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Aveeno

Absolutely Ageless Pre-Tox Peel Off Mask

2.00 fl. oz. for $ 9.99
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Aveeno’s Absolutely Ageless Pre-Tox Peel Off Mask has a few good qualities, but they’re not nearly enough to overcome its problematic formula.

This purple-tinted mask comes in a squeeze tube and has a syrupy consistency that smooths easily across skin. You’re supposed to leave it on until it’s completely dry (which happens in about 15 minutes), then peel it off. We found that it worked as expected in this regard and came off easily with no residue or need to rinse.

This contains its advertised alpha hydroxy acids in two forms: glycolic acid and lactic acid. Aveeno makes exfoliation claims, but the optimal pH for these acids to exfoliate is between 3 and 4, and the pH of this mask is 5.2, so you’re not going to get that benefit. Still, they both can work as hydrators at this pH.

There are a few antioxidants included for defending against environmental stressors, among them the blueberry extract that’s touted in the claims and featured on this product’s packaging. But in the case of blueberry, it’s the next-to-last ingredient, so you’re not getting a whole lot of it.

On the other hand, you are getting a lot of drying denatured alcohol, which comes ahead of all the beneficial ingredients in this mask’s formula. This kind of alcohol, especially in such a high amount, has the potential to cause the same kind of skin problems this mask is supposed to fix (see More Info for details).

Other drying alcohols are also present, but these are less concerning than denatured alcohol. The polyvinyl alcohol is a plasticizing alcohol that’s more of a mixed bag in that it doesn’t provide much benefit but it’s not terribly irritating, either.

This also has a strong, perfume-like fragrance that lingers even after the mask is peeled off, and fragrance can further aggravate skin (our More Info section has the break down on that as well).

One final note: we’re not sure exactly what Aveeno means by “pre-tox” (we presume they’re referring to the environmental defense claims), but it’s largely a made-up marketing claim, so it’s best to ignore it.

When all is said and done, Absolutely Ageless Pre-Tox Peel Off Mask just doesn’t have what it takes to rank among the best masks (or AHA exfoliants) out there that treat skin to good ingredients without the irritants.

Pros:
  • Peels off without excessive residue.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids can hydrate skin.
  • Contains some antioxidants for environmental defense.
Cons:
  • AHAs are at a pH that is higher than optimal to exfoliate skin.
  • Contains a high amount of denatured alcohol plus other problematic alcohols.
  • Has a strong fragrance that lingers.

More Info:

Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Research makes it clear that alcohol, as a main ingredient in any skincare product, especially one you use frequently and repeatedly, is a problem.

When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we’re referring to denatured ethanol, which most often is listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat., denatured alcohol, or (less often) isopropyl alcohol.

When you see these types of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, without question the product will irritate and cause other problems for skin. There’s no way around it—these volatile alcohols are simply bad for all skin types.

The reason they’re included in products is because they provide a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it’s easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. If only those short-term benefits didn’t lead to negative long-term outcomes!

Using products that contain these alcohols will cause dryness, erosion of skin’s protective barrier, and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.

The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from the alcohol can actually lead to an increase in breakouts and enlarged pores. As we said, the alcohol does have an immediate de-greasing effect on skin, but it causes irritation, which eventually will counteract the de-greasing effect and make your oily skin look even more shiny.

There are people who challenge us on the information we’ve presented about alcohol’s effects. They often base their argument on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology (July 2007, pages 74–81) that concluded “alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing….” But, the only thing this study showed was that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash, which contained sodium lauryl sulfate. So, the study is actually just telling you that one irritant, sodium lauryl sulfate, is worse than another irritant, alcohol.

Not all alcohols are bad. For example, there are fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be beneficial for skin. Examples that you’ll see on ingredient labels include cetyl alcoholstearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol, all of which are good ingredients for skin. It’s important to differentiate between these skin-friendly alcohols and the problematic alcohols.

References for this information:
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, pages 1–16
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, pages 41–49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, pages 542–551
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, pages 360–366
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, pages 179–190

Why Fragrance Is a Problem for Skin: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes a chronic sensitizing reaction on skin.

