Merle Norman

Wrinkle Smoother

2.25 fl. oz. for $ 48.00
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Brand Overview

This is positioned as one of Merle Norman’s best-selling products, which means lots of their customers are walking away with a poorly formulated, badly packaged product. This fragrance-free moisturizer has a lovely silky texture for normal to dry skin and, like most moisturizers of its kind, can make wrinkles appear smoother. The effect is temporary, which is why you need to keep using moisturizer, but it’s really disappointing that the most helpful ingredients are squandered due to the jar packaging, which won’t keep the best ingredients in here stable after opening. In addition, there is no substantiated research that the peptide in this moisturizer inhibits muscles that lead to expression lines, so this is not a viable alternative to Botox when it comes to reducing wrinkles. Actually, when you think about it, if the muscle-relaxing peptide worked as claimed, it would affect muscles anywhere you applied it. The result, when applied all over the face, would be sagging, droopy skin and the inability to do things like talk and chew food. Still, as we explain below, the peptides in this product have merit, they just won't replace corrective procedures.

Note: In our mission to share the latest skincare research and knowledge, we make every effort to update reviews as new published studies about ingredients and skincare change. This sometimes results in a change in the product’s rating, as well as the content of the review itself, either for the good or bad. In the case of peptides, the new research about them is very good news.

In recent years, the research on what peptides can do for skin has changed dramatically. What was once just theory or considered impossible has proven to be completely possible, so certain reviews have been updated to reflect this. Depending on the peptides used in a product they can play an integral role in helping to train skin to become firmer, smoother, brighter, more even, and show fewer wrinkles. Simply put, peptide research is now a much more exciting, verifiable field than what we knew even a few short years ago.

What remains true is that despite the fascinating benefits certain peptides can deliver to skin, they cannot and do not replace or surpass what certain cosmetic corrective procedures can do. As for our reviews, we will continue, as always, to evaluate products based on the claims they carry compared with what the research has shown is true.

Scientific Report, January 2018, ePublication
Cosmetics, May 2017, pages 1-14
Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, January-February 2017, pages 9-18
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, December 2016, pages 514-519
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, November 2016, pages 411-419
Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, August 2016, pages 1,171-1,176
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2015, pages 152-160

Jar Packaging: Yes
Tested on animals: No

Moisturizer with treatment benefits helps minimize the appearance of wrinkles caused by facial movements. Formulated with Argireline, a hexapeptide that helps smooth out and minimize lines and assist in preventing the appearance of lines caused by smiling and frowning. Oil-free.

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Isohexadecane, Stearic Acid, Ethyl Alcohol, Nylon-12, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-3, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Serine, Glycine, Proline, Ornithine, Alanine, Citruline, Glutamic Acid, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Heather Extract, Hydrocotyl Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, PCA, Phospholipids, Matricaria Extract, Coneflower Extract, PEG-20 Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Bisabolol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Ethoxydiglycol, Lecithin, Glucose, Triethanolamine, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Diazolidinyl Urea

Merle Norman At-A-Glance

Strengths: Most Merle Norman boutiques willingly provide free samples so you can try before you buy; excellent cleansing lotion for dry, sensitive skin; effective, pH-correct AHA and BHA products; surprisingly good toners; excellent lip balm/lipline filler; good sunscreen and self-tanner.

Weaknesses: Jar packaging is prevalent; the Luxiva Changing Skin products do not effectively address skin changes resulting from menopause; most of the Luxiva Clear Complexion products cause more skin problems than they solve; a few very good products are impossible to recommend because they also include irritants; the Miracol and classic Merle Norman products are severely dated formulas that harken back to the days before computers replaced typewriters.

Merle Norman opened her first cosmetics studio in Santa Monica, California, in 1931. She believed strongly that women would love her products, if only she could "get them on their faces," and the company's now-famous try-before-you-buy program was launched. To this day, women who visit any of Merle Norman's 2,000 boutiques spread across the United States, Canada, and Mexico can take advantage of the company's product samples before making a purchase.

The free samples are great, but the question is why anyone would be inclined to try Merle Norman skin-care products. Although there have been some improvements since the Cosmetics Cop Team last reviewed this brand, much of what was problematic back then is still around today, and still problematic - and that's not good news for your skin.

Across the board, the biggest issue is jar packaging. Several of the moisturizers didn't receive better than a neutral face rating because they are poorly packaged. For a company claiming to be cutting edge, they somehow missed, or chose to ignore, the research showing how state-of-the-art ingredients deteriorate when exposed to light and air. In addition, repeatedly sticking your fingers into a product isn't sanitary, and further degrades the ingredients. What good is adding a lot of antioxidants and other plant extracts or vitamins to a product if their efficacy is all but gone within a week or two of opening?

There are other weak spots to watch out for, too, especially in the Luxiva Changing Skin and Luxiva Clear Complexion lines. Merle Norman also sells a group of antiquated products that are little more than cold cream and super-greasy moisturizers. These are as far removed as you can get from what we know about what skin needs to look younger and function in a healthy manner. Using many of Merle Norman's products is like using a typewriter instead of a computer.

As far as what's to like, you'll find several well-formulated cleansers and toners, some reliable AHA and BHA products, and an impressive lip balm, and most of the SPF-rated products provide broad-spectrum protection. Ultimately, it wouldn't be wise to try to assemble a comprehensive skin-care routine from Merle Norman, but if you focus on their better products you'll do okay.

For the record, it is perfectly fine to mix Merle Norman products with those from other brands. We doubt you'll get this advice if you visit any of the Merle Norman Studios, but it's true. In fact, this applies to any skin-care brandwhat counts is the individual product and how well it's formulated, not the company's predetermined ideas that their products work best if and only if they're used together.

For more information about Merle Norman, call (310) 641-3000 or visit www.merlenorman.com.

Note: We know that we've stated for quite some time that the team wouldn't be revisiting this line because of Merle Norman's complete disinterest in helping us get the information we need to review their products accurately. Over the years, my staff has been kicked out of several Merle Norman boutiques, both here in the Seattle area and in other states. As soon as we began taking notes or if we asked too many questions, we were eyed with suspicion and then asked to leave. There are two reasons we changed our mind: (1) our Beautypedia subscribers kept asking us to re-review this brand, and (2) a Merle Norman employee agreed to help us obtain the information we need, as long as she remained anonymous. We wish to extend a sincere thanks to the woman who sent us dozens upon dozens of samples and helped us compile all of the accurate information that made these reviews possible.

Please note: These productprices are in U.S. dollars, and for reasons unknown Merle Norman products are substantially more expensivein Canadian boutiques. Please be aware when shopping that these ratings are a reflection of U.S. prices only.

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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