L'Oreal finally gets in the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) category with their Revitalift® Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Peel Pads. These soft, nicely-sized pads contain what the brand describes on the product's box as "10% glycolic complex". We're not sure what that means but as far as the ingredient list is concerned it is highly unlikely the formula contains 10% glycolic acid. That's too bad, because 10% glycolic acid is an impressive, effective amount for a product labeled "peel".
Unlike many AHA products, this one's formula is pH-correct. The pH of 3.6 means the AHA will work to exfoliate skin—so even if the amount of glycolic acid is below 10% (we suspect it's hovering between 3—5% but L'Oreal wouldn't confirm the amount), you'll still see skin-smoothing, tone-improving benefits. Products with 10% glycolic acid typically list the ingredient much higher up on the list, but since it’s the seventh one listed here, we’re skeptical that the “10% glycolic complex” is actually 10% glycolic acid. It’s more likely that in calling it a “complex”, L’Oreal may be including other ingredients, but the brand wouldn’t confirm this when we called.
Not really disappointing so far, but, as they say, wait for it: The pads are stepped in a potentially sensitizing amount of denatured alcohol—the kind that's a turn for the worse for all skin types. See More Info to learn why seeing this much alcohol in any skincare product is a problem.
Interestingly, even though the formula also contains fragrance, the pads don't have a perfume-y scent. Instead, you get a strong hit from the alcohol, which fades as you apply to skin. Despite this, seeing fragrance in a product with denatured alcohol and a potentially moderate amount of glycolic acid at a lower pH isn't doing your skin any favors.
Another concerning ingredient is hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid (also known as HEPES). It’s a buffering ingredient (typically used to establish a neutral pH) with research indicating it can generate free radical damage in the presence of oxygen (Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, August 2005, pages 1,653-1,660 and November 2004, issue 11, pages 1696-1702). That has us worried even though research on how this directly impacts skin hasn’t been done. Still, there are definitely other buffering agents that could have been used instead of this seemingly problematic one.
With some minor tweaks, these daily-use pads could've been a great (though ultimately pricey) way to visibly improve skin in multiple ways. Instead, we urge you to check out our list of Best AHA Exfoliants for better ways to see younger, smoother-looking skin.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Alcohol's effect on your skin is similar to its effect on the rest of your body: it steals the good (hydration) and leaves the bad (dryness, redness, and discomfort). Research has made it clear that alcohol as a main ingredient in any skincare product you use repeatedly is a problem.
When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we're referring to denatured ethanol, which you'll most often see listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat, denatured alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol on the ingredient label.
When you see these names of this type of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, without question they will aggravate and be cruel to skin. No way around that, it's simply bad for all skin types.
These types of volatile alcohols give products a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it's easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. But those short term benefits lead to negative long term outcomes!
Consequences include dryness, erosion of skin's surface (that's really bad for skin), and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.
We are often challenged on this information based on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology, July 2007, issue 1, pages 74-81 that concluded "alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing…" The only thing this study showed is that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash containing sodium lauryl sulfate. Think about it this way, if you test to see whether or not you'll get burnt by a flame or slowly boiling hot water, you will quickly get damaged by the fire. You will eventually be damaged by the slowly boiling hot water it will just take longer, but burned you will be.
There are other types of "alcohols", known as fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be exceptionally beneficial for skin. Examples you'll see on ingredient labels include cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol. All of these are good ingredients for skin. It's important to discern these skin-friendly forms of alcohol from the problematic types of alcohol.
The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from alcohol can lead to an increase in bumps and enlarged pores. Alcohol can actually increase oiliness because of the irritating feeling it creates, so the immediate de-greasing effect is eventually counteracted, prompting your oily skin to look even shinier.
References for this information
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, issue 1, pages 41-49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, issue 6, pages 542-551
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, issue 3, pages 179-190
Aging, March 2012, issue 3, pages 166-175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77-80
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, issue 3
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, issue 5, pages 360-366.
RevitaLift® Bright Reveal Peel Pads are a dermatologist inspired anti-wrinkle plus brightening treatment. This daily peel pad resurfaces dull, uneven tone and rough texture to reveal fresh looking skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles over time. It is the first step to help skin absorb our powerfully concentrated treatments. Formulated with Glycolic Acid, a gold standard in brightening, our formula is clinically tested to gently yet effectively exfoliate dead skin cells to help renew the skin’s surface layer.
Aqua/Water, Alcohol Denat., Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Ascorbyl Glucoside, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Parfum/Fragrance, Limonene, Phenoxyethanol, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Benzyl Salicylate
L'Oreal Paris At-A-Glance
Strengths: Budget-friendly prices; good makeup removers; wide assortment of self-tanning options; one of the best, most comprehensive makeup collections at the drugstore, with superb options in almost every category; the mascaras are a tough act to follow.
Weaknesses: Jar packaging hinders some of the skincare formulas; many of their skincare formulas contain problematic amounts of fragrance and/or other irritants; exaggerated anti-aging claims.
L'Oreal's extensive makeup collection retains its stature as one of the better selections at the drugstore, though they have stiff competition from Revlon and, in some cases, sister company Maybelline New York. In recent years L'Oreal has made significant strides with foundation shades, powder textures, concealers, and, of course, superlative mascaras that rarely fail to impress. Their lipsticks are excellent and you will find many L'Oreal makeup products have a Lancome counterpart, and that the differences are minor—if there are any at all.
L'Oreal's displays in many drugstores reflect better-organized products and shade categories (though testers are still scarce). Given the number of lipsticks they sell, it only makes sense to put them in color families so consumers have a better shopping experience. Their True Match products are also sensibly laid out, but the rest of the foundations aren't as organized, likely due to the smaller selection of shades. Speaking of foundations, L'Oreal has made further strides by offering more that provide sufficient UVA protection. Revlon still has the edge for consistently launching impressive foundations with sunscreen, but at least L'Oreal is (finally) catching up.
The bottom line is that every category of L'Oreal’s makeup has some winning (and in some cases, benchmark-setting) products.
Unfortunately, despite the brands’ enormous presence in the beauty industry, L'Oreal's moisturizers and treatment products are a nearly all unremarkable and repetitive. When it comes to moisturizers or serums, just about anything from Dove, Olay, Neutrogena, or Aveeno is preferred. L'Oreal does well with most of their cleansers, along with scrubs and self-tanning products, but given the widespread availability and financial resources of this line, they could be doing so much more. The good news is their makeup has made major strides and now ranks as the best overall color collection at the drugstore—imagine the results if their skin care followed suit.
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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