Blue Plasma, which is blue only because it contains artificial dyes, not because it contains some remarkably soothing ingredient, is supposed to be a non-acidic peel that works without causing redness or irritation. The claims go on to make this sound like a professional facial (complete with extractions) in a bottle, but, as you might be thinking (as we were), this isn't miraculous in any way and, in fact, has more problems than benefits. What it does well you can get from other products (such as well-formulated AHA or BHA exfoliants) that cost a lot less.
Before we discuss what makes Blue Plasma somewhat unique, we need to tell you the main reason it's not recommended: menthyl lactate. This menthol-derived ingredient produces a cooling sensation that may feel like it's doing something special for skin, but it's actually irritating your skin—so much for the claim about this being a non-irritating peel. See More Info to find out why irritation is a problem for all skin types.
Menthol and its derivatives function as counter-irritants; that is, using them topically merely substitutes one type of irritation (like itching) for another. The problem is that the irritation caused by counter-irritants just ends up making matters worse, despite any cooling or soothing sensation.
This product's relationship to a peel is based on its high amount of urea, an ingredient that, when in higher concentrations, can exfoliate the skin. Urea isn't an acid, but it works in a manner similar to AHAs like glycolic acid. Very high amounts (above 20%) are potentially irritating, but we suspect Blue Plasma contains 10% or less, so irritation from the urea shouldn't be a concern. However, the menthyl lactate remains a problem.
The formula also contains a polyhydroxy acid known as gluconolactone, which is chemically and functionally similar to AHAs. The main difference between it and AHAs is that gluconolactone has a larger molecular structure, which limits its ability to penetrate into the skin, which in turn means it is less irritating. Supposedly, this reduced ability to be absorbed into the skin does not hamper its effectiveness. Does that mean gluconolactone is better for your skin than AHAs in the form of glycolic acid or lactic acid? According to an Internet class lecture by Dr. Mark G. Rubin (Source: http://18.104.22.168/lasernews/rubin_lecture/21.html), a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California–San Diego, research on gluconolactone demonstrated only a "6% decrease in dermal penetration" in comparison to glycolic acid, which "isn't a dramatic improvement." Gluconolactone may be slightly less irritating for some skin types, but it isn't the magic bullet for exfoliation. If you're curious to try it, the NeoStrata brand offers several other products that don't pose the risk of irritation from menthol that you get with Perricone's Blue Plasma, and NeoStrata products are less expensive.
We could go on about some of the other gimmicky ingredients this contains (for example, hydrolyzed roe, which is fish eggs), but, ultimately, Blue Plasma, while being an effective exfoliant, isn't worth its price or the price your skin will likely pay from the irritation it can cause. See our list of Best Exfoliants for less expensive, superior options that can work without causing irritation.
Note: This serum is dispensed via a dropper applicator. Although not the ideal method to dispense a serum that contains light- and air-sensitive ingredients, sometimes this type of packaging is necessary due to formulary requirements. When that’s the case, the goal is to keep the bottle opening as small as possible, the bottle should be opaque or specially coated to protect the contents from light, and you should use the serum up within three months of opening. Although in the case of Perricone's Blue Plasma, it may not be a bad thing for its array of irritants to break down, which would only serve to give skin a bit of relief!
Note: Blue Plasma also contains DMAE, a controversial ingredient we discuss in More Info.
- Contains a blend of urea and gluconolactone to exfoliate skin.
- Contains a derivative of menthol that is irritating for skin.
Why Irritation is a Problem:
Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. For these reasons, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients (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).
Why DMAE is a Controversial Ingredient:
As with most of Perricone's anti-aging products, Blue Plasma contains dimethyl MEA. Also known as DMAE, this ingredient is controversial because research has shown conflicting results. It seems to offer an initial benefit that improves skin, but these results are short-lived and eventually give way to destruction of the substances in skin that help build healthy collagen (Sources: Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, November-December 2007, pages 711–718; and American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, volume 6, 2005, pages 39–47).
Interestingly, there is a formulation challenge when including DMAE in skin-care products. To maintain the efficacy and stability of DMAE, the product's pH must be at least 10. A pH of 10 is highly alkaline, which isn't good news for skin because it increases bacteria content in pores, and causes irritation and dryness. Moreover, because almost all moisturizers (including serums and eye creams) are formulated with a pH that closely matches that of human skin (generally 5.5–6.5, which is on the acidic side of the scale), in all likelihood the DMAE included in skin-care products cannot have any prolonged functionality (Source: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Supplement 72, 2008, pages S17–S22).
A unique, non-acidic daily peel designed to deliver all the benefits of a traditional peel without redness or irritation. This cutting edge liquid treatment works with Bio-specific Peeling to attack only dead skin cells, Micro-extraction to lift surface debris, unclogging and purifying the skin of build-up.
Perricone MD CosmeceuticalsAt-A-Glance
Strengths: A handful of good cleansers; a couple of worthwhile moisturizers for the eye area; several fragrance-free products; a few impressive makeup products.
Weaknesses: Expensive; long on claims not supported by evidence-based science; use of controversial ingredients throughout the line; several antioxidant-rich products are packaged in jars, which renders those beneficial ingredients less effective.
