This lightweight moisturizing mask would've been worth splurging on (and make no mistake, the price qualifies this as a splurge), but it contains the menthol-derived skin irritant menthyl lactate. This ingredient creates a cooling sensation you may interpret as the mask "working," yet the only work it's doing is causing irritation (see More Info to find out how irritation hurts skin).
The formula contains several peptides that may help reduce signs of aging, but not when combined with an irritant and not in a product meant for occasional use, which describes facial masks. For best results, look for daily-use skin-care products packed with anti-aging ingredients; what you do to your skin every day counts much more than what you do with a product like this, which you might apply only once weekly.
What about the alguronic acid mentioned in the claims? Can it firm or lift skin? Alguronic acid (listed as algae exopolysaccharides) is present in every product from Algenist. The story about this ingredient is similar to that for the algae included in La Mer products. In Algenist's case, their alguronic acid was derived from a specific type of micro-algae originally studied as a source of renewable energy. Not surprisingly, the only information about this ingredient being effective for skin comes from, you guessed it, Algenist. There is no independent, published research supporting Algenist's anti-aging claims, and the studies Algenist claims to have carried out are not available for full review (plus most of the studies were done in a petri dish, not on human skin).
Regardless of the claims, skin needs more than one ingredient to help it look and act younger—there is no miracle ingredient that can do it all. Alguronic acid isn't a harmful ingredient, but how beneficial (or not) it is for skin remains to be seen.
We also want to mention that skin-care products do little, if anything, to stimulate elastin fibers in the skin. It turns out we're born with all the elastin fibers we'll ever have, so once they're damaged, they're not replaced by new elastin. That's not the case with the skin's other supportive element, collagen, but lots of companies love to claim that their products stimulate both collagen and elastin production, when, in truth, elastin can only be repaired—and even then it won't go back to its original strength.
Also referred to in the claims are "proteoglycans," proteins found in connective tissue, including collagen and elastin. Proteoglycans have multiple functions for skin, from keeping it hydrated to assisting in skin's repair process. Lots of skin-repairing and antioxidant ingredients can stimulate proteoglycans in the skin, so it's not a unique benefit you get from Algenist products, and there's no research anywhere proving proteoglycans can reduce the effects of gravity on skin. Pardon the pun, but we suspect Algenist pulled that claim out of thin air!
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. For these reasons, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients (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).
A unique gel mask that restores skin elasticity, structure and suppleness. Alguronic Acid + ProPeptide3 promotes elastin, collagen and proteoglycan production to help reduce the effects of aging and gravity on the skin.
Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Extract, Algae Exopolysaccharides, Tripeptide-1, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-9, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phospholipids, Potassium Jojobate, Jojoba Alcohol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Carbomer, Sodium Polyacrylate, Menthyl Lactate, Sorbitan Laurate, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Dextran, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum)
Strengths: Good facial cleanser and toner; select serums and moisturizers formulated with an impressive mix of anti-aging ingredients; Targeted Deep Wrinkle Minimizer really does make wrinkles less apparent.
Weaknesses: Expensive; the star ingredient (a modified form of algae) doesn't have reliable research to support its anti-aging efficacy; jar packaging; some of the moisturizers contain eucalyptus oil, which can be a potent irritant.
Algenist is a small, rather expensive range of skin-care products sold at Sephora with a focus on anti-aging. Like several other cosmetics companies, Algenist has based their brand on a single ingredient, an ingredient they claim has superior benefits for skin and that, therefore, is worth the steep price tag. In this case, it was the "accidental" discovery of a substance found in algae. As the story goes, a group of biotechnology scientists were looking for ways to use something called microalgae as a renewable source of energy when they stumbled upon a compound known as alguronic acid. Their research revealed that alguronic acid is one of the compounds responsible for regenerating and protecting algae cells.
Figuring they were on to something, the company did further in vitro testing (although the details of their tests are not available, so you only have a science-fiction style story, not facts) and, of course, found that alguronic acid had anti-aging benefits on skin, too. Aside from having no idea what their studies did or didn't really show, in vitro means this ingredient was examined in a petri dish, not directly on human skin. They did limited testing on human skin, but many key details of these "studies" are not available. Instead, we're asked to accept that their ingredient made a remarkable difference. At the time of this writing, there isn't a single published study attesting to the claims Algenist makes for alguronic acid—so you're taking an expensive leap of faith in buying these products!
Before you get seduced by Algenist's claims and their explanation about how algae reproduces, let us tell you—it has no relation to how human skin works. Algae is about as related to human skin as a 747 jetliner is to roller skates.
Whether the story about alguronic acid being the answer for your skin is true or not, it is critical to keep in mind that skin, and skin care, is far more complex than one allegedly miraculous ingredient. Think of it like your diet: As healthy as green tea is, if that's all you consumed, you'd soon be malnourished. Just like your diet should contain a healthy mix of nutritious foods, your skin (which is your body's largest organ) needs a wide array of helpful ingredients to become and remain smooth, healthy, and, yes, able to look and act younger.
To Algenist's credit, their products contain more than just alguronic acid. Most of them have a good blend of skin-repairing and antioxidant ingredients, although the ones they call out as key ingredients (such as apple stem cells) have no real published research proving their efficacy. Despite the fact that their products contain some tried-and-true anti-aging ingredients, Algenist makes the same mistakes as many other lines, such as using jar packaging (which won't keep any of the beneficial ingredients stable during use) and including fragrance or fragrant plant extracts to give the products an appealing scent. Fragrance isn't skin care and, in fact, more often than not, will cause irritation that hurts your skin's ability to look and act younger!
In the end, Algenist is not a must-have line, and it certainly isn't worth expanding your beauty budget to afford. There are some acceptable to impressive options for those who don't mind spending more than they need to for effective products, but you'll find a wider, often better range of options on our list of Best Anti-Aging/Anti-Wrinkle Products.
For more information about Algenist, call (877) 650-1837 or visit www.algenist.com.
Note: Algenist lists the alguronic acid in their products as algae exopolysaccharides, which is the accepted cosmetic labeling name for alguronic acid.
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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