Elixir Vitae boasts a lengthy ingredient list of plant-derived ingredients, moisturizing agents, and fragrance. The length of the list itself is impressive, but there isn't anything unique about the ingredients from a skin-care perspective, rather it's because Tata Harper included the French spelling for every single ingredient (we removed the French from the list in our ingredient section to make it a bit easier for you to read).
As a matter of fact, you can find almost exactly the same formulas in Tata Harper's Concentrated Brightening Serum and Boosted Contouring Serum, which range in price from $185 to $220. That's still way too expensive, but if you're seriously considering this serum, you may as well save where you can! The real question is whether or not any of these ingredients can actually live up to their claims of being the "ultimate wrinkle solution" that also - if the claims are to be believed – are the natural solution, rather than relying on injectables like Botox and dermal fillers.
So, does this replace Botox and fillers for looking younger? The emphatic answer: Absolutely not! In fact, there are very few times we've come across such a blatantly misleading series of claims surrounding a product. For example, Harper claims this serum, "Helps relax 100% of muscle contractions" in just four hours.
It's no surprise that there is no published research supporting any of their claims. Ordinary plant extracts, like rose water, milk thistle, radish root extract, and mango butter, do NOT behave like Botox to "relax" muscle contractions. Never mind that relaxing "100% of muscle contractions" in the face would leave you unable to speak, and would have you looking saggy and expressionless, not firmer and younger.
Tata Harper's claim that this serum reduces "the number of deep wrinkles by 33% in just 42 days" shouldn't be taken seriously because there is nothing special about this formulation to remove deep wrinkles. Although a good skin-care routine (which would include daily sun protection—something the Tata Harper line lacks, so the claim about improving wrinkles becomes even more silly) can improve the appearance of deep wrinkles to an impressive degree, it's about making the wrinkles look better (less deep, more plumped), not about actually removing them.
Especially for expression lines, the only way to eliminate the deep wrinkle is with cosmetic corrective procedures like Botox. Cosmetic dermatologists aren't shutting their doors because Tata Harper found the natural solution to Botox in her Vermont barn!
What's most startling is that this formula contains more irritating ingredients than beneficial ones. In the Elixer Vitae, you'll find a significant amount of fragrant plant-derived ingredients (rosewater, iris, lavender, and narcissus flower extracts) and alcohol. (The fact that the alcohol is listed as "natural alcohol" doesn't change its damaging impact and pro-aging effects—vodka is natural, too, but that doesn't make it a health food). See More Info for details on why irritation from fragrance and alcohol is such a problem for skin.
All of the above begs the question: If the Elixir Vitae is the "ultimate wrinkle solution," why does Tata Harper continue to sell their other anti-aging formulas? Shouldn't they just admit those don't work as well as they said and it's only when you spend over $365 that you get impressive results?
You can do a lot better than what Harper is offering in this treatment—there are a number of serums at a fraction of the price of Elixir Vitae with significantly more skin-friendly combinations of ingredients on our list of Best Serums.
Irritation from 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 to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).
Alcohol in Skin Care: 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: 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.
The Ultimate Wrinkle Solution. This super-concentrated antiaging treatment helps relax and fill wrinkles without injectables. 38 active ingredients rapidly inhibit wrinkle-causing facial contractions and help to replenish and redensify the skin for long-term plumping, smoothing and volumizing results.
Water/Eau, Propanediol (Fermentation Of Corn Sugar), Glycerin (From Vegetable Origin), Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Derived From Coconuts), Silybum Marianum (Milk Thistle) Ethyl Ester, Natural Alcohol, Hydroxystearyl Alcohol (Derived From Wheat And Castor Seeds), Glyceryl Undecylenate, Leuconostoc Ferment Filtrate (Radish Root Extract), Arachidyl Alcohol (Derived From Wheat And Rapeseed Oil), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Butter, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Palmitoyl Isoleucine (Derived From Starch), Iris Pallida (Sweet Iris) Leaf Cell Extract, Opuntia Ficus Indica (Barbary Fig) Leaf Cell Extract, Acmella Oleracea (Spilanthes) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Anogeissus Leiocarpus (Akulia) Bark Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Oil, Phoenix Dactylifera (Date) Seed Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Leucojum Aestivum (Summer Snowflake) Bulb Extract, Lavandula Stoechas (Spanish Lavender) Extract, Narcissus Tazetta (Daffodil) Bulb Extract, Menyanthes Trifoliata (Buckbean) Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Ornithine (Derived From Starches), Kaolin (Clay Minerals) Montmorillonite (Clay Minerals), Illite (Clay Minerals), Phospholipids (Derived From Soybeans), Glycolipids (Derived From Chicory Roots And Soybean Oil), Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Behenyl Alcohol (Derived From, Wheat And Rapeseed Oil), Arachidyl Glucoside (Derived From Wheat And Rapeseed Oil), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Cetearyl Glucoside (Wax Derived From Grapeseed And Wheat), Glyceryl Caprylate (Derived From Plant Oils), Cetearyl Alcohol (Wax Derived From Grapeseed And Wheat), Hydroxystearyl Glucoside (Derived From Wheat And Castor Seeds), Gluconolactone, Benzyl Benzoate, Citral, Citronellol, Eugenol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool
Tata Harper At-a-Glance
Based in Vermont, the Tata Harper brand knows its niche—those who equate expensive with effective, and those who buy into the fear tactics that “chemicals” are bad and only all-natural ingredients are good. These beliefs are common misconceptions we have dealt with repeatedly over the years, and here’s the quick summation: There are good and bad natural ingredients, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients—and with skin care, expensive does not necessarily mean better.
