Vital Essence with Arbutin
This is a very good, though overpriced, skin-lightening product with an impressive amount of arbutin. The arbutin is the main selling point, because every other interesting ingredient is listed after the preservative, including what can only be described as an inconsequential amount of retinol. It is great news that this product is packaged to keep the arbutin stable during use. Arbutin is often positioned as an alternative to hydroquinone, but arbutin actually breaks down in the skin and becomes hydroquinone, which is what makes it effective (Source: Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, February 1996, pages 765–769).
An antioxidant, intensely hydrating face and eye serum that inhibits hyperpigmentation, evens skin tones and lightens dark spots.
Strengths: The makeup far surpasses the skin care, but is not without its problems; one good serum; a skin brightening product with arbutin; excellent range of foundation, concealer, and powder shades for light to medium skin tones; beautiful powder blush and eyeshadows; some impressive eye and lip pencils (if you don't mind routine sharpening).
Weaknesses: Unjustifiably expensive; several products contain problematic plants or fragrant waxes and oils; no sunscreens; no effective anti-acne products; no AHA or BHA exfoliants; none of the products advertising an SPF rating contain active ingredients or any other ingredients capable of shielding skin from sun damage; the Luminous Eye Liner; boring mascara.
Created by Sylvie Chantecaille, this line of makeup and skin-care products, sold at Neiman Marcus and some salons and spas, draws on Chantecaille's 20 years of experience as an employee of Estee Lauder Corporation. The fact that she worked for Lauder and helped to create and launch the Prescriptives line is impressive. Experience means a lot in the crowded, complicated cosmetics industry and it's as good a reason as any to start your own product line.
Not surprisingly, she claims her products are known for their "uniquely high concentration of natural botanicals" and their organic origins, though it takes only a cursory look at the ingredient list to see that isn't true; did she really think no one would notice propylene glycol, polyvinylpyrrolidone, methylparaben, butylparaben, phenoxyethanol, triethanolamine, and PEG-8, which are about as natural as polyester? What is true, however, is that most of the plants in these products are present in very small amounts, often listed after the preservative.
What almost every cosmetic company knows (we can't think of one that doesn't) is that you can't brag about the synthetic ingredients your products contain, even if they are the backbone of every product you make. Selling skin-care products is far easier when you use terms such as "pure," "holistic," or "wellness." Chantecaille takes this faux information one step further by saying (and we're not kidding about this) that her products are "endowed with a potent life force." Ooo-la-la! But once you pull off the rose-colored glasses and probe beneath the hyperbole, all you are left with is a bouquet of fantasy that won't help your skin.
Even more bewildering than the natural claims is that Chantecaille asserts that their emphasis on anti-aging focuses primarily on addressing the causes of inflammation. Without question, inflammation plays a role in how the skin and the body age, and recent research is showing that it probably plays a greater role than previously suspected. Any cosmetic company that is trying to make products that reduce inflammation and its effects is a good thing, but for all their talk, Chantecaille's formulas don't inhibit inflammation; instead, many of them increase inflammation thanks to the numerous fragrant plant oils and waxes they contain. While these ingredients create lovely aromas, scent isn't skin care. Most of these fragrant plant ingredients contain volatile chemicals that create the scent; it is these chemicals (e.g., eugenol, limonene, citronellol, and linalool) that cause skin irritation that leads to, you guessed it, inflammation (Sources: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectronomy, November 2008 pages 35933598; Chemical Research in Toxicology, May 2007, pages 807814; and The British Journal of Dermatology, May 2006, pages 885888).
In contrast, there is little more than anecdotal research indicating that the problematic plant ingredients Chantecaille uses are actually healing, as the company claims.
The chief reason to explore Chantecaille is their makeup. Although there isn't a single item that doesn't have an equally good counterpart in other lines for far less money, if you're curious about Chantecaille, color is where it's at. Their foundation shade range has improved and is beautifully neutral. The textures and finishes for foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, and lip glosses are outstanding, as are the finishes. In short, Chantecaille has made it very easy to assemble a makeup wardrobe that makes skin look smooth, polished, and radiant, although their foundations and powders are geared toward those with normal to dry skin.
One more comment: Chantecaille has a penchant for attributing sun-protection claims and SPF ratings to various products. They do so in violation of FDA regulations on sunscreens because the company does not list active ingredients on their label. If a cosmetic company can't even get that right, then much of what they do is called into question, aside from just looking askance at their claims. Considering the price of their products, this omission is nearly unforgivable; please don't rely on the claim for sun protection, because it assuredly puts your skin at risk for sun damage. By the way, none of the natural ingredients in these products provide sun protection on their own, either. Ingredients such as vitamins C and E can, to some extent, help skin defend itself against sun damage and boost the longevity of sunscreen actives, but by themselves they're not capable of providing sun protection on a par with what's required to earn an SPF rating.
For more information about Chantecaille, call 877-673-7080 or visit www.chantecaille.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.