Camu-Camu White Essence
This fragrance-free serum's big claim is that its camu camu ingredient is a concentrated source of vitamin C, as if that's supposed to be a compelling reason to buy it. First, even if camu camu is a concentrated source of vitamin C, lots of other plants also are loaded with vitamin C, including oranges, strawberries, and spinach. Camu camu is neither the only nor the best source of this antioxidant, skin-brightening vitamin.
Another point to consider: Depending on how the plant extract was cultivated and stored prior to manufacture, who knows how much vitamin C remains? Interestingly, one study noted that even under ideal storage conditions the vitamin C content of this fruit degrades over time (Source: Archivos Latinamericanos de Nutricion, December 2000, pages 405–408).
As for camu camu details, this shrub bears a fruit whose peel has a higher vitamin C content than its seed, but DHC includes the seed rather than the pulp or peel, which is odd considering their boasts of camu camu being a superior source of vitamin C. Plus, the fruit, which has a strong sour taste, is considered a skin irritant due to its volatile components, including limonene (which can make skin more sun-sensitive) and eucalyptol (Source: www.naturaldatabase.com). Despite the irritant potential when applied topically, research has shown that components in camu camu juice can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefit when consumed (Source: Journal of Cardiology, October 2008, pages 127–132). Still, there are lots of antioxidants that help your skin without risk of irritation, so camu camu isn't among the most desirable options.
Even more to the point, given that a pure form of vitamin is so important for skin (research has confirmed this), why not give the skin the pure form, such as ascorbic acid. That's what's in skin naturally, not camu camu extract. There are lots of great products that contain vitamin C in a form the skin can really utilize.
Beyond the hype over camu camu, this serum actually does contain a stabilized form of vitamin C, in the form of ascorbyl glucoside, which is a much better source of vitamin C than camu camu, as well as a blend of lightweight hydrating ingredients. It should contain a much broader range of anti-aging ingredients than it does, so we rate this an average option for all skin types.
- Contains antioxidant vitamin C.
- The touted camu camu ingredient is a potential irritant and can make skin more sun-sensitive.
- Formula would be far better if it provided a greater range of anti-aging ingredients.
Boost your skincare routine with this moisturizing burst of brightening vitamin-rich extracts from the camu-camu fruitwhich is among the greatest naturally occurring concentrations of vitamin C.
Strengths: Several inexpensive products; many fragrance-free products; complete product ingredient lists on their Web site; several worthwhile cleansers and makeup removers; an effective AHA product; antioxidant olive oil and olive leaf extract are present in many products.
Weaknesses: Mostly unexciting toners; an effective BHA product that regrettably contains an irritant; no skin-lightening options with a roster of proven ingredients; huge assortment of products, many with repetitive or gimmicky formulas; products with nanoparticles of silver (completely useless for skin), which can cause permanent skin discoloration (who wants to absorb silver into their skin given that it can be toxic when consumed).
There's a lot of interest in this Japan-based line; the e-mails asking if these products really work keep pouring in, which means their marketing campaign is garnering the attention it's supposed to. The problem we have, though, is that we don't see any substantial reason to explain the DHC line's popularity!
First of all, here's a little background information. DHC (which stands for Daigaku Honyaku Center) is the Number 1 direct-mail skin-care company in Japan. Their U.S. headquarters is in San Francisco, and they publish a huge (and poorly organized) catalog a few times each year. Many of you have received their catalog unsolicited, perhaps with a few sample packets of DHC products, which may be why we receive so many questions asking whether the products are worth it. The overall answer to that question: Absolutely not! Although DHC offers some very good products, none of them are groundbreaking or unique in a way that's meaningful for the health and appearance of your skin.
The company bases many of their formulas around olive oil and olive extracts. In fact, if you're looking for the most expensive bottle of pure olive oil around, look no farther than the tiny vial DHC offers as their star product! They do their best to convince you that this olive oil is special because it is purified, but we ask you: What do you think you're buying at the grocery store? Do you think it's unpurified, sludge-laden olive oil? Of course not! And your skin won't be able to tell the difference between DHC's olive oil and a quality olive oil from your local marketyou can use either one to moisturize dry skin.
What does olive oil have to offer your skin? Well, it's a good source of antioxidants and, of course, has moisturizing properties for dry skin, but that's about it. Olive oil isn't a must-have ingredient for skin, but is a must-avoid ingredient if you're prone to breakouts or have oily skin because its fatty acid content can contribute to clogged pores. Its antioxidant ability has been proven, but there is also research showing that other oils (such as date seed oil) offer even better antioxidant protection (Sources: Biofactors, 2007, pages 137145; Free Radical Biology and Medicine, April 2005, pages 908919; and www.naturaldatabase.com). DHC would have been wiser to couple olive oil with other established antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients, but instead they parsed those ingredients out over a wide variety of products, most with overlapping or repetitive claims.
For example, their olive-based products contain olive oil or extract and no other antioxidants of note, save for a tiny amount of vitamin E. But then they offer standalone vitamin C products, vitamin A products, and several products containing coenzyme Q10. We can assure you that more of their products would have earned a better rating had they contained a cocktail of skin-friendly ingredients rather than making their customers pick and choose among such a huge, disjointed assortment (and your skin would benefit from them all being together, as many other companies have done). You shouldn't have to pick four or five DHC moisturizers to get the benefit of multiple antioxidants, but that's the predicament you'll be in, and things get confusing when you try to determine which of the company's claims have merit and which do not. (Hint: Most of them are nothing more than a string of adjectives along with a sprinkling of truth.)
Speaking of disjointed, although we don't normally comment much on a line's packaging beyond the need for avoidance of jars for products with antioxidants and other sensitive ingredients, DHC's packaging is all over the place. The logo, color schemes, bottle shapes, fonts, and just about everything else have no rhyme or reason. You could easily have several DHC products on your vanity and the only way you'd know they were from the same line is the company name, if you can find it. On the upside, DHC avoids jar packaging for their antioxidant-enriched products.
The main benefit of DHC products is the lack of fragrance, though a few products do contain fragrant floral extracts, as noted in the individual reviews. If you're curious to try this Japan import, it is possible to assemble a good, basic routine. However, this is also a line you could ignore in favor of a selection of skin-care products that offer more for your money, especially in terms of single products with multiple state-of-the-art ingredients for skin, and fewer claims that don't correlate with what the ingredients can actually do for your skin. One more plus that deserves mention: the company is forthcoming with their ingredient lists, and their customer service in that arena is prompt and thorough.
For more information about DHC, call (800) 342-2273 or visit www.dhccare.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.