Tata Harper is a real person, who created her namesake line based on the concept that natural ingredients are 100% safe and that beauty products should be free of chemicals. The “chemical- free” rhetoric certainly isn’t a new approach to marketing skin care, but the claim is nonsense, regardless of the company, because everything, from daisies to asphalt to water, is composed of chemicals… but we march on.
Harper’s marketing appeal is the claim that she and her team grow most of their ingredients on their 12,000-acre Vermont farm. If the farm doesn’t supply the ingredients they need, they have them shipped in, from all over the world. Their Vermont farm-laboratory is where the products are made, in small batches by hand. That sounds interesting until you realize that “batches by hand” is actually true of any cosmetic, made by any brand, as hands are always needed, and batch size is irrelevant. As Tata has grown, the size of the batches has grown as well. They formulate their products using botanicals that are “free of toxins” and “biochemically compatible with our skin.” If those claims sound vaguely fertilizer-worthy, you are on the right track.
It is important to understand how misleading the “free of toxins” claim is. A toxin refers to a poison, like real poisons (think snake venom, which, incidentally, is 100% natural); cosmetic ingredients are not toxins. Biocompatibility just means that a substance doesn’t harm living tissue; that is, it’s compatible with it, rather than incompatible. Biocompatibility has nothing to do with whether or not a substance is natural in origin. For example, pacemakers are biocompatible in that they keep your heart beating without harming your body, but they certainly are not natural; on the other hand, snake venom and cyanide are both completely natural, but they certainly are not biocompatible.
Of course, many natural ingredients do benefit skin, but many natural ingredients also are a problem for skin, including such seemingly innocuous ingredients as lavender and peppermint. Synthetic ingredients, like retinol or peptides, can be wonderfully beneficial for skin, so, ideally, the best products will contain a mix of proven beneficial natural and synthetic ingredients. When evaluating any ingredient, we always consider what the published, peer-reviewed research has shown to be beneficial or detrimental for your skin, whether it’s natural or not.
Despite the science-y-sounding claims and phrases Tata Harper uses in their marketing materials, most of it is a smoke screen. (They stop just short of promising cosmetic surgery–like results from flowers and essential oils.) What this translates into is a collection of products that are so fragranced they can be mistaken for perfume. Each contains a mix of standard plant-based moisturizing agents (think olive oil, shea and mango butters, and other plant-based fatty acids) along with plant oils or extracts that are proven skin irritants, which is bad news for you!
Tata Harper repeatedly describes their ingredients as “actives,” as in “Active Natural Ingredients,” which is a misuse of the term. “Actives” refers only to ingredients regulated as drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as sunscreen actives, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid acne treatments, hydroquinone skin lighteners, and others. Outside of this standard, the phrase “active ingredients” is completely meaningless, because all cosmetic ingredients (even water) will exert some sort of action on the skin.
Like all of Harper’s products, they state that their products contain “Fragrances from 100% natural clinical grade essential oils,” but there isn't any such classification or standard for essential oils. These ingredients are little more than fragrance, and fragrance isn’t skin care. Perfume can be wonderful when selectively placed behind the ears and on the pulse points, but applied all over the face it’s 100% irritating for all skin types just about 100% of the time.
The bottom line? The Tata Harper line is an overall disappointment, especially if you have common concerns such as acne, rosacea, dark spots, enlarged pores, or sun damage. And their prices are bizarre—$45 for a 0.5 ounce bottle of rosewater, olive oil, and jojoba oil is not worth the cost, not by any stretch. We are not against natural ingredients, but if you’re looking to use natural products, this line isn’t the way to go.
For more information about Tata Harper visit www.tataharperskincare.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.
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