Housed in a glass, pump-style container, Essential Control for Blemishes is a straightforward name and you'd expect the product to have some benefit for treating breakouts. Unfortunately, the ingredient list delivers a different reality—this is anything but an essential treatment for breakouts due to the problematic assortment of potent irritants it contains, including fragrant extracts (see More Info for details on fragrance in skin care).
This blemish treatment contains a shockingly bad assortment of ingredients for skin, composed primarily of witch hazel, lemon peel oil, lavender oil, chamomile (the sole bright spot), and camphor oil—all we can say is: Ouch!
The intensely fragrant and sensitizing ingredients stand a good chance of making oily skin or breakouts worse (see More Info for details on why irritants cause trouble for oily, blemish-prone skin). Lemon peel oil accounts for the bulk of this formula, followed by lavender oil, which has its own unique issues for skin. In addition to the irritant factor, lemon peel oil can cause a phototoxic reaction when skin is exposed to sun—risking discolorations/brown spots and worsening of red marks from breakouts.
At the time of this review, the ingredient list does not comply with FDA or (global) INCI regulations. For example, "Hamamelis Virginiana Distillate (Witch Hazel) Extract" isn't a real ingredient. There is "Hamamelis virginiana water" or "Hamamelis virginiana extract," among others, but extracts and distillates are two very different processes, with different effects. Either way, witch hazel distillate has a high alcohol content due to the distillation process used to extract the plant ingredient, so the notion that this product doesn't contain alcohol isn't accurate. It's also worth noting that this product appears to have no broad-spectrum preservative system. Fortunately (sort of), the witch hazel and the significant amount of citrus and lavender oils do have a preservative action, but, unfortunately, that makes this the first product we've encountered that is composed almost entirely of irritating ingredients.
If you want to minimize oily skin and breakouts, avoid products with irritating ingredients and fragrances. If brighter, more even-toned skin is your goal, consider any of the well-formulated AHA/BHA exfoliants we recommend in our Best Products section.
- Witch hazel and fragrant oils pose a strong risk of irritation.
- Questionable preservative system.
- Potent amount of lemon peel oil puts skin at risk of a phototoxic reaction if exposed to sunlight.
- None of the ingredients have research showing they prevent breakouts.
- Camphor and lavender are particularly problematic for skin.
Irritating Ingredients: Applying irritating ingredients to oily skin stimulates excess oil production at the base of the pores, so your skin ends up becoming more oily and your pores become (or stay) enlarged. Treating oily skin gently with effective products designed to absorb excess oil, exfoliate inside the pore, and help normalize pore function is the best approach to see improvements.
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. 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: 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).
Don't lose control over unexpected blemishes that just pop up! You can keep your cool using our powerful, fast acting natural blemish treatment for acne. It wears well under make-up and zaps problem areas fast, without stressing the skin. We use only pure unadulterated essential oils, featuring Witch Hazel extract for its astringent anti-inflammatory properties, with Tea Tree and Camphor Bark oils as natural antiseptics/anti-bacterials.
Hamamelis Virginiana Distillate (Witch Hazel) Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Lavandula Augustifolia (Lavender) Essential Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Essential Oil, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Essential Oil, Cinnamomum Camphora (Camphor) Bark Oil.
It seems strange that the tagline for the Arizona-based DeVita Skin Care is "Guided by Nature, Driven by Science" because they take a decidedly unscientific route to promote their products, using consumers' fears of chemicals (describing them as "poisons and toxic" on their website) to the fullest degree. If this company was driven by science, we would expect more than just the same old scare tactic—"all chemicals are bad but all plants are good." In fact, all the ingredients in any cosmetic, including water, are chemicals.
DeVita makes the claim that their products are "all natural," vegan, and paraben-free, despite the fact that parabens come from natural ingredients and there is no research showing they are a problem for the body. Their all-natural claim is easy to debunk because their products contain decidedly synthetic ingredients, such as retinol, l-carnosine, palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, and polymethylsilsesquioxane, to name a few.
Regarding the l-carnosine and retinol, they are found naturally in animals, but they do not occur in plants. However, because the natural, animal-based versions aren't very stable or effective in skin-care formulas, l-carnosine and retinol in cosmetics are (with rare exceptions) synthetic. Therefore, either DeVita isn't being straight about being a vegan line, or they have their own definition of what "all-natural" means. That may very well be the case, because the "all natural" claim is not beholden to any sort of cosmetic regulation anywhere in the world.
All of this natural, chemical-free posturing gets so tiring—the truth is that there are good and bad natural ingredients, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients. Natural isn't inherently better and synthetic isn't inherently evil. One problem with DeVita products is that you can't be sure what you're really putting on your skin because DeVita takes liberties with how they list product ingredients, which is a regulatory no-no. For all the DeVita products we reviewed (without exception), not a single one had an ingredient list that complied with FDA or (global) INCI standards.
For example, "De-Ionized Water" isn't a recognized name, nor is "Aloe Barbadensis." In the latter case, the designation doesn't tell you if they're using aloe leaf, aloe flower extract with alcohol, aloe leaf juice diluted with water, or just a plain aloe extract. Listing the full ingredient is important information because different forms of an ingredient can mean different things to a formula and can have different effects on your skin.
We admire DeVita in that they don't resort to alcohol-based formulas (a rare quality for a natural brand); unfortunately, it seems they ignored, or simply overlooked, the research on the potent irritant potential of essential oils and fragrances.
They also seem to ignore the risks inherent in not using an effective preservative system. Many of the products we reviewed had questionable preservative systems (see individual product reviews for details), which is bad news (for you and your skin) because you won't know how long you can safely use a product before it's overrun by bacteria and mold. We raised our concern about the preservatives with a representative from DeVita and were told that their products were preserved by the use of aloe, allantoin, grape seed extract, grapefruit seed extract, and "others," depending on the product. To be clear, none of these ingredients has any research demonstrating an ability to work as broad-spectrum preservatives; that is, they won't keep your product free of mold, fungi, or bacteria.
It is true that some ingredients have natural antibacterial benefits, but that doesn't mean they are a good substitute for tried-and-true preservatives. For example, vitamin C has antibacterial and antioxidant benefit, but are you willing to drink from a container of 100% fruit juice that's been sitting on the counter for a month or two? There are plenty of options for effective preservatives, no matter if your preference is for natural skin care or not, but aloe, allantoin, grape seed, and grapefruit seed extract aren't counted among them.
We understand the appeal of DeVita as a brand for those who are enamored with the concept of 100% natural products. However, the reality is that DeVita presents this appearance of "all natural" by fudging the details, devising their own definitions of "all natural," and providing inaccurate information about the source of their ingredients (vegan plant-based l-carnosine and natural silicone—Really?). In many of the products we reviewed, DeVita either omits the source of their preservatives, or (more dangerous to imagine) uses ineffective preservative systems. We are not against naturally derived ingredients by any means, but if you're looking to use natural products, you can do better than this brand, which ultimately leaves you questioning what exactly it is you're putting on your skin.
For more information on DeVita, visit www.devitaskincare.com or call 1-877-233-8482.