Exuviance OptiLight Essential 6 Serum
This skin-lightening serum lists alcohol as its second ingredient, which means it can be too drying and irritating for all skin types.
Alcohol in skin-care products causes dryness and free-radical damage, and impairs the skin’s ability to heal. The irritation it causes damages healthy collagen production and can stimulate oil production at the base of the pore, making oily skin worse (Sources: “Skin Care—From the Inside Out and Outside In,” Tufts Daily, April 1, 2002; eMedicine Journal, May 8, 2002, volume 3, number 5, www.emedicine.com; 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).
Even if this was alcohol-free, it still contains several problematic ingredients among its beneficial skin-lightening agents. Various forms of citrus plus lavender, peppermint, clove, and gardenia flower contain volatile fragrance constituents known to be irritating. This serum contains some truly beneficial ingredients and absolutely stands a chance of improving dark spots and an uneven skin tone—but ultimately it’s not worth the risk of irritation. Please see our list of Best Skin-Lightening products for superior options (some of which cost a lot less, too).
A real brightening boon to anyone who craves a more balanced, even toned complexion, this powerful serum minimizes the appearance of problem dark spots brought on by aging and overexposure to the elements. The unique formula concentrates eleven potent brighteners to target 6 pigment control systems, helping break up and reduce the visible intensity of existing darker pigmented areas, and discourages new spots from forming. Gently exfoliates to fade the look of existing dark pigment spots, and then helps reduce the activity of the enzyme that triggers the development of new spots.
Strengths: Huge assortment of AHA and PHA exfoliants; a couple good cleansers; some excellent moisturizers; several fragrance-free products.
Weaknesses: No BHA products (better for blemish-prone skin or for those who can't tolerate AHAs or PHA); use of jar packaging compromises some of the formulas; irritating ingredients make an appearance in several products.
Exfoliation is the name of the game for this line! The original NeoStrata and Exuviance brands were created by Drs. Eugene Van Scott and Ruey Yu, the two researchers who own the original patent (actually, they hold over 80 patents) for the use of glycolic acid (AHA) in relation to its ability to diminish wrinkles, among other capabilities. Few lines offer reliable and effective formulations for exfoliation, so those that do deserve your attention. Well-formulated AHA products are those that have an effective concentration of AHAs and a base with an acidic pH that allows them to have maximum benefit. The exfoliation that AHAs provide reduces the thickness of the skin's outer layer, helping skin to quickly look smoother and feel softer, which in turn can solve many skin problems, including dryness, blemishes, sun damage, and skin discolorations. A good deal of research also shows that AHAs can help increase the thickness of the underlying layers of skin, improve skin structure, increase collagen production, and allow penetration of other skin-care ingredients. Moreover, NeoStrata is one of the only companies to sell a range of reliable sunscreens that also contain effective AHA formulations.
Both the Exuviance (Exuviance products are reviewed separately), NeoCeuticals and NeoStrata lines contain glycolic acid (AHA), but even more of these products contain a polyhydroxy acid (PHA) called gluconolactone (also patented by Scott and Yu), and for which similar claims are made. Gluconolactone is supposed to be gentler and longer acting than glycolic acid, and its delayed penetration is attributed to its larger molecular size. However, according to an article in Cosmetic Dermatology (July 1998), the skin can't tell the difference between the various effective AHAs, and the possibility of gluconolactone staying on the surface of skin longer than other AHAs did not prove out. So in terms of exfoliation and potential side effects, PHA ends up being as good as AHA. Gluconolactone may be slightly less irritating for some skin types, but this isn't quite the magic bullet for exfoliation NeoStrata claims, though it does indeed work when properly formulated (but so do glycolic and lactic acids). Another PHA NeoStrata uses is lactobionic acid. However, there is no definitive, published research establishing it as an effective alternative to (or partner for) other AHAs or BHA.
Beyond the numerous products that exfoliate (which is NeoStrata's main selling point) there's not much to get excited about, especially for what the company is charging. And it's upsetting that a dermatologist-driven, physician-sold line still has weak spots such as the occasional inclusion of irritating ingredients with no established benefit for skin and, believe it or not, a sunscreen that leaves skin vulnerable to UVA damage. NeoStrata has their act together when it comes to AHAs and PHA, but that tunnel vision has, in some respects, kept them from branching out to offer a better assortment of state-of-the-art products.
For more information about NeoStrata, call (800) 225-9411 or visit www.neostrata.com.
Note: NeoStrata's range of products is advertised as being available only through physicians. However, the entire selection is available for purchase online. The Exuviance brand is sold in select department stores and specialty beauty boutiques such as Ulta.
Caution: Keep in mind that skin needs only one reliable exfoliant at a time. NeoStrata sells so many good ones, you may be tempted to double (or triple) up, but doing so can backfire and be more irritating than helpful.
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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.