Genius Ultimate Anti-Aging Bi-Phase Peel is supposed to be different because it combines the effectiveness of a chemical peel with the soothing properties of a facial oil. Though the marketing language is a bit lofty, this product earns a recommendation from us because it lives up to its claims of gentle exfoliation and includes a range of beneficial ingredients. In fact, there are only a couple of issues keeping this from earning a higher rating, which we'll detail in a moment.
This liquid product comes in a frosted glass container, the better to showcase its dual-phase formula. The oil portion of the product's dual-phase formula sits atop a light teal-colored exfoliation solution. Algenist instructs shaking up the liquid so it emulsifies into a single solution you can splash onto a cotton pad (30 cotton pads are included in the packaging for this peel to get you started). Apply the liquid onto your face with the pad, keep it on between three to five minutes, then rinse off with warm water or gently remove with a wet washcloth.
In most cases, chemical exfoliants (such as AHA or BHA) are best when left on skin so they have time to take effect. In this case, however, the amount of glycolic acid is potentially high enough that it can work without having to leave it on more than a few minutes. (Algenist wouldn't tell us the exact percentage of glycolic acid in this formula, but it is the third ingredient, meaning it is potentially as high as 10%.)
In order for glycolic acid to truly exfoliate, though, it must be at the right pH, and we're glad to say Algenist got this key component correct: Our tests found that its pH is 3.8, which is in the proper range AHAs need to exfoliate.
True to its claims, this peel also includes some beneficial, non-fragrant plant oils to help buffer the seemingly high amount of glycolic acid it contains. Of course, one of these oils is Algenist's Microalgae Oil (Chlorella protothecoides oil). In some of its other products Algenist touts this oil's anti-aging benefits, but there is little to no independent research to support that claim. In this case, however, microalgae oil is just being promoted as a soothing ingredient, which is the case with most non-fragrant plant oils, so that makes this claim true. Rounding out the ingredient list are a few antioxidants and some cell-communicating ingredients, such as niacinamide.
One note: This also contains the BHA ingredient salicylic acid, possibly present in an amount (0.5%+) to provide some exfoliation benefit. At lower levels, salicylic acid can provide some degree of exfoliation within the pore, and will provide anti-inflammatory benefit, too. Salicylic acid is playing a supporting role, however, as the main source of exfoliation is coming from the glycolic acid.
The main misstep, and what keeps this peel from earning a higher rating, is the inclusion of an ingredient called menthyl ethylamido oxalate. This is a menthol derivative produced by a company called Symrise. In general, menthol derivatives have some potential for skin irritation, though Symrise says this is not the case for methyl ethylamido oxalate. The problem is that the only research on the ingredient comes from Symrise, so there's no way to definitely say whether this is the case. However, there are also a few other fragrant ingredients present (including passion flower and added fragrance/perfume), also in lower amounts, but nonetheless this combination adds up to be a potential problem for those with sensitive skin.
Aside from this misstep in genius, Algenist's Genius Anti-Aging Bi-Phase Peel is an interesting product, and a potential peel to consider if you're curious about the benefits of an AHA exfoliant/facial oil combination. If you're looking for a salicylic acid based exfoliant, see our list of Best BHA Exfoliants.
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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