Prism 12% AHA + 3% BHA Exfoliating Glow Serum
Herbivore’s Prism 12% AHA + 3% BHA Exfoliating Glow Serum is essentially a higher-powered version of its Prism Natural Fruit Acid Exfoliating Glow Potion – but unfortunately, it carries with it the same issues that earned its predecessor a below-average rating.
Packaged in a see-through pink bottle with a dropper (which means it needs to be stored away from direct light to protect its ingredients), this liquid is fast-absorbing thanks to its water-light texture. This type of texture works well both over and under other skin care products.
As with its lower-strength counterpart, the AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) contained in this formula aren’t synthetically-derived (such as lab-formulated glycolic, malic, lactic, or salicylic acids). While this contains sugarcane, sugar maple, and willow bark extracts– and they are sometimes said to be alternatives to exfoliating acids - they are not actual AHAs or BHA, and won’t yield the same results.
However, that isn’t to say that there isn’t any merit to these ingredients – the sugarcane and sugar maple extracts are good hydrators, and willow bark extract is known for both its antioxidant and skin-soothing properties.
That aside, there are ingredients that are actually problematic in this exfoliant: it contains a high amount of fragrant rose flower water (it’s the second ingredient), which imparts a very strong, perfumey smell. Fragrance – including natural fragrance such as this – puts skin at risk for irritation (see More Info to learn why fragrance free is best in skin care). Adding to the issue are orange and lemon extracts, which put skin at additional risk for irritation.
Though the idea of a natural exfoliant has wide appeal, you’ll find more effective and less irritating options on our list of best exfoliants. And, not to worry, synthetic exfoliating ingredients are safe provided you use them as directed.
- Water-light texture works well with other skin care products.
- Contains hydrating sugarcane and sugar maple extracts.
- Willow bark extract has well-documented skin-soothing properties.
- Packaged in a container that needs to be stored out of direct light.
- Sugarcane, sugar maple, and willow bark are not natural replacements for AHAs and BHA.
- Contains a high amount of fragrant rose flower water.
- Includes irritating orange and lemon extracts.
Why Fragrance Is a Problem for Skin: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes a chronic sensitizing reaction on skin.
This reaction in turn leads to all kinds of problems, including disrupting skin’s barrier, worsening dryness, increasing or triggering redness, depleting vital substances in skin’s surface, and generally preventing skin from looking healthy, smooth, and hydrated. Fragrance free is always the best way to go for all skin types.
A surprising fact: Even though you can’t always see or feel the negative effects of fragrant ingredients on skin, the damage will still be taking place, even if it’s not evident on the surface. Research has demonstrated that you don’t need to see or feel the effects of irritation for your skin to be suffering. Much like the effects from cumulative sun damage, the negative impact and the visible damage from fragrance may not become apparent for a long time.
References for this information:
Toxicology In Vitro, February 2018, pages 237-245
Toxicological Sciences, January 2018, pages 139-148
Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1410–1419
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008, pages 191–202
International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 27, 2008, Supplement, pages 1–43
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798
The new, pumped-up Prism 12% AHA + 3% BHA Exfoliating Glow Serum leaves skin exfoliated, smooth, and glowing with a stronger, brighter rainbow of 100% natural fruit- and plant-based AHAs and Willow Bark BHA.
Herbivore Botanicals got its start when Julia Wills and her husband Alex Kummerow started making soap in their kitchen in Seattle in 2011. The couple began selling those soaps at local farmer’s markets, then opened up a shop on arts & crafts site Etsy. As the story goes, national retailers Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters reached out to the pair to sell their products in their stores. That led to beauty giant Sephora taking notice and a couple of years later, Herbivore proper was born.
Herbivore’s core philosophy is on natural skin care, a constantly growing market with a lot of interest. The brand’s site states that its products are chemical-free and non-toxic, though those terms aren’t meaningful (or, in the case of chemicals, accurate) descriptions. Nature is full of chemicals – water, after all, is a chemical! – so none of these products is chemical-free, and no skin care product sold in the U.S. is toxic when used as directed. In short, people aren’t dropping dead from skin care and makeup, despite the occasional dire reports alleging such likelihood.
Specific to Herbivore’s products, they offer moisturizers, toners and face mists, masks, exfoliants, facial oils, and scrubs. In line with many natural-themed brands, a daily sun protection product isn’t part of the mix (yet) even though it’s the most important skin care product you can use.
While most of the products have some positive antioxidant ingredients, all of them have fragrant components known to put skin at risk for irritation. Yes, these fragrances are naturally-derived (often from essential oils or flower extracts), but fragrance, regardless of its origin, is not good for skin.
Another issue is that clear packaging and jars are used for many Herbivore products, yet this type of packaging exposes the beneficial ingredients inside to light and air, reducing their effectiveness with each use.
While we appreciate Herbivore’s desire to bring naturally-derived skin care to the masses, it would be better if the brand skipped the fragrance and focused on the non-fragrant natural ingredients (and there are many of them!) that truly have benefit for skin. Ironically, many of the natural ingredient this brand uses do have some benefit for skin; it’s just that they also present risks. There are plenty of natural ingredients that only offer the good stuff, so our recommendation is not to compromise.
You can find out more about Herbivore at https://www.herbivorebotanicals.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.