Origins Original Skin Renewal Serum with Willowherb is said to reduce large pores, restore skin's healthy glow, and de-stress "quarter-life crisis" skin, among other alleged benefits. What a shame that any potential benefits provided are cut short due to the overwhelming amount of irritating, fragrance ingredients this contains. Irritation isn't akin to original skin, it's a skin sin!
We discuss the distinct problems daily use of highly fragrant products like this can have in the More Info section, and that's where you'll also find documented info about the problems lavender oil (also present in this water-based serum) can have. If that weren't troubling enough, this serum also contains a high amount of grapefruit oil.
Grapefruit oil may smell refreshing, but topical application may cause contact dermatitis from its chief fragrance chemical, limonene (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005). Such an effect isn't going to calm down stressed skin, not to mention it won't reduce large pores or help skin endure any sort of crisis!
Another disappointment is that despite containing what we suspect is at least a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid, this serum's pH of 5 is outside the range this stellar ingredient needs to exfoliate skin. This is unfortunate, as if formulary conditions are right, exfoliation with salicylic acid can improve pore size (Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 2010).
If there's anything positive to report about Original Skin Renewal Serum with Willowherb, it's that it does contain several antioxidants and repairing ingredients, plus the aforementioned willow herb, a great plant-based soothing agent. Although that's encouraging, it doesn't help that all of the good-for-skin ingredients are present in lower amounts than the problematic fragrance ingredients. You don't need to compromise by exposing skin to potentially troublesome ingredients in order to get the good ones!
OK, one more high point, at least for those with combination to oily skin: This serum's ultra-light texture sets to a shine-free, barely perceptible finish, and it keeps excess shine away for at least a couple hours. (How long it lasts depends on how oily your skin is + which other skincare and makeup products you apply). But not so fast, as this serum's potential to irritate skin can make oily skin more of a problem, as we explain in the More Info section.
Summing it up, Original Skin Renewal Serum with Willowherb has far too many risks to make it worth using. The high amount of fragrant oils is the chief concern, followed by the tempting claims being highly unlikely to happen. What will happen is your skin will feel smoother, perhaps look a bit more refined, and it will be shine-free for a period of time. However, you can get those benefits and more from other products (like those in our list of Best Oil Absorbing Products, Best Exfoliants, or Best Serums) without putting your skin at risk of irritation.
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).
Lavender Oil: In-vitro research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application of as little a concentration as 0.25% causes cell death (Cell Proliferation, June 2004). This study was conducted on endothelial cells, which are cells that line blood pathways in the body and play a critical role in the inflammatory process of skin.
As linalool and linalyl acetate are both rapidly absorbed by skin and can be detected within blood cells in less than 20 minutes, endothelial cells are an ideal choice for such a test (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 1992). The results of this research also demonstrated that lavender has a damaging effect on fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen.
The fragrance constituents in lavender oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, oxidize when exposed to air, and in this process their potential for causing an allergic reaction is increased (Contact Dermatitis, 2008).
If you're wondering why lavender oil doesn't appear to be problematic for you, it's because research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it happening for your skin to suffer damage (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
Irritation's Connection to Oily Skin & Breakouts: Inflammation in skin is usually related to external factors such as irritation that damages the skin's barrier in numerous ways, whether you can see the reaction or not. When irritation on the surface of skin happens it activates specific chemicals called neuropeptides in the brain (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2007). Those substances are specifically the kind that regulates the hormonal system of the body.
When this happens, it leads to the formation of inflammatory chemicals directly in the oil gland. These inflammatory chemicals trigger an increase in oil production, which can increase the size of the pore, and the likelihood of acne—the more inflammation that occurs, the worse the risk (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002 & Dermatology, 2003).
Bottom line: Inflammation and its resulting irritation, whether internal or external (for this discussion externally it would be due to the use of irritating ingredients, hot water, overusing scrubs, etc.), is practically a guarantee you will see excess production of oil, larger pores and more acne breakouts (Experimental Dermatology, 2009 & Dermato-Endocrinology, 2011).
That's reason enough to avoid products with irritating ingredients, which often come in the form of fragrance including the misnamed "essential" oils.
Strengths: The makeup products fare best including liquid concealer, blush, brow enhancer, and lip liner; very good makeup brushes composed of synthetic hair.
Weaknesses: Almost every skincare product contains potent irritating ingredients; no products to effectively address needs of those with acne or skin discolorations; some of the makeup products contain irritating ingredients.
