True to name, IllumiKate has a light-reflective finish that gives skin an illuminated appearance. The moisturizing, creamy formula is a bit on the greasy side and almost feels occlusive on skin, so those with oily skin won't find this appealing—the formula is best for normal to dry skin. If you're wondering about CC creams, we explain the concept and how they differ from BB creams in the More Info section.
The shade range for IllumiKate caters to those with fair to medium skin tones, and each has a neutral, flattering hue. The coverage is light enough that skin shows through for a natural look but not enough to cover flaws.
IllumiKate provides broad-spectrum sun protection for added anti-aging benefit, but unfortunately the formula also contains chicory root, a fragrant plant extract known to be a skin irritant (Source: www.naturaldatabase.com) and the fragrant orange oil (you can really smell this one) poses further risk of irritation. See More Info to learn why daily use of highly fragrant products is a problem.
Despite the fact that this CC cream contains proven skin-lightening and skin-repairing ingredients, it's really not worth the tradeoff!
One more comment: If you're wondering what the PA+++ is all about, see More Info.
BB and CC Creams: If you're wondering what the difference is between CC creams and BB creams, here's the answer: It's all about marketing language, nothing more. Generally, a BB cream from U.S. cosmetics brands is similar to a tinted moisturizer, while a CC cream is more like a liquid foundation, but not always. BB and CC creams typically provide sun protection and may or may not include beneficial ingredients like antioxidants or skin-lightening agents. Neither BB nor CC creams are as revolutionary as they are made out to be, and there is certainly no consistency among products from different brands.
Irritation from Fragrance
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. (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.)
PA+ Rating Symbol on SPF-rated Products
PA followed by plus signs (PA+++, for example) is a designation used in Japan for rating the UVA protection of a sunscreen. The SPF number is about the sun's UVB rays; there are very few countries that have a UVA rating reference. Three plus symbols after the "PA" indicate the highest level of UVA protection, which can be as low as PA+, which means some UVA protection.
The concept is interesting, but ultimately the SPF rating and the active ingredients matter far more because the method of assessing UVA protection is not widely accepted, primarily because it is very difficult to get agreement from scientists on what tests to use and what they mean.
Active: Octinoxate (7.5%), Titanium Dioxide (6.6%), Octisalate (5%), Oxybenzone (3%). Other: Water, Phenyl Trimethicone, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprate, Butylene Glycol, C20-40 Pareth-3, Arbutin, Caprylyl Methicone, Glycerin, Steareth-21, Glycereth-26, Silica, Dipropylene Glycol, PEG-8 Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cichorium Intybus (Chicory) Root Extract, Tocopherol, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Adenosine, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Lecithin, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Caprylyl Glycol, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Peel Oil, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Aminoethylphosphinic Acid, Ammonium Polyacrylate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Decylene Glycol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polypropylsilsesquioxane, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Stearyl Alcohol, Steareth-2, Cellulose Gum, PEG-32, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Mica. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides
Kate Somerville At-A-Glance
Strengths: Provides complete ingredient lists on their website; effective Anti Bac Clearing Lotion for acne; good eczema cream; some fantastic serums and moisturizers chock-full of beneficial ingredients.
Weaknesses: Expensive; irritating cleansers and scrubs; several products contain irritating ingredients with no proven benefit for skin; disappointing CC cream.
The woman behind this line is a Los Angeles–based aesthetician who owns her own clinic, which specializes not only in aesthetic services but also in cosmetic corrective procedures involving injections (dermal fillers), lasers, Botox, and the like. The clinic is staffed with a doctor and nurses, which is definitely what you want if you're considering services beyond a facial or a massage.
The selling points of this line are Somerville's years of experience in the aesthetics industry and her allegedly devoted celebrity clientele. As such, her products and famous clientele get press in the pages of fashion magazines, which explains why we routinely get asked about this skin-care line. Somerville herself is every bit as attractive as her star clients, and the information on her Web site is presented in such a way that you sincerely believe she has your skin's best interests in mind. And wouldn't you want to trust your skin's needs to a professional who also tends to celebrities?
Knowing all these details, we were anticipating that most of the products bearing Somerville's name would be state-of-the-art slam dunks. Alas, many of them are far afield from that level of formulation. When it comes to giving skin what it needs to function as healthily and normally as possible (and, at these prices, that's what you should expect), this line is, unfortunately, hit or miss. What Somerville knows about giving an amazing facial is one thing, but she clearly missed the research that proves how problematic several of the plant oils that she uses can be. A professional concerned with the health of her clients' skin shouldn't be formulating products with cinnamon, grapefruit, and lavender oils, among others.
If we were one of Somerville's clients, we'd certainly take her to task for that oversight, but we'd also want to know why she offers only one sunscreen and doesn't offer any effective AHA or BHA exfoliants. A discussion of advanced skin science and state-of-the-art ingredients is not sufficient if your product line has gaps: limited sun protection options, no reliable exfoliants, no non-drying cleansers, and a complete lack of options to treat skin discolorations (pigment irregularities, unlike blackheads, cannot be manually extracted, which makes the absence of a skin lightening product an issue).
This product line may not be the one you want to build your skin-care routine around, but there are some exceptional products. Of all the aesthetician-backed lines we've reviewed, none come as close to providing the level of formulary excellence of many of Somerville's moisturizers and serums. They're pricey, but if you're going to spend in excess for skin-care products, you should be doing so on products that stand a very good chance of markedly improving your skin’s appearance. We are curious to see how this product line will expand and (hopefully) improve over the years. The current mishmash of awesome and awful products makes it risky to shop this line blindly (or on the sole rationale of a celebrity endorsement), but with careful consideration to avoid irritants you can find some products of value. Hopefully, she will expand the line to fill in the current gaps (especially for sun protection) and eliminate the irritants.
For more information about Kate Somerville, now owned by Unilever, call (800) 984-5283 or visit www.katesomerville.com.
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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