs, etc.), is practically a guarantee you will see excess production of oil, larger pores and more acne breakouts (Experimental Dermatology, 2009 & Dermato-Endocrinology, 2011).
That's reason enough to avoid products with irritating ingredients, which often come in the form of fragrance including the misnamed "essential" oils.
Incomplete Ingredient List: Acure Organics states that this product is based on their "Organic Curoxidant Superfruit Blend," and contains no water or anything else to hold its formula together. We thought this had to have been a mistake on their packaging, but after reaching out to Acure Organics via Twitter about their lack of water in products, they confirmed it was not a printing error.
Rather, you're to believe that this product is made up of a blend of fruits and flowers, but no water or any ingredients that would form the "base" that keeps these ingredients from separating.
A mixture of mashed-up berries, dried tea leaves, and flowers does not a moisturizer make, and whether based from an ingredient blend or not, its individual constituents are still required to be listed in full on the label—which is not the case here. Trade names, like "Organic Curoxidant Superfruit Blend" or "Echinacea Stem Cell Culture," are not permitted on ingredient labels for this very reason—this violates International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) and FDA labeling regulatory requirements.
There's also the fact that an incomplete ingredient list prevents you from knowing what's in your skincare or makeup product.
Stem Cells in Skincare: Stem cells are cells present in animals and plants that are capable of becoming any other type of cell in that organism and of producing more of those cells. Despite the fact that stem cell research is in its infancy, many cosmetics companies claim they are successfully using plant-based or human-derived stem cells in their anti-aging products. The claims run the gamut, from reducing wrinkles to elastin repair and cell regeneration, so the temptation for consumers to try these is intense.
The truth is that stem cells in skincare products do not work as claimed. In fact, they likely have no effect at all because stem cells must be alive to function as stem cells. Once these delicate cells are added to skincare products, they are long dead and, therefore, useless.
Plant stem cells, such as those derived from apples, melons, flowers, and rice, cannot stimulate stem cells in human skin, but because they are from plants they likely have antioxidant properties. Actually, it's a good thing plant stem cells can't work as stem cells in skin-care products; after all, you don't want your skin to absorb cells that can grow into apples or watermelons!
There are also claims that because a plant's stem cells allow a plant to repair itself or to survive in harsh climates, these benefits can be passed on to human skin. How a plant functions in nature is totally unrelated to human skin—these claims are completely without substantiation.
Another twist on the issue is that cosmetics companies claim they have taken components (such as peptides) out of the plant stem cells and made them stable so they then can work as stem cells. This approach is not valid—stem cells must be complete to function normally. Even if you could isolate substances or extracts from these cells and make them stable, there is no published research showing they can affect stem cells in human skin.
Strengths: Some products are fragrance free; nearly all products (even the cleansers) contain an array of antioxidants; inexpensive; products are packaged to protect their ingredients from air and light exposure.
Weaknesses: Almost none of the products we reviewed had ingredient labels that complied with FDA or (global) International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) cosmetics regulations; several products appear to lack adequate preservatives to keep you safe from mold and bacteria; misleading to outlandish claims regarding the benefits of plant/fruit stem cells; some products contain multiple potent irritants; lack of sun protection products—unusual for a line that claims to be dedicated to anti-aging as this one is.
Joining the natural brand market, Acure Organics operates with the mission statement of using “only the purest, most effective fair trade, natural and organic ingredients available.” At first glance, there are a lot of interesting products in the line, as Acure Organics includes a great deal of antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients in their formulas. Unfortunately, on closer inspection of the brand, we found quite a few inconsistencies and some worrisome details.
First the good news: Along with the inclusion of antioxidants at nearly every turn, Acure Organics made the effort to avoid jar packaging, which is beneficial in terms of protecting the abundance of anti-aging ingredients their products contain. They are also exceptionally affordable products—an increasing rarity in the cosmetics industry.
On the other hand, Acure Organics stretches the boundaries of belief when it comes to what some ingredients are capable of—such as plant stem cells. While fruit and plant stem cells can function as antioxidants, they cannot lift skin, repair wrinkles, or affect the skin’s own growth factors when added to a skincare product. Not only are plant stem cells unable to substitute for the body’s own stem cells, but also they (like all stem cells) must be alive to function. Once these delicate cells are added to skincare products, they are long dead and, therefore, useless. Plant stem cells make for a good story, but the research simply isn’t there to support their use in skincare or the claims attributed to them.
Where Acure Organics takes a turn for the worse is in their choice to invoke consumers’ fear of chemicals and “toxins” to sell their products, rather than to rely on the formulas themselves. It’s particularly maddening because some of their products contain ingredients that have well-documented potential to irritate skin, such as essential oils that can trigger phototoxicity. Also worth mentioning is that many of the ingredients to which the brand objects are merely opinions that they present as fact.
For example, Acure Organics lathers up the tired claim that sulfates are harmful in skincare products. As there is no scientific or medical research demonstrating this to be true, the brand simply implies that sulfates should be avoided because they’re anionic surfactants and “may be contaminated” with nitrosamines, which they claim are (of course) cancer-causing agents.
Sulfates are an entire class of cleansing agents, some of which are quite mild (sodium cocoyl isethionate is a great example), some of which are not (sodium lauryl sulfate), but it’s inaccurate to lump them together as ingredients to be avoided. There is certainly no evidence proving they are cancer-causing ingredients, and no research suggesting that sulfates are “contaminated” with impurities, other than unsubstantiated Internet scare stories. The reality is far different from what’s being suggested—and it’s never a good sign when brands resort to fear to make their products seem safer.
It’s true that sulfates are anionic surfactants, but that’s true of many cleansing agents—including those that Acure Organics uses in their own cleansers, such as sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate. We point this example out because it seems to indicate that not even Acure Organics understands the reasons why they’re claiming you should avoid ingredients like sulfates.
These tactics aside, the most troubling aspect of Acure Organics is the fact that nearly every product we reviewed had incomplete ingredient lists or inaccurate ingredient names—or both. The most consistent example was their statement that almost all of their products are based on their “Organic Curoxidant Superfruit Blend,” and do not contain water or anything else to keep their formulas from separating.
A mixture of mashed-up berries, dried tea leaves, and flowers does not a cosmetic product make, and whether from an ingredient blend or not, its individual constituents are required by regulation to be listed in full on the label—which is not the case here. Trade names, like “Organic Curoxidant Superfruit Blend” or “Echinacea Stem Cell Culture,” are not permitted on ingredient labels for this very reason—this violates International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) and FDA labeling regulatory requirements.
In many cases, we were troubled to note that many Acure Organics products seem to lack adequate preservative systems. In most cases, potassium sorbate is indicated as the primary preservative, which they accurately claim is “food grade.” However, potassium sorbate on its own isn’t sufficient to provide protection against both bacteria and mold/yeast—existing research has demonstrated that potassium sorbate is effective only when combined with other preservatives like phenoxyethanol.
What seems to be missing here—a sufficient preservative system—could put your skin at risk for serious problems, including infections; not to mention that the product’s shelf life is going to be limited, unless the brand is using (but not listing) a more robust preservative blend.
If only Acure Organics had followed the approach of similar brands like Andalou Naturals, who focus on the quality of their formulas instead of on unnecessary fear tactics, we would have had a much greater degree of confidence in recommending more from this brand. For now, in many cases, you’ll find better elsewhere.
Acure Organics is sold at Target stores and can be found online at www.acureorganics.com or by phone at 1-877-902-2873.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
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