Mission Perfection Serum

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 72.00
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Mission Perfection Serum has a great name but its formula is more "mission impossible" than perfect! This skin-lightening treatment comes up short for all skin types struggling with dark spots because its sole lightening ingredient just doesn't have much research behind it. There isn't a compelling reason to consider this treatment over several others whose ingredients have more research proving they work.

We're not saying you won't see any results from this; it's just that we're highly skeptical (and at this price, you should expect a formula that uses proven skin-lightening ingredients). The product's only lightening ingredient is hexylresorcinol, a synthetic ingredient that has been shown to have skin-lightening ability in cell cultures, but there is very limited research about its effects on skin.

Hexylresorcinol is primarily an antioxidant, antiseptic, and anesthetic (numbing agent) (Free Radical Research, 2003 & Archives of Pharmacology, 2009).

The efficacy of hexylresorcinol on melanin (skin pigment) was based on comparing a product that contained several well know skin-lightening ingredients including licorice, niacinamide, a form of vitamin C, and retinol to 4% hydroquinone. As a result whether or not the benefit was related to the hexylresorcinol is unknown. Plus this study was only done for 4 weeks on 18 people and was not independent. This study is often quoted as concluding that hexylresorcinol worked better than or as well as 4% hydroquinone, but 4 weeks is not long enough to judge that and again, this was not about hexylresorcinol alone—which is how Clarins is using it (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 2013).

A longer (8 weeks) study showed that hexylresorcinol was more effective than hydroquinone—plus other lightening ingredients like arbutin and kojic acid—but this study only proved that hexylresorcinol showed faster, not necessarily better results. It also left out comparing this ingredient to ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which is among the best ingredients to lighten brown spots (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2013).

Wouldn't you like to know if vitamin C fared even better? We certainly would! All of this is to say that hexylresorcinol shows some promise, but the lack of long-term research doesn't make it worth trying unless everything else hasn't worked.

Clarins also claims the acerola fruit extract this contains "monitors melanin production." That sounds official, but is wide open to interpretation. What does "monitor" mean? It's not telling you melanin production will be reduced, so it could simply mean that melanin production will continue as is. Again, if you're paying this much for a skincare treatment, you should expect more than marketing jabberwocky.

Turning to published scientific research rather than marketing lingo, there's one promising study where acerola extract was applied to animals whose skin had been exposed to and discolored from UVB light—and the acerola helped lighten the spots. But not so fast: These results were only shown when acerola was given orally, not applied topically, which is what you'd be doing with this product (Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 2008). We were unable to find any other published research proving this ingredient's worth for skin discolorations, though it is a good antioxidant.

Turning to this product's texture and other ingredients, it's a fairly standard lightweight cream formula packaged in a heavier, opaque plastic bottle topped with a built-in pump. The formula contains a few intriguing antioxidants and repairing ingredients, but this product contains far more fragrance, and its scent lingers on skin, which isn't good news. See More Info to learn why daily use of highly fragrant products is a problem for everyone's skin.

On the bright side (sorry, we had to go there) Clarins added a sheer, peachy-pink color to enliven the complexion plus the mineral pigment mica adds instant radiance. Those are nice touches that make good on the claim of adding a luminous glow to skin. But you can get a luminous glow from lots of products, including some that contain a better mix of ingredients to reduce brown spots and uneven skin tone.

Ultimately, Mission Perfection Serum has very little to make it worthy of purchase. Its sole skin-lightening ingredient doesn't have the substantial amount of research more longstanding ingredients do, the formula is highly fragranced, posing a risk of irritation, and is definitely on the pricey side (if you're going to spend this much, you want something that stands an excellent chance of working, right?). The sheer, peachy-pink sheen is pretty and softly enlivens a dull complexion, but we suspect most people will find better results using one of the recommendations on our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products.

  • Silky, light cream texture feels light and layers well with other products.
  • Super sheer peachy-pink tint + mineral pigment mica adds a healthy, radiant glow to skin.
  • Based on published research, this formula isn't very likely to improve dark spots or other discolorations.
  • Contains more fragrance and preservative than the called-out acerola extract.
  • Acerola hasn't been shown to improve dark spots when applied to skin.
  • Overpriced given the wealth of skin-lightening products that stand a better chance of working.
  • The fragrance (which lingers) poses a risk of irritating skin.
More Info:

Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).

The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).

In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: Yes
Clarins' groundbreaking serum targets dark spots, discolourations, dullness and shadowswithout altering your natural skin tone. Immediately, skin is glowing and luminous. Day after day, skin's full radiance is recovered. Acerola extract monitors melanin production. Hexylresorcinol helps reduce the appearance of dark spots. Gingko Biloba extract helps restore radiance. Gentle Fruit Acids eliminate dull, dark cellular debrisimproving skin radiance. Pigment perfectors illuminate and even out the complexion.
Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isononyl Isononanoate, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, C14-22 Alcohols, Dimethicone, Pentylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, PEG-8, Cetyl Alcohol, Hexylresorcinol, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, CI 77891/Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Polyacrylate, C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside, Silica, Phenoxyethanol, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Mica, Parfum/Fragrance, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polyacrylamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Tartaric Acid, Atractyloides Lancea Root Extract, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Tamarindus Indica Extract, Spergularia Rubra Extract, Laureth-7, Tocopherol, Malpighia Emarginata (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, CI 15985/Yellow 6, CI 14700/Red 4, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Ascorbic Acid.