This dermatologist-developed line is perhaps the best known in an increasingly crowded field. The frenzy began with Nicholas Perricone's first book, The Wrinkle Cure, and continued when he appeared on PBS to discuss his book and namesake products, all of which seemed incredibly legitimate to consumers worried about how to look younger longer. PBS reaped a financial windfall from his appearance, netting millions of dollars between 2001 and 2002 (Source: www.quackwatch.org). Originally all the fuss centered around vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid, but as his success continued, Perricone wrote half a dozen more books and expanded his product line to include other over-hyped ingredients, each with claims (and price tags) more inflated than the last round.
We sourced the Web site Quackwatch.org because they have an excellent, unbiased report on the Perricone phenomenon. This non-profit site is operated by consumer advocate Dr. Stephen Barrett, and, to quote the Quackwatch Mission Statement, their purpose is "to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct." That's where Perricone comes into play. According to Quackwatch, Perricone's books "contain many claims that are questionable, controversial, fanciful, unsupported by published evidence, or just plain wrong. Although he mentions standard skin-care treatments, sometimes favorably, his books provide little guidance about when they might be appropriate or sufficient. Although he provides long lists of references, practically none of them directly support what he promises." Those sentiments are exactly what we felt and wrote after reading The Wrinkle Cure.
The site goes on to state: "Perricone's books are sprinkled with statements that his ideas are based on his own research. However, the extent and quality of this research is unclear. A PubMed search for his name brought up only six citations, of which only two appear to be original research, both on topical glycolic acid. His books describe situations in which he tested various ideas in a few patients, usually over a short period of time, but he provides few details and apparently published none of those findings in medical journals." Does that sound like the kind of products you'd like to spend (a lot of) your money on?
They go on to conclude (and we agree completely with the following text): "Dr. Perricone has mixed a pinch of science with a gallon of imagination to create an elaborate, time-consuming, expensive, prescription for a healthy life and younger skin. There is no reason to think his program is more effective than standard measures. Although some of his advice is standard, most of his recommendations are based on speculation and fanciful interpretation of selected medical literature. He makes lots of money by convincing patients and consumers, but he hasn't succeeded in convincing critical thinkers, doctors, scientists, or anyone who wants to see hard evidence. Perricone's prescription isn't science; it's creative salesmanship." And which ingredient is the answer for healthy skin? Perricone can't seem to make up his mind, because one group of products contains alpha lipoic acid, another group olive oil, another vitamin C, and still another neuropeptides. Come on, doctor, which is it?
One ingredient Perricone uses deserves some discussion because it is present in all of his products, and that's dimethyl MEA, also known as DMAE (chemically 2-dimethyl-aminoethanol). DMAE has been around for years as an oral supplement that's popularly believed to improve mental alertness, much like Ginkgo biloba and coenzyme Q10. However, the research about DMAE does not show the same positive results as the other two supplements. Because DMAE is chemically similar to choline, DMAE is thought to stimulate production of acetylcholine. And because acetylcholine is a brain neurotransmitter, it's easy to see how it could be associated with brain function. However, only a handful of studies have looked at DMAE for that purpose and they have not been conclusive in the least, while some have shown that DMAE may be problematic or not very effective (Sources: Mechanisms of Aging and Development, February 1988, pages 129138; Neuropharmacology, June 1989, pages, 557561; European Neurology, 1991, pages 423425; and European Journal of Medical Research, May 2003, pages 183191).
How does any of this translate into skin care, or, more to the point, suppressing the signs of aging? Perricone claims DMAE restores muscle tone to skin that has lost firmness and has begun to slacken, as well as conveying an antioxidant benefit. Johnson & Johnson uses DMAE in a few of their Neutrogena products, and a study they paid for appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (June 2005, pages 3947). The conclusion was as follows: "the benefits of DMAE in dermatology include a potential anti-inflammatory effect and a documented increase in skin firmness with possible improvement in underlying facial muscle tone." The study examined topical application of 3% DMAE over a period of 16 weeks, but it was not done double-blind and was not placebo-controlled, which makes the results, at best, questionable. Moreover, the study didn't examine whether a 3% or lower concentration of other ingredients, such as green tea, glycolic acid, vitamin C, or myriad others (many of which Perricone has extolled in his other products, and the amount of DMAE he used varies widely from product to product), might have had the same or better results.
Is there any reason to get excited (and drain your pocketbook) for products with DMAE? Apparently not; a study published in The British Journal of Dermatology (May 2007) has shown contrary evidence that it may actually pose risks for the skin. In vitro tests of the pure substance, as well as creams that contained DMAE, demonstrated a fairly fast and significant increase in protective elements around the skin cell. However, a short time later the researchers observed an important reduction in cell growth and in some cases they found that it halted cell growth altogether. So, while you may initially experience a kind of swelling of the skin because of the expanding effect caused by topical application of DMAE, the long-term results appear to be far from desirable.
Interestingly, even though this ingredient is present throughout Perricone's line, he has yet to publish his own research discussing the claims and explaining how topical DMAE works. The bottom line is that as more research comes to light, DMAE may prove more problematic than helpful for aging skin. But in the meantime, Perricone is raking in lots of money by convincing consumers otherwise.
For more information about Perricone MD Cosmeceuticals call (888) 823-7837 or visit www.perriconemd.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.