This reaction in turn leads to all kinds of problems, including disrupting skin’s barrier, worsening dryness, increasing or triggering redness, depleting vital substances in skin’s surface, and generally preventing skin from looking healthy, smooth, and hydrated. Fragrance free is always the best way to go for all skin types.

A surprising fact: Even though you can’t always see or feel the negative effects of fragrant ingredients on skin, the damage will still be taking place, even if it’s not evident on the surface. Research has demonstrated that you don’t need to see or feel the effects of irritation for your skin to be suffering. Much like the effects from cumulative sun damage, the negative impact and the visible damage from fragrance may not become apparent for a long time.

References for this information:
Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1410–1419
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008, pages 191–202
International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 27, 2008, Supplement, pages 1–43
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: Yes

Healthier-looking skin is just a step away. Infused with antioxidant-rich blackberry complex and vitamin E, this renewing face mask exfoliates and lift away impurities to reveal fresh, healthy-looking skin in one simple step. Just apply the mask to your face, let dry, and gently peel off in one piece—no rinsing required.

Water, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Alcohol Denat., Glycerin, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Polyvinyl Acetate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Gaprylyl Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance, Mallodextrin, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Leaf Extract, Ext. Violet 2, Red 4.

Aveeno At-A-Glance

Strengths: A few good cleansers and sunscreen products; fantastic Skin Relief Healing Ointment and soothing bath wash products; a handful of well-formulated baby-care products.

Weaknesses: Well-intentioned but ineffective anti-acne products; reliance on a single showcased ingredient (typically soy) that makes their anti-aging products less enticing than the competition; ineffective products to address hyperpigmentation; formulas packaged in a jar wont remain stable.

Beginning with its first product in 1945, Soothing Bath Treatment, still sold today as part of the company's Baby line of products, Aveeno has prided itself on using natural ingredients. In some ways, they were a pioneer in the field, though for years the only natural ingredient of note in their products was oatmeal. Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson purchased the brand in 1999, and wasted almost no time expanding it. A handful of bar cleansers and bath products were spun off into complete collections of facial-care products and an ever-growing number of body lotions and washes, not to mention shaving gels (Aveeno is one of the few companies whose shaving gels are truly fragrance-free).

Not surprisingly, many of the facial-care products from Aveeno are similar to those from Johnson & Johnsonowned Neutrogena. The differences typically lie in the natural ingredients each brand promotes. A cornerstone ingredient for Aveeno is soy, while Neutrogena has experimented (with varying degrees of success) with copper, retinol, salicylic acid, and melibiose. Overall, Neutrogena has a much larger and more comprehensive selection of products, though their formulas are also more problematic. Aveeno would do well to diversify a bit, or at least acknowledge that it takes more than a single star ingredient to provide superior skin-care products. As is, most of their anti-wrinkle products don't compete favorably with the more well-rounded options, not just from Neutrogena but also from Olay, Dove, and, in some respects, L'Oreal.

Getting back to the issue of soy, you'll see from the reviews it is indeed a helpful ingredient for skinjust not in the same multifaceted, does-everything manner Aveeno touts on each soy-containing product's package. A big proponent for Aveeno's use of soy is dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf. She is quoted on Aveeno's web site, stating that "It is now clear that the ability of natural soy to deliver multiple benefits to skin plays a lead role in high performance skin care." That sounds great but it doesn't explain why Aveeno ignores research on countless other antioxidants, skin-identical ingredients, or cell-communicating ingredients, all elements Dr. Graf uses in her separate, namesake product line. Interestingly, with Graf's own products relying on a blend of efficacious ingredients, including soy, it's a good question why she decided to endorse Aveeno's one-note soy products.

The bottom line is that when it comes to shopping for skin-care products at the drugstore, Aveeno, for all its talk of being a leader in "Active Naturals," doesn't have the all-inclusive product assortment needed to take the best possible care of your skin. However, paying attention to their top offerings is time (and money) well-spent!

For more information about Aveeno, owned by Johnson & Johnson, call (866) 428-3366 or visit www.aveeno.com.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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