Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste contains a mix of plant-based oils, fatty acids, and the mineral quartz. This would have been a fine option as an extra cleansing step for those with normal to dry skin not prone to breakouts, except for the questionable use of quartz as the scrubbing agent. Quartz particles have an uneven and jagged texture, which is not a good option in a scrub because it can create micro-tears in the skin.
When well formulated, scrubs are a good option for extra cleansing (like using a soft washcloth with your cleanser or the Clarisonic brush), but they don't replace a well-formulated AHA or BHA leave-on exfoliant in terms of anti-aging benefits, unclogging pores, or fading discolorations.
Although this cleanser does contain an AHA ingredient in the form of lactic acid, it is wasted in a rinse-off product like this because AHAs and BHA must remain on the skin to do their job properly. Even if you did leave this paste on your skin (but we absolutely do not recommend you do that because the fragrant oils should not be left on the skin even for a few seconds), the pH is too high and the amount of lactic acid is too low for it to exfoliate.
If you are interested in a well-formulated AHA (like glycolic or lactic acid) or BHA (salicylic acid) exfoliant, check out the many recommended picks on our Best Products list. For scrubs that contain skin-friendly ingredients, see our list of Best Scrubs.
Fine river-bed Quartz contained in a cream base sloughs away tired surface cells while Lactic Acid offers a mild chemical exfoliation to leave skin immaculately cleansed, soft and polished.
Water (Aqua), Quartz, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Cetearyl Alcohol, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Ceteareth-20, Glycerin, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Lactic Acid, Coconut Alcohol, Ormenis Multicaulis Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Disodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Linalool, d-Limonene.
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/
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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