Murad's Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence may be on the pricey side, but this silky "moisture enhancing treatment" has a lot going for it in terms of its hydrating, anti-aging benefits and a luxe feel! Those with normal to combination skin will especially appreciate the lightweight consistency, which offers just enough hydration for slightly dry areas, yet absorbs imperceptibly into skin, leaving no greasy feel. The only snag is the inclusion of potentially irritating fragrant ingredients, but at least the scent quickly dissipates, lessening the concern.
By the way, if you're not exactly sure what an "essence" is, you're not alone. Some essences have toner-like consistencies, while others have more of a serum feel, and their intended purpose varies from brand to brand. What they tend to have in common is their lightweight feel which makes them optimal for layering alongside other moisturizing and/or anti-aging treatments. In the case of Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence, it's a weightless, fluid, velvety-gel essence texture that makes skin feel remarkably soft on contact.
Right off the bat, Murad scores brownie points for packaging Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence in an air-restrictive, opaque, pump-top bottle to keep its antioxidants and other air/light-sensitive ingredients stable. We love it when companies know how to package their formulas for maximum effectiveness!
Speaking of antioxidants, there are several that boost this essence's ability to prevent and reverse the signs of aging. It also contains an excellent blend of skin-identical ingredients and water-binding agents to improve skin's texture, enhance barrier function, and retain moisture. Helllloooo, supple skin!
We are also happy to report that the formula's pH is in the appropriate range for the glycolic acid to function as an exfoliant. Unfortunately, we can't confirm the percentage being used (even the Murad rep we contacted didn't know), but judging by where it falls on the ingredient list, we suspect it's somewhere between two and five percent. What does that mean for skin? Potentially smoother, more radiant-looking skin + a softening of fine lines and, over time, stimulation of healthy collagen production. However, without knowing the exact percentage we can't say this is enough to replace your regular AHA exfoliant altogether.
As for the Mexican Blue Agave Leaf Extract that Murad calls out as one of this formula's hero ingredients, we had to do some detective work to find out that it correlates to "yeast extract" on the ingredient list. Research is scant on what exactly yeast can do for skin, but certain forms show promise for wound healing, as well as warding off environmental damage via its antioxidant component (Nature Genetics, 2001 & Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2014). In short, yeast extract's potential isn't yet fully known, but we're intrigued.
So what's holding this back from our best rating? Despite the fact that scent fades away subtly, it starts out strongly enough to give us slight hesitation. Because the combination of fragrant ingredients are found at the end of the ingredient list it's a bit less concerning, but still something to consider, particularly for those with sensitive skin. (Get the scoop on how fragrance hurts skin under More Info).
That aside, Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence earns our praise for its heavenly feel and skin-smoothing, softening, hydration-enhancing, anti-aging formula! While this lightweight essence isn't likely to be moisturizing enough for dry skin on its own, it's meant to be layered before moisturizer, so in truth it really is workable for any skin type.
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).
Strengths: A few good cleansers; a selection of well-formulated AHA products centered on glycolic acid; most of Murad's top-rated products are fragrance-free; the sunscreens go beyond the basics and include several antioxidants for enhanced protection.
Weaknesses: Expensive; no other dermatologist-designed line has more problem products than Murad; irritating ingredients are peppered throughout the selection of products, keeping several of them from earning a recommendation; the skin-lighteners are not well-formulated.
Dr. Murad was one of the first doctors to appear on an infomercial selling his own line of skin-care products, and quite successfully so, at least the second time around. This was largely because the company paid for independent clinical studies to establish the efficacy of Dr. Murad's products. There's no question that AHA products, when well-formulated, can be a powerful ally to create healthier, radiant skin. But in terms of independent clinical studies, we're skeptical, given that there are countless labs that exist solely to perform such studies in strict accordance with how the company wants the results to turn out. Murad certainly wouldn't mention in an infomercial that the clinical studies for his AHA products weren't as impressive as, say, those for Neutrogena's AHA products, or any other line for that matter. And what about BHA products? Clinical studies and testimonials may have prompted consumers to order, but the results from Murad's AHA products are hardly unique to this line.
Although this is a skin-care line to consider for some good AHA options, the majority of the products are nothing more than a problem for skin. Murad may have been one of the first dermatologist-developed skin-care lines, but by today's standards his line is deplorable. This is largely due to a preponderance of irritating ingredients that show up in product after product. Any dermatologist selling products that include lavender, basil, and various citrus oils plus menthol and other irritants doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. The same goes for Murad's overuse of alcohol and his preference for treating acne with sulfur, both factors that keep some of his otherwise well-formulated, efficacious products from earning a recommendation.
Yet what is most objectionable is the endless parade of products claiming they can stop, get rid of, or reduce wrinkles and aging. Regardless of whether dermatologists know best about lotions and potions, no conscientious doctor would or should be selling products using the ludicrous claims Murad makes. Most of the anti-aging products have the same hype, the same unsubstantiated claims, and the same exaggeration about the beneficial effects of ingredients that are often present only in the tiniest amounts, without even a mention of the standard or potentially irritating ingredients that are also present. Dr. Murad’s skin-care philosophy, stated on his Web site, includes the following statement: "Take all the necessary steps to achieve healthy skin—including the right products, the proper nutrients (from both food and supplements) and positive lifestyle choices." That's an excellent piece of advice; the problem is that it is contradicted by Murad’s own products, most of which are far from the "right" options for all skin types.
For more information about Murad, now owned by Unilever, call (888) 996-8723 or visit www.murad.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.
Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!