Kiehl'sClearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution
1 fl. oz. for $49.5
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This water-based serum is said to lighten dark spots with vitamin C. Although there’s vitamin C in this serum (a novel form, explained below), the formula contains a potentially problematic amount of alcohol and also comes in clear packaging that won’t keep the vitamin C stable during use (see below for details). What was Kiehl’s thinking? Alcohol causes dryness, free-radical damage, and hinders skin’s ability to look and act younger.

Vitamin C, either as pure ascorbic acid or as the derivative that Kiehl’s uses (3-O ethyl ascorbic acid, which breaks down to pure vitamin C on skin) is a wonderful antioxidant and there’s a good amount of research showing how it helps reduce dark spots and other brown discolorations on skin, most of which comes from sun damage. But because all forms of ascorbic acid are susceptible to deteriorating in the presence of light and air, opaque packaging is a must. A clear bottle just doesn’t cut it. The China-based company that supplies this form of vitamin C to cosmetic lines has their own research showing this ingredient is stable after 90 days of light and air exposure but without seeing the study, it's difficult to know the control factor, not to mention that the company selling this ingredient to cosmetic firms likely won't go on record claiming it's unstable.

This somewhat tacky-textured serum also contains fragrant lavender oil, a plant oil that even in small amounts can cause irritation that hurts skin’s ability to repair itself and generate healthy collagen. The citrus extracts this contains aren’t good news for your skin, either.

As for the peony root extract that Kiehl’s promotes for this skin lightening product, it has no established benefit for skin. Even if it did, the amount this serum contains is minuscule.

Last Updated:12.02.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Community Reviews

A highly-concentrated, prescription-strength treatment which is clinically-demonstrated to rapidly correct dark spots and clarify skin tone.


Water, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Alcohol Denatured, PEG/PPG/Polybutene Glycol-8/5/3/ Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl Tetrahydropyrantriol, 3-O Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, PEG-6 Decyltetradeceth-30, Phenoxyethanol, Salicylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Potassium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil/Lavender Oil, Disodium EDTA, Linalool, Citrus Tachibana/Citrus Aurantium Tachibana Peel Extract, Paeonia Suffruitcosa Extract/Paeonia Suffruitcosa Root Extract

Brand Overview

Kiehl's At-A-Glance

Kiehl’s has been around for quite some time, with its origins in a New York City-based pharmacy established in 1851. The brand is perhaps best known for its apothecary-style packaging and its best-selling (and celebrity favorite) Lip Balm #1.

Though the brand claims its products are made with the finest naturally-derived ingredients, most of its formulations include synthetically-produced ingredients as well. Like most skincare companies the line contains both good and not-so-great offerings; Kiehl’s main misstep is that many of its products contain fragrance ingredients that could irritate skin, particularly sensitive skin.

Note: Kiehl's is categorized as a brand that tests on animals because its products are sold in China. Although Kiehl's does not conduct animal testing for its products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brands state that they don’t test on animals “unless required by law.” Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Beautypedia Research Team.

For more information about Kiehl's, call (800) 543-4572 or visit www.kiehls.com.

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