Tested on animals:Yes
Mission Perfection Serum has a great name but its formula is more "mission impossible" than perfect! This skin-lightening treatment comes up short for all skin types struggling with dark spots because its sole lightening ingredient just doesn't have much research behind it. There isn't a compelling reason to consider this treatment over several others whose ingredients have more research proving they work.
We're not saying you won't see any results from this; it's just that we're highly skeptical (and at this price, you should expect a formula that uses proven skin-lightening ingredients). The product's only lightening ingredient is hexylresorcinol, a synthetic ingredient that has been shown to have skin-lightening ability in cell cultures, but there is very limited research about its effects on skin.
Hexylresorcinol is primarily an antioxidant, antiseptic, and anesthetic (numbing agent) (Free Radical Research, 2003 & Archives of Pharmacology, 2009).
The efficacy of hexylresorcinol on melanin (skin pigment) was based on comparing a product that contained several well know skin-lightening ingredients including licorice, niacinamide, a form of vitamin C, and retinol to 4% hydroquinone. As a result whether or not the benefit was related to the hexylresorcinol is unknown. Plus this study was only done for 4 weeks on 18 people and was not independent. This study is often quoted as concluding that hexylresorcinol worked better than or as well as 4% hydroquinone, but 4 weeks is not long enough to judge that and again, this was not about hexylresorcinol alone—which is how Clarins is using it (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 2013).
A longer (8 weeks) study showed that hexylresorcinol was more effective than hydroquinone—plus other lightening ingredients like arbutin and kojic acid—but this study only proved that hexylresorcinol showed faster, not necessarily better results. It also left out comparing this ingredient to ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which is among the best ingredients to lighten brown spots (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2013).
Wouldn't you like to know if vitamin C fared even better? We certainly would! All of this is to say that hexylresorcinol shows some promise, but the lack of long-term research doesn't make it worth trying unless everything else hasn't worked.
Clarins also claims the acerola fruit extract this contains "monitors melanin production." That sounds official, but is wide open to interpretation. What does "monitor" mean? It's not telling you melanin production will be reduced, so it could simply mean that melanin production will continue as is. Again, if you're paying this much for a skincare treatment, you should expect more than marketing jabberwocky.
Turning to published scientific research rather than marketing lingo, there's one promising study where acerola extract was applied to animals whose skin had been exposed to and discolored from UVB light—and the acerola helped lighten the spots. But not so fast: These results were only shown when acerola was given orally, not applied topically, which is what you'd be doing with this product (Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 2008). We were unable to find any other published research proving this ingredient's worth for skin discolorations, though it is a good antioxidant.
Turning to this product's texture and other ingredients, it's a fairly standard lightweight cream formula packaged in a heavier, opaque plastic bottle topped with a built-in pump. The formula contains a few intriguing antioxidants and repairing ingredients, but this product contains far more fragrance, and its scent lingers on skin, which isn't good news. See More Info to learn why daily use of highly fragrant products is a problem for everyone's skin.
On the bright side (sorry, we had to go there) Clarins added a sheer, peachy-pink color to enliven the complexion plus the mineral pigment mica adds instant radiance. Those are nice touches that make good on the claim of adding a luminous glow to skin. But you can get a luminous glow from lots of products, including some that contain a better mix of ingredients to reduce brown spots and uneven skin tone.
Ultimately, Mission Perfection Serum has very little to make it worthy of purchase. Its sole skin-lightening ingredient doesn't have the substantial amount of research more longstanding ingredients do, the formula is highly fragranced, posing a risk of irritation, and is definitely on the pricey side (if you're going to spend this much, you want something that stands an excellent chance of working, right?). The sheer, peachy-pink sheen is pretty and softly enlivens a dull complexion, but we suspect most people will find better results using one of the recommendations on our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products.
- Silky, light cream texture feels light and layers well with other products.
- Super sheer peachy-pink tint + mineral pigment mica adds a healthy, radiant glow to skin.
- Based on published research, this formula isn't very likely to improve dark spots or other discolorations.
- Contains more fragrance and preservative than the called-out acerola extract.
- Acerola hasn't been shown to improve dark spots when applied to skin.
- Overpriced given the wealth of skin-lightening products that stand a better chance of working.
- The fragrance (which lingers) poses a risk of irritating skin.
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).