Mega-C Dual Radiance Serum offers two serums in one dual-chambered component. You get a water-based Omega Formula and a silicone-based Vitamin C Formula, which contains 10% vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and feels exceptionally pleasing on skin. Looking at each serum separately, however, we have a mixed bag—the overriding problem with the Omega Formula is its amount of fragrance. Because 10% vitamin C can be sensitizing for some, it doesn't bode well for skin to mix this high concentration with a highly fragrant product. Doing so only increases the risk of irritation, as we explain in the More Info section below.
Kate Somerville claims that keeping the serums separate until application preserves their stability and potency, which may or may not be true—we will say its packaging certainly looks compelling and it does protect its formula from air and light exposure.
In terms of good ingredients, the Omega Formula contains several non-fragrant plant oils that are natural sources of several fatty acids, including the various "omegas" mentioned in the claims. That's great, but we would've liked to see higher amounts of these beneficial ingredients in a serum—and a much lower amount of fragrance. The Omega Formula is rounded out by a couple of cell-communicating ingredients and some very good antioxidants, which makes the hefty amount of fragrance even more disappointing.
Things get much simpler with the Vitamin C Formula, which blends silicone and a thickener with a silky silicone polymer for an elegant feel and, in all likelihood, great delivery and stability system for the delicate vitamin C. This formula alone is great; what a shame the Omega Formula makes an otherwise good product one we're not too enthusiastic about recommending!
As for the Omega Formula making the Vitamin C Formula more effective, there's some truth to that statement because the Omega Formula contains the penetration-enhancing ingredient propanediol; however, chances are the silicone base and delivery system of the Vitamin C Formula is sufficient enough to deliver stabilized vitamin C into skin's uppermost layers—where it's needed most. So, again, the Omega Formula isn't really necessary.
We admit, the opaque, airless, dual-chambered packaging of Mega-C Dual Radiance Serum has its cool factor, and you can easily control how much of each serum you dispense per use. The lingering roadblock is the strong fragrance and the risk it poses when you apply this vitamin C treatment once daily as directed. The vitamin C part of this "2-in-1" product is absolutely worth using, but you can also find other high-strength vitamin C products that offer this one's benefits without the potential risks. See our list of Best Vitamin C Products for examples.
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).
Omega Formula: Water (Aqua), Neopentyl Glycol Diethylhexanoate, Propanediol, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Diisopropyl Dimer Dilinoleate, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Fragrance (Parfum), HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Lecithin, Maltodextrin, Pyridoxine HCl, Silica, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Starch Octenyl Succinate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocotrienols, Adenosine, Sea Whip Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide.
Vitamin C Formula: Cyclopentasiloxane, Ascorbic Acid, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Polysilicone-11. *Note: ingredients were taken directly from this product’s packaging.
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.
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