Aesop's Control is designed for acne-prone skin, and although it doesn't contain any ingredients to fight acne, its mix of vitamin C (as sodium ascorbyl phosphate) and the cell-communicating ingredient niacinamide can be helpful. Neither is directly beneficial for treating breakouts, but both can encourage healing of red marks from acne, plus niacinamide can improve pore function.
Control's formula has a promising beginning, but things go awry and out of control in no time (OK, you knew that had to be coming, right?). Up first is the ingredient witch hazel water, whose high alcohol content (most forms of witch hazel are 14–15% alcohol) makes it a skin irritant. This also contains lemon oil, which adds to the risk of irritation. See More Info for details on why irritation is such a problem for skin—and irritation certainly isn't the way to control breakouts or reduce redness.
Control also contains other fragrant oils and fragrance ingredients, and although some are present only in minor amounts, there's just no reason to risk irritation and other issues when there are plenty of gentle, effective anti-acne products available (and many of them cost less than this).
If you are interested in a product to help treat breakouts and soothe redness and irritation from acne, there is no better place to start than with a well-formulated BHA (salicylic acid) exfoliant. Bonus: BHA will help fade red marks and minimize the effects of sun damage, too. See our top picks on our list of Best BHA Exfoliants.
However, if you are interested in exploring treatments that combine ingredients like niacinamide and vitamin C to fade discolorations, check out our Best Skin Lighteners Without Hydroquinone. You can pair any of these treatments with your BHA for even better results.
Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. 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 to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).
This gel formulation contains an impressive list of ingredients known for their astringent and soothing properties. Effective without stripping or dehydrating the skin.
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Water (Aqua), Polysorbate 80, PEG-150 Distearate, Niacinamide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Panthenol, Disodium EDTA, Bisabolol, Ormenis Multicaulis Oil, Salicylic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Benzalkonium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Leptospermum Petersonii Oil, Zingiber Officinale Root Extract, d-Limonene, Citral, Linalool, Geraniol, Eugenol.
Strengths: Some products are packaged to keep their light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable.
Weaknesses:Multiple fragrant ingredients are present in each product reviewed, and this poses a strong risk of irritation; no effective options for treating concerns like acne, brown spots, or rosacea; jar packaging for some of the moisturizers won’t keep the beneficial ingredients stable; overpriced.
Australian brand Aesop bears the same name as the famous Greek storyteller, and their skin-care products certainly emulate the art of storytelling with their formulas and marketing. The question is whether or not you can believe Aesop and their natural-themed skin-care stories, or if it’s mostly fable.
From Aesop’s stripped-down, utilitarian packaging, “earthy” product descriptions, and overall design aesthetic, it’s easy to see why those interested in natural-oriented products are attracted to the Aesop brand. How could skin-care products that seem to be so pure and natural be bad, right? We certainly understand the emotional pull natural products have on many people, but the truth is there are good and bad natural ingredients (snake venom and poison ivy are both natural ingredients, but you wouldn’t want them on your face), just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients. Going natural without knowing the details of what you’re buying is a recipe for skin problems, not a guarantee of better products.
Refreshingly, compared to many natural-themed lines, Aesop doesn’t rely on scare tactics or outlandish claims. Therefore, you won’t read anything about “toxins” or about made-up claims that all chemicals are bad (because everything is composed of chemicals). Instead, Aesop prefers to rest on the quality of their formulas and oeuvre to do the real selling. Judging by the number of requests we’ve had to review this brand, their less sensationalized approach is working!
With that promising start, it’s disappointing that Aesop chose to include such a generous amount of fragrance and plant-based irritants in many of their products. In fact, there wasn’t a single fragrance-free option in any of the products that we reviewed. (In fact, the box they were shipped in was saturated with fragrance just from the shipping process.) There were a few products with lower amounts of added fragrance—these instances are noted (where applicable)—but there usually were other compelling reasons to avoid any given product in this brand, or at least to consider it cautiously.
Also noteworthy: You will find that much of Aesop’s line, from their cleansers, toners, and moisturizers to their masks and eye treatments, have high-end price tags. While we tend to leave it up to the reader to determine what is or isn’t expensive, there were a few instances where the formulas were so basic that we had to mention the disconnect with the cost—these were truly simple blends of ingredients that in no way justified their cost.
All of the above is a prelude to the most critical downfall of the Aesop products: There are no options that can successfully (and without potential irritation) address the needs of various skin types or skin concerns of many people. Whether you’re struggling with acne, wrinkles, both, or numerous other concerns, from sensitive skin to conditions like rosacea or eczema, you won’t find brilliant products to treat them here. Overall, that means assembling a great skin-care routine with Aesop products just isn’t possible.
Aesop is sold primarily in department stores like Barney’s New York, online, as well as freestanding Aesop stores throughout the United States. Despite their growing distribution, we cannot stress enough how much this line’s products disappoint. Aesop has natural ingredients aplenty—but what good is that when so many of the natural ingredients they chose are of little to no benefit for skin, or are potentially problematic?
For more information about Aesop, visit http://www.aesop.com/usa/
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