Acure Organics Seriously Firming Facial Serum is marketed as a targeted concentrate to help repair and revitalize skin. What isn't mentioned is that this formula contains multiple ingredients (including strong fragrance) that can potentially damage skin and impede healthy collagen production—not to mention the lack of ingredients that can actually make good on its claims to improve skin firmness. See More Info for details on why a high amount of fragrance is such a problem for skin.
The fragrance issue is unfortunate, as this product's blend of non-fragrant plant oils like safflower, sesame seed, pumpkin, borage, and argan (to name a few) are all beneficial for adding moisture to skin and repairing dry, dehydrated areas. These, like many non-fragrant plant oils, contain a mix of antioxidant compounds that can help offset free-radical damage.
The good news ends there. Seriously Firming Facial Serum also contains sweet orange and lavender essential oils. Sweet orange oil, like many citrus oils, is loaded with a class of ingredients known as furanocoumarins (psoralen) and coumarins. These chemicals are the primary culprits for causing a phototoxic reaction on skin when exposed to the sun—a reaction that can potentially result in unsightly skin discolorations (Journal of Food and Agriculture, October 2013 & Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 2007).
Lavender oil is especially problematic for a host of other reasons, which we describe in More Info.
Seriously Firming Facial Serum has far too many drawbacks to recommend, including lacking the ingredients needed to help repair (or slow) the signs of aging in skin. Rather than compromise your skincare goals with this product, consider the alternatives from other brands on our list of top-rated serums.
Irritation from High Amounts of Fragrance: 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).
Lavender Oil: In vitro research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application of as low a concentration as 0.25% causes cell death (Cell Proliferation, June 2004). This study was conducted on endothelial cells, which are cells that line blood pathways in the body and play a critical role in the inflammatory process of skin.
As linalool and linalyl acetate are both rapidly absorbed by skin and can be detected within blood cells in less than 20 minutes, endothelial cells are an ideal choice for such a test (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 1992). The results of this research also demonstrated that lavender has a damaging effect on fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen.
The fragrance constituents in lavender oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, oxidize when exposed to air, and a process that increases their potential to cause an allergic reaction (Contact Dermatitis, 2008).
If you're wondering why lavender oil doesn't appear to be problematic for you, it's because research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it happening for your skin to suffer damage (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
Strengths: Some products are fragrance free; nearly all products (even the cleansers) contain an array of antioxidants; inexpensive; products are packaged to protect their ingredients from air and light exposure.
Weaknesses: Almost none of the products we reviewed had ingredient labels that complied with FDA or (global) International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) cosmetics regulations; several products appear to lack adequate preservatives to keep you safe from mold and bacteria; misleading to outlandish claims regarding the benefits of plant/fruit stem cells; some products contain multiple potent irritants; lack of sun protection products—unusual for a line that claims to be dedicated to anti-aging as this one is.
Joining the natural brand market, Acure Organics operates with the mission statement of using “only the purest, most effective fair trade, natural and organic ingredients available.” At first glance, there are a lot of interesting products in the line, as Acure Organics includes a great deal of antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients in their formulas. Unfortunately, on closer inspection of the brand, we found quite a few inconsistencies and some worrisome details.
First the good news: Along with the inclusion of antioxidants at nearly every turn, Acure Organics made the effort to avoid jar packaging, which is beneficial in terms of protecting the abundance of anti-aging ingredients their products contain. They are also exceptionally affordable products—an increasing rarity in the cosmetics industry.
On the other hand, Acure Organics stretches the boundaries of belief when it comes to what some ingredients are capable of—such as plant stem cells. While fruit and plant stem cells can function as antioxidants, they cannot lift skin, repair wrinkles, or affect the skin’s own growth factors when added to a skincare product. Not only are plant stem cells unable to substitute for the body’s own stem cells, but also they (like all stem cells) must be alive to function. Once these delicate cells are added to skincare products, they are long dead and, therefore, useless. Plant stem cells make for a good story, but the research simply isn’t there to support their use in skincare or the claims attributed to them.
Where Acure Organics takes a turn for the worse is in their choice to invoke consumers’ fear of chemicals and “toxins” to sell their products, rather than to rely on the formulas themselves. It’s particularly maddening because some of their products contain ingredients that have well-documented potential to irritate skin, such as essential oils that can trigger phototoxicity. Also worth mentioning is that many of the ingredients to which the brand objects are merely opinions that they present as fact.
For example, Acure Organics lathers up the tired claim that sulfates are harmful in skincare products. As there is no scientific or medical research demonstrating this to be true, the brand simply implies that sulfates should be avoided because they’re anionic surfactants and “may be contaminated” with nitrosamines, which they claim are (of course) cancer-causing agents.
Sulfates are an entire class of cleansing agents, some of which are quite mild (sodium cocoyl isethionate is a great example), some of which are not (sodium lauryl sulfate), but it’s inaccurate to lump them together as ingredients to be avoided. There is certainly no evidence proving they are cancer-causing ingredients, and no research suggesting that sulfates are “contaminated” with impurities, other than unsubstantiated Internet scare stories. The reality is far different from what’s being suggested—and it’s never a good sign when brands resort to fear to make their products seem safer.
It’s true that sulfates are anionic surfactants, but that’s true of many cleansing agents—including those that Acure Organics uses in their own cleansers, such as sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate. We point this example out because it seems to indicate that not even Acure Organics understands the reasons why they’re claiming you should avoid ingredients like sulfates.
These tactics aside, the most troubling aspect of Acure Organics is the fact that nearly every product we reviewed had incomplete ingredient lists or inaccurate ingredient names—or both. The most consistent example was their statement that almost all of their products are based on their “Organic Curoxidant Superfruit Blend,” and do not contain water or anything else to keep their formulas from separating.
A mixture of mashed-up berries, dried tea leaves, and flowers does not a cosmetic product make, and whether from an ingredient blend or not, its individual constituents are required by regulation to be listed in full on the label—which is not the case here. Trade names, like “Organic Curoxidant Superfruit Blend” or “Echinacea Stem Cell Culture,” are not permitted on ingredient labels for this very reason—this violates International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) and FDA labeling regulatory requirements.
In many cases, we were troubled to note that many Acure Organics products seem to lack adequate preservative systems. In most cases, potassium sorbate is indicated as the primary preservative, which they accurately claim is “food grade.” However, potassium sorbate on its own isn’t sufficient to provide protection against both bacteria and mold/yeast—existing research has demonstrated that potassium sorbate is effective only when combined with other preservatives like phenoxyethanol.
What seems to be missing here—a sufficient preservative system—could put your skin at risk for serious problems, including infections; not to mention that the product’s shelf life is going to be limited, unless the brand is using (but not listing) a more robust preservative blend.
If only Acure Organics had followed the approach of similar brands like Andalou Naturals, who focus on the quality of their formulas instead of on unnecessary fear tactics, we would have had a much greater degree of confidence in recommending more from this brand. For now, in many cases, you’ll find better elsewhere.
Acure Organics is sold at Target stores and can be found online at www.acureorganics.com or by phone at 1-877-902-2873.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
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