Mega-Bright Skin Tone Correcting Serum
We received a brochure in the mail for this skin brightening serum and noticed it featured a series of before and after photos. That’s not too unusual; what was strange is that in each set of photos, the “after” image wasn’t all that impressive. This product promises “dramatic improvement” in the same brochure of photos where, after 12 weeks of use, the improvements to skin discolorations are more accurately described as “slight”.
Turning to the ingredients, it’s easy to see why this serum isn’t as impressive as the ads state. Although it contains a form of vitamin C (ascorbyl glucoside) with promising research on its ability to lighten discolorations, it is also fraught with fragrant plant oils and extracts known to cause irritation. Also on board are fragrance chemicals such as eugenol that only add to the irritation. Ingredients like this have no benefit for skin; indeed, the inflammation they cause can mean discolorations last longer and also damage healthy collagen production.
What about the plant Rosa roxburghii referred to in the claims? As is turns out, there’s no research proving this plant improves skin discolorations from acne or sun damage but this plant is a natural source of vitamin C, so it’s not too much of a stretch to assume a skin lightening benefit exists (Source: Phytotherapy Research, March 2008, pages 376–383). Although that’s exciting, this plant isn’t used in an amount that’s likely to have much impact on skin. Unfortunately, fragrant irritants take precedence in this silky serum.
One ingredient in this product deserves further explanation: dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol. This ingredient is a chemical compound from the Dianella ensifolia plant. It is known to inhibit tyrosinase, which is the enzyme in skin that spurs melanin production. There are many ingredients research has shown to inhibit the action of tyrosinase, as this is believed to be a fairly efficient way to control hyperpigmentation. Examples of such ingredients are various types of mushrooms, grape seed, 1-propylmercaptan, and arbutin. To date, there is no conclusive research proving that dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol is the best one, or that its efficacy is comparable to that of hydroquinone. This ingredient is also used in Estee Lauder’s Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator which is a much better product to consider because it doesn’t contain the numerous irritants of Mega-Bright Skin Tone Correcting Serum.
In terms of brightening, this serum contains small amounts of the mineral pigments titanium dioxide and mica. It helps improve skin tone, but the effect is strictly cosmetic (like makeup) not due to a miraculous plant somehow evening your skin tone.
Note that this serum contains salicylic acid (also known as BHA) but the amount is likely too low for it to have an exfoliating effect.
Strengths: The makeup products fare best including liquid concealer, blush, brow enhancer, and lip liner; very good makeup brushes composed of synthetic hair.
Weaknesses: Almost every skincare product contains potent irritating ingredients; no products to effectively address needs of those with acne or skin discolorations; some of the makeup products contain irritating ingredients.
Started in 1990, Origins was Estee Lauder's contribution to the (still going strong) demand for natural products. Their approach and claims all hinge on the wonder of plants and the allegedly miraculous properties they offer for skin, whether it be dry, sensitive, oily, or simply showing the effects of time. Here's the issue: Just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients, there are good and bad natural ones. Ironically, Origins isn't all that "natural" because it uses its share of synthetic ingredients, and the plant extracts they do use include some that are bad for skin.
We have never been opposed to using natural ingredients. However, it lacks integrity when a company throws in any plant ingredient with no proven benefit for skin beyond anecdotal information, and then boasts about all sorts of improbable results. It becomes a far more serious issue when the natural ingredients in question have published research showing that they are in fact irritating or damaging to skin. That's the predicament of reviewing Origins' skin care products: almost every product they sell contains several volatile oils (another term for essential oils), all of which have their share of negative qualities when used on skin. In their attempt to appear more natural, Origins uses quite a bit of these offending ingredients, and they're often listed before the much more beneficial additives, such as antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-identical ingredients.
You might be wondering why, if Origins has had such continued success, their products can be such a problem for skin? Can't women just use what they like? The answer is two-fold: yes women can use what they like, but often women like what isn't good for them. For example, smoking is bad for skin (and for your lungs), but lots of people smoke; getting a tan from the sun is bad for your skin, but lots of people spend time outdoors getting a tan; and using products that contain irritating ingredients is bad for your skin, and lots of products come to the table with these inconsistencies.
As we have explained in the introduction tothe book, there is a litany of problems that take place when skin is irritated or inflamed, but fundamentally this results in the skin's immune system becoming impaired, collagenase (the breakdown of collagen) occurs, and the skin is stripped of its outer protective barrier. What is perhaps most shocking is that all of these damaging responses can be taking place underneath the skin and you won't even notice it on the surface. The clearest example of this is the significant and carcinogenic effect of the sun's "silent" UVA rays. You don't feel the penetration of these mutagenic rays, but they are taking a toll on your skin nonetheless (Sources: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2006, pages 3038; International Journal of Toxicology, May-June 2006, pages 183193;Skin Research and Technology; November 2001, pages 227237; Dermatologic Therapy, January 2004, pages 1625; American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, May 2004, pages 327337; Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, November 2003, pages 663669; Drugs, 2003 volume 63, issue 15, pages 15791596; Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, March 2002, pages 138146; Cosmetics & Toiletries, November 2003, page 63; Global Cosmetics, February 2000, pages 4649; and Contact Dermatitis, February 1995, pages 8387).
Most of the Lauder companies really have their acts together when it comes to formulating state-of-the-art moisturizers, serums, and sunscreens that leave out the problematic plant extracts (and that represents a lot of products given the almost two dozen cosmetics companies under the Lauder corporate banner). Origins is the exception, and we encourage my readers who prefer to shop for skin care at the department store to explore the truly far better options from Clinique, Estee Lauder, Prescriptives, M.A.C., Bobbi Brown, or even La Mer. Even salon-styled Aveda, also owned by Lauder, with a natural theme similar to Origins, has less problematic formulas.
For more information about Origins, owned by Estee Lauder, call (800) 674-4467 or visit www.origins.com.
Compared to the makeup offered by almost all of the other Estee Lauderowned lines, Origins falls short by virtue of including ingredients that align with its marketing image of offering natural ingredients that have the blessing of Mother Nature regardless of the risks they pose for skin. As omnipotent as Mom may be, this force of nature is a disaster waiting to happen. A secondary reason Origins isn't competing as well with its sister companies is that for many products (particularly the lipsticks, blush, and cleverly named but non-essential specialty products) the technology isn't as advanced. That lack of technological creativity combined with significant amounts of hostile essential oils will help you understand why we recommend exploring similar, but superior (and irritant-free), options from any of the other Lauder companies from Clinique to M.A.C.
If you're prone to being swayed by the promises of natural products (though Origins is not any more natural than many other lines, it just uses the most problematic plant extracts possible), there are a few outstanding gems to unearth here, and at prices that aren't unrealistic. Additionally, Origins' latest tester units, especially in their freestanding stores, are accessible and user-friendly. They include pull-out counters for added space and feature large mirrors. Combine this with a low-key yet helpful sales staff and knowing what to zero in on and you'll find shopping the best of Origins is a pleasure.
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.