This water-based serum from philosophy doesn't add anything new to the mix, so despite containing some proven ingredients like niacinamide and vitamin C (in the form of ascorbyl glucoside), there's "no reason" to get too excited about this somewhat pricey product.
The main cause for concern and reason we cannot recommend this is that alcohol is the third ingredient, so it likely poses a fairly significant risk of irritation, as we explain in the More Info section. Adding to the potential irritation are fragrance ingredients limonene and linalool, both of which can cause skin issues of their own. This serum contains proven anti-irritants, but they're fighting an uphill battle against the alcohol and fragrance instead of diverting all their energy to improving your skin.
Although the formula contains superstar exfoliating ingredient salicylic acid in what we suspect is a 1% concentration, the pH is too high for it to function as an exfoliant, so don't count on this serum reducing enlarged pores or blackheads.
What this serum will do is make skin feel smooth and lightly hydrated, and the niacinamide it contains offers multiple benefits, from improving skin's barrier function to potentially reducing redness and helping post-acne marks to heal. All good things, yes, but you can find worthwhile amounts of niacinamide (and vitamin C) in many other products that not only cost less but also offer superior formulas that omit fragrance and alcohol.
There is a significant amount of research showing alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels. Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol causes skin cells to self-destruct.
The research also showed that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer their exposure to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration. (Sources: Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1,410–1,419; Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, January 2011, pages 83–90; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, August 2009, pages 20–24; "Skin Care—From the Inside Out and Outside In," Tufts Daily, April 1, 2002; Alcohol, Volume 26, Issue 3, April 2002, pages 179–190; eMedicine Journal, May 8, 2002, volume 3, number 5, www.emedicine.com; Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, April 2001, pages 109–166; Cutis, February 2001, pages 25–27; Contact Dermatitis, January 1996, pages 12–16; and http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/277-284.htm).
For more on alcohol's (as in, ethanol, denatured alcohol, and ethyl alcohol) effects on skin, see our article on the topic, Alcohol in Skin Care: The Facts.
Every drop of this all-in-one formula contains a potent dose of the following: philosophy’s exclusive marine extract, botanical extracts, concentrated niacinamide, and active vitamin C to help interrupt the lifecycle of dark spots and marks; bisabolol to soothe and neutralize the look of redness and blotchiness; and salicylic acid to clear and shrink the appearance of enlarged, darkened pores and refine rough texture.
Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Niacinamide, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Cyclohexasiloxane, Boron Nitride, Silica, Zeolite, Salicylic Acid, Bellis Perennis (Daisy) Flower Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Algae Extract, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Bisabolol, Dimethicone, Sodium Polyacrylate, Xanthan Gum, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Sodium Hydroxide, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Trideceth-6, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Linalool, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Phosphate, Limonene, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, BHT, Phenoxyethanol.
Strengths: Relatively inexpensive; some of the best products are fragrance-free; very good retinol products; selection of state-of-the-art moisturizers; innovative skin-lightening product.
Weaknesses: Irritating and/or drying cleansers; average to problematic scrubs; at-home peel kits far more gimmicky than helpful; several products contain lavender oil; several products include irritating essential oils; the majority of makeup items do not rise above average status.
Believe in miracles. That's the "lifestyle" branding statement philosophy makes, which is an approach that is decidedly different from their former positioning, which encompassed family values and spirituality along with a dash of department-store élan and endearingly clever quips. The miracle angle may grab your attention, but the company is also quick to point out that its history is steeped in providing products to dermatologists and plastic surgeons worldwide (so, in addition to miracles, philosophy has a serious side, too). Although its heritage may have included providing clinically oriented products to doctors, we have yet to see or hear of any medical professional retailing philosophy products. And that's a good thing because, by and large, most of philosophy products are resounding disappointments. Moreover, several products, including almost all of their sunscreens, contain one or more known skin irritants. We would be extremely suspicious of a dermatologist or plastic surgeon who recommended such products to their patients, and even more so if they actually believed some of the more farfetched claims philosophy makes.
Interestingly, when you shop this line at department stores or at the cosmetics boutique Sephora, what you'll notice is the preponderance of food- and drink-scented bath products, all in vivid colors or cutely boxed for gift-giving. It seems that somewhere along the way, the company decided to promote these nose-appeal products while downplaying their more serious-minded, simply packaged skin care. Perhaps the body lotions and bubble baths have become philosophy's bread and butter. Given the hit-or-miss nature of their facial-care products, that's not surprising. Then again, they've also heavily promoted their anti-aging-themed Miracle Worker products...
So what's to like if you're into the vibe philosophy puts out? Well, this is still a line with some well-formulated staples, including an AHA product, some retinol options, and a handful of state-of-the-art moisturizers. The products that get the most promotion at the counter are the ones you should avoid, such as the at-home peels, scrubs, pads, and anti-acne products. However, the somewhat confusing, conflicting image philosophy presents shouldn't keep you from considering their best products—but it's not a lifestyle brand in the sense that using the entire line will somehow bring you a more joyful existence, or significantly improved skin. The philosophy line is now owned Coty, a cosmetics brand primarily known for their fragrances. Their acquisition of philosophy is their first major foray into a widely-distributed skin care brand.
For more information about philosophy, call (800) 568-3151 or visit www.philosophy.com.
Note: philosophy opts to use lowercase letters for every product they sell, so the listings below are simply following suit.
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