Blemish Vanishing Gel, unfortunately, won’t make anything vanish, except for about $13 from your wallet. While we understand how this product could be appealing for its light, dry finish on the skin and its emphasis on natural ingredients, its base of ethyl alcohol and witch hazel isn’t recommended, especially when you’re battling inflamed blemishes from breakouts. A high amount of alcohol in a skin-care product is a problem for multiple reasons (see More Info for the details).
As if the high amount of alcohol weren’t problematic enough, you’ll find multiple fragrant extracts and oils such as lavender, camphor, and peppermint, each of which has a potent ability to provoke irritation in the skin. See More Info for details on why irritation is such a problem for skin. Irritation is not the way to control breakouts or reduce redness; rather, it can make acne much worse, given that acne is an inflammatory condition (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2013).
For products to 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 also help to fade red marks and sun damage, too. See our top picks in the Best BHA Exfoliants section.
One last note: Please totally ignore the claims made about the fruit stem cell ingredients healing the skin (see More Info if you wish to read the considerable details explaining why). The notion that plant stem cells can “renew dormant cells, repair damaged cells, or regenerate healthy cells” may be true for a plant, but it isn’t for human skin. The entire notion is rather silly. A plant stem cell can’t regenerate human skin cells or any other cell in the body. While these ingredients aren’t harmful or irritating to the skin (and can have antioxidant benefit), there is no research to support the claims of regenerating skin or functioning like your skin’s own stem cells, which would push this product from its status as a cosmetic to a drug.
Alcohol in Skin Care: There is a significant amount of research showing alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels. Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care products use amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren’t bad enough, exposure to alcohol causes skin cells to self-destruct. The research also showed that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer exposure to alcohol occurred two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day and that’s at only a 3% concentration (Sources: Journal of Investigative Dermatology, August 2009, pages 20–24; “Skin Care—From the Inside Out and Outside In,” Tufts Daily, April 1, 2002; Alcohol, Volume 26, Issue 3, April 2002, pages 179–190; eMedicine Journal, May 8, 2002, volume 3, number 5, www.emedicine.com; Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, April 2001, pages 109–166; Cutis, February 2001, pages 25–27; Contact Dermatitis, January 1996, pages 12–16; and http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/277-284.htm).
For more on alcohol’s (as in, ethanol, denatured alcohol, and ethyl alcohol) effects on skin, see our article on the topic, Alcohol in Skin Care: The Facts.
Irritation and Your Skin: 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).
Stem Cells in Skin Care: Stem cells are cells in animals and plants that are capable of becoming any other type of cell in that organism and of producing more of those cells. Despite the fact that stem cell research is in its infancy, many cosmetics companies claim they are successfully using plant-based or human-derived stem cells in their anti-aging products. The claims run the gamut, from reducing wrinkles to elastin repair and cell regeneration, so the temptation for consumers to try these is intense.
The truth is that stem cells in skin-care products do not work as claimed. In fact, they likely have no effect at all because stem cells must be alive to function as stem cells. Once these delicate cells are added to skin-care products, they are long dead and, therefore, useless.
Plant stem cells, such as those derived from apples, melons, flowers, and rice, cannot stimulate stem cells in human skin, but because they are from plants these ingredients likely have antioxidant
properties. Actually, it’s a good thing plant stem cells can’t work as stem cells in skin-care products; after all, you don’t want your skin to absorb cells that can grow into apples or watermelons!
There are also claims that because a plant’s stem cells allow a plant to repair itself or to survive in harsh climates, these benefits can be passed on to human skin. How a plant functions in nature is unrelated to human skin, and these claims are completely without substantiation.
Another twist on the issue is that cosmetics company’s claim they have taken components (such as peptides) out of the plant stem cells and made them stable so they then can work as stem cells. This approach is not valid because stem cells must be complete to function normally. Even if you could isolate substances or extracts from these cells and make them stable, there is no published research showing they can affect stem cells in human skin.
Instantly starts working to calm inflammation and combat blemishes below the surface with willow bark and camphor extracts, as Fruit Stem Cells and BioActive 8 Berry Complex speeds the healing process for clearer skin in four hours.
