Aesop claims they spent "ten years" working on the development of this product. We're not sure what they spent the better part of a decade doing, however, as there isn't anything unique or impressive to be found in their Sage and Zinc Facial Hydrating Cream SPF 15. First, over the past few years, research has made it clear that the higher SPF 30 is preferred for overall sun protection and that the most advanced forms of antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients are only recent phenomena. This formula falls flat on both counts: the SPF and the antioxidants/cell-communicating ingredients.
Despite the name, there is little sage present, and that's a good thing because sage is a fragrant skin irritant. However, there is a potent combination of other fragrance ingredients present, including lavender oil—all of which make this a problematic product. We'd describe this as "intensely fragrant"—so much so that the box it came in smelled of this product, even though the product is packaged in a sealed metal tube!
Without the excess fragrance, Sage and Zinc Facial Hydrating Cream SPF 15 would be okay for dry to very dry skin not prone to breakouts. It provides broad-spectrum protection from pure zinc oxide (and not a trace of the telltale white cast), but a higher SPF would be far better. It also contains a good blend of emollients, skin-repairing ingredients, and plant oil, such as macadamia nut and its fatty acids.
Unlike many of the moisturizers in the Aesop collection, this is packaged in a tube to keep its beneficial ingredients stable. This product is also sold in a 2-ounce size, but neither is recommended because of the formulary problems. Skip this product and consider any of the numerous well-formulated alternatives on our list of Best Moisturizers with Sunscreen instead.
Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin. What is perhaps most shocking is that all of these damaging responses can be taking place underneath the skin and you won't even notice it on the surface. The clearest example of this is the significant and carcinogenic effect of the sun's "silent" UVA rays. You don't feel the penetration of these mutagenic rays, but they are taking a toll on your skin nonetheless (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).
Perfected after ten years of research and development, this lightweight, hydrating formulation contains mineral-based Zinc Oxide, which forms a barrier to reflect sunlight without clogging pores to leave skin feeling softened and protected.
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 16.1%; Inactive Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-100 Stearate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Squalane, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lauryl Pyrrolidone, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Silica, Citric Acid, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Tocopherol, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Fusanus Spicatus Wood Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Beta-Carotene.
Strengths: Some products are packaged to keep their light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable.
Weaknesses:Multiple fragrant ingredients are present in each product reviewed, and this poses a strong risk of irritation; no effective options for treating concerns like acne, brown spots, or rosacea; jar packaging for some of the moisturizers won’t keep the beneficial ingredients stable; overpriced.
Australian brand Aesop bears the same name as the famous Greek storyteller, and their skin-care products certainly emulate the art of storytelling with their formulas and marketing. The question is whether or not you can believe Aesop and their natural-themed skin-care stories, or if it’s mostly fable.
From Aesop’s stripped-down, utilitarian packaging, “earthy” product descriptions, and overall design aesthetic, it’s easy to see why those interested in natural-oriented products are attracted to the Aesop brand. How could skin-care products that seem to be so pure and natural be bad, right? We certainly understand the emotional pull natural products have on many people, but the truth is there are good and bad natural ingredients (snake venom and poison ivy are both natural ingredients, but you wouldn’t want them on your face), just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients. Going natural without knowing the details of what you’re buying is a recipe for skin problems, not a guarantee of better products.
Refreshingly, compared to many natural-themed lines, Aesop doesn’t rely on scare tactics or outlandish claims. Therefore, you won’t read anything about “toxins” or about made-up claims that all chemicals are bad (because everything is composed of chemicals). Instead, Aesop prefers to rest on the quality of their formulas and oeuvre to do the real selling. Judging by the number of requests we’ve had to review this brand, their less sensationalized approach is working!
With that promising start, it’s disappointing that Aesop chose to include such a generous amount of fragrance and plant-based irritants in many of their products. In fact, there wasn’t a single fragrance-free option in any of the products that we reviewed. (In fact, the box they were shipped in was saturated with fragrance just from the shipping process.) There were a few products with lower amounts of added fragrance—these instances are noted (where applicable)—but there usually were other compelling reasons to avoid any given product in this brand, or at least to consider it cautiously.
Also noteworthy: You will find that much of Aesop’s line, from their cleansers, toners, and moisturizers to their masks and eye treatments, have high-end price tags. While we tend to leave it up to the reader to determine what is or isn’t expensive, there were a few instances where the formulas were so basic that we had to mention the disconnect with the cost—these were truly simple blends of ingredients that in no way justified their cost.
All of the above is a prelude to the most critical downfall of the Aesop products: There are no options that can successfully (and without potential irritation) address the needs of various skin types or skin concerns of many people. Whether you’re struggling with acne, wrinkles, both, or numerous other concerns, from sensitive skin to conditions like rosacea or eczema, you won’t find brilliant products to treat them here. Overall, that means assembling a great skin-care routine with Aesop products just isn’t possible.
Aesop is sold primarily in department stores like Barney’s New York, online, as well as freestanding Aesop stores throughout the United States. Despite their growing distribution, we cannot stress enough how much this line’s products disappoint. Aesop has natural ingredients aplenty—but what good is that when so many of the natural ingredients they chose are of little to no benefit for skin, or are potentially problematic?
For more information about Aesop, visit http://www.aesop.com/usa/
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.
Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!