Clarifying Treatment Toner is now alcohol-free (it was advertised as being free of alcohol in the past yet contained this ingredient) but the alcohol was replaced by witch hazel, which can be almost as irritating due to its drying, astringent qualities. This toner contains a tiny amount of lactic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid) but not enough to function as an exfoliant. Instead, the lactic acid joins the other water-binding agents this contains to hydrate the skin, somewhat offsetting the dryness witch hazel can cause.
Somerville claims the phytic acid this contains can reduce post-acne scars but there’s no research proving it has this benefit. Instead, the only research on its skin lightening ability examined rice bran extract (a natural source of phytic acid and other antioxidants) and found it had some skin lightening benefit, but no mention was made of the type of discoloration that can occur after a blemish has healed (Source: Pharmaceutical Biology, February 2012, pages 208–224). Phytic acid is typically derived from corn but is also found in grains, soy, and legumes. It is a good antioxidant and is often used in cosmetics as a chelating agent (an ingredient that bonds to metal molecules, preventing them from interacting negatively with other ingredients).
Clarifying Treatment Toner is a mixed bag that ends up having more pros than cons, but the con (witch hazel) is a considerable one, especially given it’s the third ingredient. That makes this toner a less compelling option for oily, problem skin.
Result-oriented & alcohol-free, this refreshing toner clarifies & balances oily/problematic skin. Leaves skin feeling clean, calm & ready for the next step of your Kate Somerville regimen. Witch hazel, a natural antiseptic, aggressively fights acne-causing bacteria. Phytic acid, a naturally delivered antioxidant, exfoliator & lightening agent, helps to reduce post-acne scars. Reduces oil production.
Water, Methyl Gluceth-10, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Bark/Leaf/Twig Extract, Phytic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Water, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Caprylyl Glycol, Lactic Acid, Panthenol, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Extract, Carbomer, Nordihydroguairetic Acid, Oleanolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA-Copper, Chlorphenesin
Kate Somerville At-A-Glance
Strengths: Provides complete ingredient lists on their website; effective Anti Bac Clearing Lotion for acne; good eczema cream; some fantastic serums and moisturizers chock-full of beneficial ingredients.
Weaknesses: Expensive; irritating cleansers and scrubs; several products contain irritating ingredients with no proven benefit for skin; disappointing CC cream.
The woman behind this line is a Los Angeles–based aesthetician who owns her own clinic, which specializes not only in aesthetic services but also in cosmetic corrective procedures involving injections (dermal fillers), lasers, Botox, and the like. The clinic is staffed with a doctor and nurses, which is definitely what you want if you're considering services beyond a facial or a massage.
The selling points of this line are Somerville's years of experience in the aesthetics industry and her allegedly devoted celebrity clientele. As such, her products and famous clientele get press in the pages of fashion magazines, which explains why we routinely get asked about this skin-care line. Somerville herself is every bit as attractive as her star clients, and the information on her Web site is presented in such a way that you sincerely believe she has your skin's best interests in mind. And wouldn't you want to trust your skin's needs to a professional who also tends to celebrities?
Knowing all these details, we were anticipating that most of the products bearing Somerville's name would be state-of-the-art slam dunks. Alas, many of them are far afield from that level of formulation. When it comes to giving skin what it needs to function as healthily and normally as possible (and, at these prices, that's what you should expect), this line is, unfortunately, hit or miss. What Somerville knows about giving an amazing facial is one thing, but she clearly missed the research that proves how problematic several of the plant oils that she uses can be. A professional concerned with the health of her clients' skin shouldn't be formulating products with cinnamon, grapefruit, and lavender oils, among others.
If we were one of Somerville's clients, we'd certainly take her to task for that oversight, but we'd also want to know why she offers only one sunscreen and doesn't offer any effective AHA or BHA exfoliants. A discussion of advanced skin science and state-of-the-art ingredients is not sufficient if your product line has gaps: limited sun protection options, no reliable exfoliants, no non-drying cleansers, and a complete lack of options to treat skin discolorations (pigment irregularities, unlike blackheads, cannot be manually extracted, which makes the absence of a skin lightening product an issue).
This product line may not be the one you want to build your skin-care routine around, but there are some exceptional products. Of all the aesthetician-backed lines we've reviewed, none come as close to providing the level of formulary excellence of many of Somerville's moisturizers and serums. They're pricey, but if you're going to spend in excess for skin-care products, you should be doing so on products that stand a very good chance of markedly improving your skin’s appearance. We are curious to see how this product line will expand and (hopefully) improve over the years. The current mishmash of awesome and awful products makes it risky to shop this line blindly (or on the sole rationale of a celebrity endorsement), but with careful consideration to avoid irritants you can find some products of value. Hopefully, she will expand the line to fill in the current gaps (especially for sun protection) and eliminate the irritants.
For more information about Kate Somerville, now owned by Unilever, call (800) 984-5283 or visit www.katesomerville.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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