Aloe Barbadensis Juice, Vegetable Glycerin, Ethyl Alcohol, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Fruit Stem Cells (Malus Domestica, Solar Vitis) and BioActive 8 Berry Complex, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Salix Alba (Willow Bark) and Spiraea Ulmaria (Meadowsweet) Extracts, Epilobium Angustifolium (Willow Herb) Extract, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Zinc Gluconate, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Arnica Montana, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender), Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) and Calendula Officinalis Extracts, Cinnamomum Camphora (Camphor), Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) and Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Oils
Strengths: Good options for well-formulated facial moisturizers and serums; many products contain multiple antioxidants; a few good toners; (mostly) refreshingly free of hyperbole that is common with many “natural-themed” brands; reasonably priced products; multiple broad-spectrum sunscreen options.
Weaknesses: A few moisturizers packaged in jars; some products contain potentially problematic amounts of fragrance ingredients; lacks research-proven treatments for acne; the body-care products tend to be overly fragrant; claims about plant stem cells are over the top as they don’t renew or generate human cells of any kind.
Andalou Naturals is a rare presence in the saturated market of natural-themed cosmetics lines because the brand manages to keep the focus on their products and ingredients without resorting to the silly “scary chemical” and fear-mongering marketing approach common to so many other natural lines.
Just as impressive as their marketing are many of their formulas, several of which include many antioxidants and multiple skin-repairing ingredients, and aren’t laden with natural fragrance ingredients, which may please your nose but can be very irritating to the skin, even if you don’t see or feel the damage taking place.
Headquartered in Petaluma, California, Andalou Naturals was founded by husband and wife Mark and Stacey Egide—both of whom also created the Avalon Organics line. The duo sold Avalon Organics in 2002, and started Andalou Naturals in 2011, where it’s sold at health food stores and online.
Visit their site and you’ll quickly find the brand is focused on the “feel-good” approach to skin care. Andalou Naturals brand philosophy is heavily steeped in philanthropy: Their “A Force of Nature” fund regularly donates to various nonprofit groups, and every order you place on their site adds $1 to this fund. How wonderful!
Andalou Naturals offers an extensive line of face-, body-, and hair-care products, themed around what they call, “Fruit Stem Cell Science,” which includes extracts from apple, grape, and argan. While these types of ingredients have antioxidant benefit, the idea that they work like your stem cells to turn back time isn’t supported by published research of any kind.
Stem cells work only if they are alive, and in a skin-care product, they are long dead. Not to mention that even if stem cells could survive the skin-care formulation process, an apple stem cell is helpful only to an apple—your skin cells wouldn’t have the first clue how to use stem cells from a plant. Stem-cell research is still in its infancy—science is just beginning to understand how stem cells work and/or how they can actually benefit our health; the cosmetics industry isn’t beating the medical industry in this regard!
The company also includes what they refer to as “BioActive 8 Berry Complex” in many of their products. This is really a blanket name for a mix of non-fragrant berry juice extracts (acai, aronia, bearberry, bilberry, black elderberry, goji berry, rosehips berry, and sea buckthorn berry). All of these ingredients have antioxidant function on the skin, but, again, they aren’t miracle ingredients by any stretch, nor is Andalou Naturals the only line using them.
We should note that Andalou Naturals, at the time of this review, doesn’t list all of the ingredients in their “BioActive 8 Berry Complex” on their product labels. While the individual berry extracts mentioned above are listed on their website as part of their marketing messaging, they omit them on their products, which violates International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) and FDA labeling regulatory requirements. This is an important oversight, because you have the right to know all of the ingredients in your skin-care products, without having to jump through extra hoops. We hope the company rectifies this in the near future.
On a more positive note, we found that many of the skin-care products Andalou Naturals offers were good—mostly for normal to dry skin, although there also are a few winners for those with oily to combination skin. Many contain some amount of fragrance (but to their credit, the facial formulas that did contain fragrance mostly had only a minimum amount, which is not typical of natural-themed lines).
We were especially impressed that they avoided the boring or basic formulas so common among natural skin-care brands. Several of their products contain the types of beneficial ingredients that have plenty of published research to back up their claims. What a great change of pace!
The missteps were the few instances of jar packaging (which marred what would’ve otherwise been well-rated products) that expose delicate ingredients to air and light, as well as their body-care formulas, which tended to include higher amounts of fragrance.
For more information, call (888) 898-6955, or visit www.andalou.com.
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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