Clarins At-A-Glance

Strengths: Broad selection of effective, broad-spectrum sunscreens; some good self-tanning products; some good cleansers and gentle topical scrubs; a great foundation primer;superb foundations and powders; very good powder blush; wonderfully creamy lipsticks; great lip glosses and mascaras.

Weaknesses: Overpriced; pervasive reliance on jar packaging; most products have more fragrance than beneficial plant extracts; poor toners; an overabundance of average moisturizers; no effective products for fading discolorations or treating acne; no AHA or BHA products; disappointing eye pencils; average eyeshadows and makeup brushes.

Clarins is a distinctively French line whose beginnings go back to 1954. It was then that founder Jacques Courtin-Clarins began formulating plant-based treatments for his clients. He parlayed this into a Beauty Institute, and from there, with an all-natural mantra that was slightly ahead of its time, the business grew. Never wavering from its original marketing angle, Clarins has steadfastly held on to the belief that whatever grows from the ground and smells nice must be the cure for every skin ailment, from breakouts to loss of firmness to the dreaded "sponginess" of cellulite. A visit to today's white- and red-trimmed Clarins counter confirms that the plant-based, natural-extract rhetoric is still intact, and the counter staff is eager to discuss it (yet ask them what some of the non-plant, unnatural ingredients are doing in their products and you may be met with a blank stare).

You'll also find that Clarins routinely offers facial appointments at their counters, yet more often than not these appointments, which are done behind a privacy screen, are about selling products, not about performing a legitimate facial. (For example, cleansing, toning, and facial massage are included, while extractions are not.) One other point of difference you may hear about is the Clarins Anti-Pollution Complex. First added to their products in 1991, this Complex consists of a group of plant extracts though what they may be is a mystery, since all manner of plant extracts show up in these products, with few repeats. This "high-performing" protection is supposed to shield skin from pollutant gases, corrosive particles, and industrial emissions. Although that sounds good, it's not true and there isn't a shred of proof to the contrary (Clarins research is unpublished). Plant extracts, alone or in combination regardless of the remote locations they may come from cannot keep pollution off the skin. If anything, the amount of fragrance in these products can weaken the skin's defense mechanisms, resulting in more damage from the pollution our skin encounters daily.

This line is enormous, and is absolutely one of the most cumbersome around. Within it, the assortment of plant extracts ranges from the usual to the exotic and ultimately to the no-one-knows-what-in-the-heck-these-are! Clarins has something for every skin concern imaginable, from keeping pollution off the face (not possible) to lifting a sagging jaw line (not possible without surgery), and even protecting skin from electromagnetic waves. It would seem there is nothing these supposedly miraculous products can't do! And you'll find a horde of plants here with the promise that this can really all come true.

However, once you're armed with even a modicum of ingredient knowledge and a fair helping of myth-busting, you'll realize how ridiculously out of whack all of this hype is. That's not to imply that all of these products are bad, there are good ones; or that all of the plant extracts aren't good, because many are very good anti-irritants, antioxidants, emollients, or antibacterial agents. However, many plant extracts are also potential allergens or skin irritants. Clarins also has its fair share of ordinary, standard, and completely unnecessary products whose claims are at best misleading and at worst downright false, and overall the products are incredibly overpriced for what you get. What is most startling is the redundancy among the Clarins products. There are few differences, for example, between the moisturizers and the mask cleansers, and the oil-control products are more reruns than they are new alternatives for skin care.

Note: All Clarins products contain fragrance.

For more information about Clarins, call (866) 252-7467 or visit www.clarins.com.

Clarins Makeup

Clarins showcases its prodigious skin-care products so prominently that you may not have noticed that their excellent makeup collection has become even more impressive. Evaluating Clarins makeup is 180 degrees different from evaluating the lackluster and confusing assortment of skin-care products they sell. When it comes to foundations, powders, and lipsticks, texture is critically important. Luckily, this is where Clarins color line excels, despite premium prices and going a bit overboard with fragrance. Their foundations are marvelous, the lone concealer is much better than their former attempts in this area, and every powder-based product feels incomparably silky while looking stunningly smooth on skin. (Keep in mind, however, that even the best makeup looks only as good as the skin on which it is applied.) Giving Lancome and Dior a run for their money, Clarins' mascaras are surprisingly good, and at least their lipsticks feel as rich as you'll need to be to afford repeat purchases. You don't need to spend this much money to get beautiful results and stellar products, but if your budget allows you to fill your makeup bag with department-store products, Clarins' nicely organized makeup display should be one of your first stops.

Clarins likes to promote that many of their foundations contain a special anti-pollution complex to safeguard your skin. Don't believe it for a second, because there is no way to completely shield skin from the effects of pollution and antioxidants. Besides, the kinds of ingredients that can reduce, not block or eliminate, pollution-based free-radical formation are rarely included in Clarins makeup.

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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