Skin Brightening Serum

Price:
$28.95 - 1 fl. oz.
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Category:
Skin Care > Retinol Products > Lighteners Without Hydroquinone
Last Updated:
8/15/2013
Jar Packaging:
No
Tested On Animals:
No

DeVita's Skin Brightening Serum is more impressive for its benefits as a skin-lightening product than their Sun Damage Repair Serum, which lacks almost any skin-lightening ingredients. This serum appears to contain an impressive amount of vitamin C (listed as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate) and possibly enough arbutin to offer some benefit in fading brown spots. So why the low rating? It would have gotten a better rating, but you can't be sure what you're really getting with this product because the company fails to provide an accurate ingredient label, based on FDA and INCI labeling regulations, and because of the questionable preservative system.

Aside from the arbutin, DeVita claims that the kojic acid and emblica fruit extract work together to diminish hyperpigmentation and promote an even skin tone. That's a strange claim given that the Skin Brightening Serum doesn't contain kojic acid—it contains kojic dipalmitate. Kojic dipalmitate is a mixture of palmitic acid and kojic acid, and has no research demonstrating it works like kojic acid or can help lighten discolorations. Regarding the emblica fruit extract (Indian gooseberry); it is a good antioxidant, but not a proven skin-lightening agent.

Skin Brightening Serum doesn't appear to have an adequate preservative system; either that or DeVita doesn't list the complete preservative system on the ingredient list. They do include a few plant extracts, such as thyme and grapefruit seed, and potassium sorbate, but these don't have research demonstrating their effectiveness as broad-spectrum preservatives—which means it can't protect you or your product from exposure to potentially harmful bacteria and mold (Sources: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53:7630–7636; Journal of Applied Microbiology 1998, 84, 368–376; Journal Pharmazie: 1999 June, 54(6):452–456).

It's true that some ingredients have inherent antibacterial benefits, but that doesn't mean they are a substitute for an adequate preservative system. For example, citrus extracts have antibacterial and antioxidant benefits, but are you willing to drink from a bottle of 100% grapefruit juice that's been sitting on your kitchen counter for a few weeks? There are plenty of options for broad-spectrum preservatives, whether your preference is for natural skin care or not, but according to DeVita's ingredient list, they aren't included here.

DeVita misstates how hydroquinone works in their marketing messaging for the Skin Brightening Serum. They describe hydroquinone as the "most common irritating skin bleach," which isn't accurate in the least. Hydroquinone doesn't "bleach" skin; rather, it works by temporarily slowing the production of melanin in the treated areas; that is, once you stop using hydroquinone, the discoloration returns. Hydroquinone is considered by many to be the gold standard for treating melasma and brown spots, and it has more than a half century of safety data behind it. It's also worth noting that hydroquinone is not, and has never been, a "banned substance" outside the United States, but rather is available only by prescription because of concerns over misuse. Ironically, the arbutin in this product can work to lighten skin because it breaks down into hydroquinone in the skin—something DeVita either doesn't know or doesn't reveal, yet that's exactly how arbutin works!

In addition, DeVita's ingredient list doesn't appear to be correct (see More Info for details), which means there is a lot of guessing about what you are really putting on your face—we think "guessing" doesn't make for great skin-care decisions.

We would have given this a higher rating based upon the Skin Brightening Serums use of some beneficial ingredients, but given that you aren't getting adequate ingredient information and there's no way to know how long you can safely use this without risking exposure to bacteria or mold, we don't recommend taking the risk. Instead, consider the numerous alternatives from other brands in the Best Skin-Lightening Products section.

Pros:
  • Contains a beneficial mix of emollients, skin-identical ingredients, and antioxidants.
  • Pump-style glass container helps protect ingredients from air and light.
Cons:
  • Confusing, inaccurate ingredient claims.
  • Questionable preservative system.
  • Ingredient label doesn't comply with FDA or (global) INCI cosmetics regulations, so you really don't know what you are putting on your face.
More Info:

As is the case with every DeVita product we've seen, the ingredient list for the Skin Brightening Serum doesn't comply with FDA or INCI ingredient labeling standards. For example, "Centella Asiatica (Goto Kola)" isn't a recognized ingredient name. They may mean "Centella Asiatica (Goto Kola) Extract," or leaf water, or root, or flower, or cell culture, but we (and you) don't know for certain. They repeat this error multiple times; for example, Aloe barbadensis should be "Aloe barbadensis leaf extract" or leaf water, if that's the ingredient they used.

This lack of ingredient transparency is important to mention, as DeVita goes to great lengths to indicate their compliance with INCI regulatory requirements (INCI is the ingredient labeling standard used in Europe), and, of course, because you reasonably want to know what's ingredients are in (or not in) your skin-care products.

Reduce the appearance of skin discoloration and find your bright and beautiful self without chemical bleaches. DeVita's exclusive formula of a bio-engineered skin lightening compound, Complex KBT can create amazing results and all without using the most common irritating skin bleach, hydroquinone. Features Kojic Acid and Arbutin which work synergistically to help break-up Hyperpigmentation, and Emblica Fruit Extract, a proven skin lightener, which gives the look of balanced skin tone.

Aloe barbadensis (certified organic aloe vera gel), Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, Capric/caprylic triglycerides (derived from coconut), Olea europaea (olive) oil, Panthenol (vitamin B5), Phyllanthus emblica fruit extract, Kojic dipalmitate, Arbutin, Persea gratissima (avocado) oil, Centella asiatica (goto kola), Tocopherol (vitamin E) nicotinate, Arctostaphylos uva ursi (bearberry) leaf extract, Citrus paradisi (grapefruit) seed extract, Thymus vulgaris (thyme) essential oil, Potassium sorbate.

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.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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