Garnier's SkinActive Clearly Brighter Dark Spot Corrector has two things going for it: A seemingly effective amount of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to lighten dark spots and opaque tube packaging that will help keep this light- and air-sensitive antioxidant stable during use. After that, the house of cards begins to fall…
The biggest issue is one you'll detect from the first use, which is this skin-lightening product's potent, lingering scent. The amount and sheer number of fragrance ingredients in this product puts skin at strong risk of irritation and the problems it can cause, which we describe in the More Info section below.
You may have noticed that salicylic acid (also known as beta hydroxy acid or BHA) is present in this product. Although the amount appears to be just shy of 1%, normally enough to see results, the pH of 5 falls outside the narrow range salicylic acid needs to exfoliate. That's a shame because when properly formulated, salicylic acid plays a role in helping to lighten dark spots faster due to its effect on helping dead, discolored cells shed more easily.
There's more trouble: Aesthetically, the thin lotion seems fine. It's easy to dispense and apply to skin. However, once it sets, applying anything over it, or even rubbing skin, in our experience causes this lightener to ball up and roll. That's means the vitamin C isn't likely staying where you need it most!
In the end, SkinActive Clearly Brighter Dark Spot Corrector has potential to lighten dark spots because of its vitamin C content and wise choice of tube packaging. However, the strong fragrance and its risk of causing irritation (we didn't even go into detail about the alcohol this product also contains) coupled with its tendency to ball up and roll after it dries makes it a skin lightener to avoid. See our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products for outstanding options, including those that contain effective amounts of vitamin C.
Irritation from High Amounts of Fragrance: 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 for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
Garnier Nutritioniste At-A-Glance
Strengths: Interesting and potentially helpful cleansing oil and foundation primer.
Weaknesses: Insufficient UVA protection from some of the sunscreens; average to below average moisturizers and eye creams; mostly irritating cleansers; no effective products for blemish-prone skin; jar packaging.
Debuting with permanent hair dye and then making the segue to a full line of hair-care products emphasizing carefree, casual styles with can't-miss-it colorful packaging has been Garnier's formula for penetrating the
Unfortunately, this group of products hasn't got much going for it except the lure celebrity spokespeople provide. The amount of fragrance is perhaps forgivable for a French-owned product line, and in most of the Nutritioniste products it's not too intrusive. What is deplorable is the lack of sufficient UVA protection in the sunscreens. A skin-care line has no right to speak about the anti-aging benefits and "breakthrough approach" of its products when they cannot get this fundamental aspect consistently right.
It's also disappointing that some products contain irritating peppermint, which made us wonder whether the dermatologists who consulted for Garnier had any idea of what's good for skin and what isn't. It seems they didn't, because what they ended up with is a mix of pro and con products that make it impossible for consumers to assemble a sensible skin-care routine, not to mention products that make skin-lifting claims most dermatologists would dismiss as cosmetics puffery.
The hook for this line is the way it is said to bring nutrition and dermatology together. The products are "fortified" with antioxidants such as lycopene and nutritional ingredients such as fatty acids, vitamins (A and C, never present together in the same product!), and minerals. Garnier wants you to think this is a revolutionary idea, but it isn't—did they also overlook that everyone else, from L'Oreal (Garnier is owned by L'Oreal) to Estee Lauder and Clinique, has been using such ingredients in their products for years? And why consult a nutritionist (as Garnier did) when their training and professional expertise has little to do with application of anything to the skin? The whole scenario proves Garnier was more concerned with creating an attention-getting story for this line rather than formulating truly breakthrough products.
Despite our disdain for the way Garnier's marketing takes precedence over making the products as good as they could be formulary-wise, there are some bright spots. Because Garnier is owned by L'Oreal, it's no surprise to find that there are lots of similarities between the better and worse aspects of L'Oreal's skin care as well as with L'Oreal's department-store sister company Lancome. In some ways, Garnier's formulas best those of both companies by including a greater array of antioxidants and intriguing skin-identical ingredients. The occasional jar packaging choice reduces the effectiveness of some of these products, but other than that, Lancome users should take note of the happy face–rated products in this line. You'll be getting a better product for considerably less money here (though, at least for now, no free gift with purchase—but you can buy Lancome foundations or mascaras instead when gift time comes around).
For more information about Garnier Nutritioniste, call (800) 370-1925 or visit www.garnierusa.com.
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