Kate Somerville CytoCell P299 Oil Free Anti-Wrinkle Serum
1 fl. oz. for $95
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Brand Overview
Expert Reviews

This serum is supposed to contain a special peptide that stimulates stem cell activity in skin. Thankfully, that isn't even remotely possible, because in real life that wouldn't be a good thing for your skin.

As with so many things in the cosmetics industry, budding scientific research is more often than not "spun" to make a skin-care product sound worthy of your attention, and your money—in this case, a lot of money! Cosmetics companies claim to have "breakthrough" discoveries long before modern medicine and science can report a true breakthrough. Of course, that's because cosmetics are not regulated and the companies can get away with making almost any cleverly couched claim they dream up, no real proof required.

The truth is that the claims made for the supposed stem cell–stimulating ingredients in skin-care products have nothing whatever to do with the scientific and medical research being conducted on stem cells. However, as you might expect, that lack of any connection to real research hasn't stopped many cosmetics companies from heralding stem cell stimulation as the next fountain of youth. Also, there's no solid research behind the peptide in this product. The only information comes from the company that sells the peptide, and its studies typically examine how a peptide interacts with specific skin cells, not with healthy, intact skin.

Peptides theoretically have cell-communicating ability for skin, but they're not the anti-aging slam dunks many companies make them out to be. Peptides can be helpful as water-binding agents and perhaps for stimulating collagen production, assuming they remain stable in the formula and on your skin, but that's the most we can rely on for now.

Beyond the peptide, this water-based serum contains a high amount of the plant extract Plumeria acutifolia. Although research on this plant's benefit for skin is scant, we know that it contains chemical constituents with anti-inflammatory action, which is helpful (Source: Planta Medica, November 2008, pages 1749–1750). Also present are some good water-binding and skin-repairing ingredients, as well as soy-based antioxidants.

In the end, although the stem cell–stimulating claims are dubious (plus any cosmetic product that affected your stem cells would not be a good thing), this pricey fragrance-free serum has merit for all skin types. It's not, however, the most exciting serum formula we've seen, and you can find equally good or better serums for less money. Note: This serum is very similar to Kate Somerville's less expensive Quench Oil-Free Hydrating Serum.

  • The main plant extract is a good anti-inflammatory ingredient.
  • Fragrance-free formula contains some proven skin-repairing ingredients.
  • Contains soy-based antioxidants.
  • Expensive.
  • Stem cell–stimulating claims are dubious.
Last Updated:03.31.2015
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Community Reviews

This concentrated treatment serum utilizes P299™, a scientifically advanced stem technology Polypeptide, to diminish the look of wrinkles and help fight the signs of aging by activating the natural renewal process that strengthens skin.


Water, Plumeria Acutifolia Flower Extract, Glycerin, Propanediol, Sodium Oleate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, sh-Polypeptide-5, Disodium EDTA, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Hyaluronic Acid, Hydrolyzed Chondrus Crispus Extract, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Algae Extract, Carrageenan, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Soy Amino Acids, Yeast Extract, Glutamine, Glutamic Acid, Dextran, Caprooyl Tetrapeptide-3, Citric Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol

Brand Overview

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

About the Experts

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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