If you're shopping for a treatment to address concerns like skin discolorations, Clearly Corrective Hydrating Moisture Emulsion may be tempting because the marketing messaging certainly sounds promising. What a shame that the ingredient list makes this product much less interesting than Kiehl's marketing claims.
In return for about $60 (and if you've bought this, you probably should consider returning it), you get a rather unexciting mix of water, glycol, alcohol, and irritating fragrance ingredients. Sad, but true.
The sole "star" ingredient in this product is a novel, but largely unproven, form of vitamin C called 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid. While there are derivatives of ascorbic acid that do have published research demonstrating their effectiveness for fading brown spots, the only studies on O-ethyl ascorbic acid were conducted by its raw material supplier. Without any peer-reviewed (or even better, comparison data to other skin-lightening ingredients), there is no compelling reason to pin your hopes on this relatively pricey, problematic formula, especially given its considerable drawbacks—read on.
The biggest problem is the large amount of alcohol, which is problematic because of its damaging, drying impact on the skin's barrier. The last thing your skin needs is to be bombarded with the free-radical damage caused by alcohol-laden products like this. See More Info for additional details on why alcohol is such a problem for the skin.
If the alcohol weren't enough, you also must contend with the fragrance irritants from the ingredients lavender oil and citrus extract. The citrus extract (Citrus aurantium tachibana peel extract) has a strong potential to provoke an allergenic and irritant response on the skin due to its fragrance compounds—limonene and geraniol (Sources: Contact Dermatitis, 2006 and 2012). See More Info for additional details on fragrance in beauty products, as well as the reasons why lavender oil, in particular, is such an issue for the skin.
Rather than spend the money for a treatment that pins its benefits on a largely unproven form of vitamin C (not to mention its array of irritating ingredients), consider any of the well-formulated alternatives on our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products instead.
Alcohol in Skin Care: There is a significant amount of research showing alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels. Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care products use amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol causes skin cells to self-destruct. The research also showed that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer exposure to alcohol occurred two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day and that's at only a 3% concentration (Sources: Journal of Investigative Dermatology, August 2009, pages 20–24; "Skin Care—From the Inside Out and Outside In," Tufts Daily, April 1, 2002; Alcohol, Volume 26, Issue 3, April 2002, pages 179–190; eMedicine Journal, May 8, 2002, volume 3, number 5, www.emedicine.com; Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, April 2001, pages 109–166; Cutis, February 2001, pages 25–27; Contact Dermatitis, January 1996, pages 12–16; and http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/277-284.htm).
For more on alcohol's (as in, ethanol, denatured alcohol, and ethyl alcohol) effects on the skin, see our article on the topic, Alcohol in Skin Care: The Facts.
Highly Fragrant Products: 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).
Lavender Oil: Research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application causes skin-cell death (Source: Cell Proliferation, June 2004, pages 221–229). Lavender leaves contain camphor, which is a known skin irritant. Because the fragrance constituents in lavender oil oxidize when exposed to air, lavender oil is a pro-oxidant, and this enhanced oxidation increases its irritancy on skin (Source: Contact Dermatitis, September 2008, pages 143–150). Lavender oil is the most potent form, and even small amounts of it (0.25% or less) are problematic. Although it's fine as an aromatherapy agent for inhalation or relaxation, it is a must to avoid in skin-care products (Sources: Psychiatry Research, February 2007, pages 89–96; and www.naturaldatabase.com).
Skin clarifying emulsion visibly corrects uneven skin tone; Concentrated moisture treatment visibly brightens and illuminates skin; Deters the appearance of new pigmentation irregularities based on in-vitro tests; Infused with Activated C to diminish dark spots.
Aqua/Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Alcohol Denatured, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprate, Hydroxypropyl Tetrahydropyrantriol, Propylene Glycol, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Silica, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Salicylic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Carbomer, Potassium Hydroxide, 2-Oleamido-1, 3-Octadecanediol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Mica, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil/Lavender Oil, Sodium Citrate, Xanthan Gum, CI 77891/Titanium Dioxide, Citric Acid, Linalool, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citral, Limonene, Geraniol, Citrus Tachibana/Citrus Aurantium Tachibana Peel Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Extract/Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract
Kiehl’s has been around for quite some time, with its origins in a New York City-based pharmacy established in 1851. The brand is perhaps best known for its apothecary-style packaging and its best-selling (and celebrity favorite) Lip Balm #1.
Though the brand claims its products are made with the finest naturally-derived ingredients, most of its formulations include synthetically-produced ingredients as well. Like most skincare companies the line contains both good and not-so-great offerings; Kiehl’s main misstep is that many of its products contain fragrance ingredients that could irritate skin, particularly sensitive skin.
Note: Kiehl's is categorized as a brand that tests on animals because its products are sold in China. Although Kiehl's does not conduct animal testing for its products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brands state that they don’t test on animals “unless required by law.” Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Beautypedia Research Team.
For more information about Kiehl's, call (800) 543-4572 or visit www.kiehls.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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