RetAsphere Micro Peel Retinol Glycolic Treatment is intriguing because it seemingly combines an AHA peel and retinol treatment into one easy-to-use product. Although it has some merit as an AHA exfoliant, its low level of retinol plus other repairing, soothing ingredients disappoints—especially when you consider you can get this product's exfoliating benefits from products that cost less money!
Housed in an opaque white tube with a pump dispenser, the product has a somewhat thick gel texture that you're directed to spread in a thin layer over the face and leave on overnight. It feels a bit greasy at first, but once it dries, it leaves skin feeling smooth and hydrated (perhaps with just a touch of residual stickiness). You can layer other products over this, but take care not to rub too much, or the peel will begin to ball up slightly.
As an AHA exfoliant, this works due to its 10% concentration of glycolic acid and pH of 4.1. The pH is just slightly above the ideal range of 3–4 for AHAs to show their stuff, but it's close enough and some may find the slightly higher-than-ideal pH to be less likely to cause a stinging sensation.
Kate Somerville ropes the milk-derived sugar ingredient lactose into the exfoliation mix, but there's no research showing lactose functions in this manner. Perhaps Somerville confused lactose with the AHA ingredient lactic acid, but regardless, lactose doesn't exfoliate. That's OK, because the 10% glycolic acid should be plenty to improve skin tone and texture, and perhaps even make pores a bit smaller. However, salicylic acid, also known as BHA, is preferred for reducing large pores because it's oil-soluble.(Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 2010).
So, what we have here is a hydrating AHA exfoliant that contains an effective concentration of glycolic acid in an almost perfectly pH-correct formula. What else are you getting for your money? Sadly, not much! As mentioned, the amount of retinol is low for a formula that calls this out as a primary benefit, as is the amount of other beneficial ingredients like sodium hyaluronate and licorice root extract. Each is present in amounts less than the uncommon fragrance ingredient, isopulegol.
RetAsphere Micro Peel Retinol Glycolic Treatment is worth considering and was rated well due to its ability to smooth and exfoliate skin. However, its other advertised benefits are more questionable, and we suspect most consumers won't want to pay extra for a product whose main benefit (exfoliation) can be obtained from any of the less expensive options on our list of Best AHA Exfoliants.
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.
Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!