Started in 1990, Origins was Estee Lauder's contribution to the (still going strong) demand for natural products. Their approach and claims all hinge on the wonder of plants and the allegedly miraculous properties they offer for skin, whether it be dry, sensitive, oily, or simply showing the effects of time. Here's the issue: Just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients, there are good and bad natural ones. Ironically, Origins isn't all that "natural" because it uses its share of synthetic ingredients, and the plant extracts they do use include some that are bad for skin.
We have never been opposed to using natural ingredients. However, it lacks integrity when a company throws in any plant ingredient with no proven benefit for skin beyond anecdotal information, and then boasts about all sorts of improbable results. It becomes a far more serious issue when the natural ingredients in question have published research showing that they are in fact irritating or damaging to skin. That's the predicament of reviewing Origins' skin care products: almost every product they sell contains several volatile oils (another term for essential oils), all of which have their share of negative qualities when used on skin. In their attempt to appear more natural, Origins uses quite a bit of these offending ingredients, and they're often listed before the much more beneficial additives, such as antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-identical ingredients.
You might be wondering why, if Origins has had such continued success, their products can be such a problem for skin? Can't women just use what they like? The answer is two-fold: yes women can use what they like, but often women like what isn't good for them. For example, smoking is bad for skin (and for your lungs), but lots of people smoke; getting a tan from the sun is bad for your skin, but lots of people spend time outdoors getting a tan; and using products that contain irritating ingredients is bad for your skin, and lots of products come to the table with these inconsistencies.
As we have explained in the introduction to the book, there is a litany of problems that take place when skin is irritated or inflamed, but fundamentally this results in the skin's immune system becoming impaired, collagenase (the breakdown of collagen) occurs, and the skin is stripped of its outer protective barrier. What is perhaps most shocking is that all of these damaging responses can be taking place underneath the skin and you won't even notice it on the surface. The clearest example of this is the significant and carcinogenic effect of the sun's "silent" UVA rays. You don't feel the penetration of these mutagenic rays, but they are taking a toll on your skin nonetheless (Sources: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2006, pages 30–38; International Journal of Toxicology, May-June 2006, pages 183–193;Skin Research and Technology; November 2001, pages 227–237; Dermatologic Therapy, January 2004, pages 16–25; American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, May 2004, pages 327–337; Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, November 2003, pages 663–669; Drugs, 2003 volume 63, issue 15, pages 1579–1596; Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, March 2002, pages 138–146; Cosmetics & Toiletries, November 2003, page 63; Global Cosmetics, February 2000, pages 46–49; and Contact Dermatitis, February 1995, pages 83–87).
Most of the Lauder companies really have their acts together when it comes to formulating state-of-the-art moisturizers, serums, and sunscreens that leave out the problematic plant extracts (and that represents a lot of products given the almost two dozen cosmetics companies under the Lauder corporate banner). Origins is the exception, and we encourage my readers who prefer to shop for skin care at the department store to explore the truly far better options from Clinique, Estee Lauder, Prescriptives, M.A.C., Bobbi Brown, or even La Mer. Even salon-styled Aveda, also owned by Lauder, with a natural theme similar to Origins, has less problematic formulas.
For more information about Origins, owned by Estee Lauder, call (800) 674-4467 or visit www.origins.com.
Compared to the makeup offered by almost all of the other Estee Lauder–owned lines, Origins falls short by virtue of including ingredients that align with its marketing image of offering natural ingredients that have the blessing of Mother Nature regardless of the risks they pose for skin. As omnipotent as Mom may be, this force of nature is a disaster waiting to happen. A secondary reason Origins isn't competing as well with its sister companies is that for many products (particularly the lipsticks, blush, and cleverly named but non-essential specialty products) the technology isn't as advanced. That lack of technological creativity combined with significant amounts of hostile essential oils will help you understand why we recommend exploring similar, but superior (and irritant-free), options from any of the other Lauder companies from Clinique to M.A.C.
If you're prone to being swayed by the promises of natural products (though Origins is not any more natural than many other lines, it just uses the most problematic plant extracts possible), there are a few outstanding gems to unearth here, and at prices that aren't unrealistic. Additionally, Origins' latest tester units, especially in their freestanding stores, are accessible and user-friendly. They include pull-out counters for added space and feature large mirrors. Combine this with a low-key yet helpful sales staff and knowing what to zero in on and you'll find shopping the best of Origins is a pleasure.
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!