Strengths: All of the sunscreens provide sufficient UVA protection; one good sunscreen; a skin-lightening product with arbutin; excellent eye-makeup remover.
Weaknesses: Expensive; most products come in very small sizes; mostly problematic cleansers and scrubs (no line needs this many scrubs); Epicuren often fails to disclose ingredients accurately, which violates FDA regulations; irritating anti-acne products; several products contain irritating ingredients; similar moisturizer formulas despite wide variances in price; irritating AHA products due to unusually low pH levels; use of gimmicky ingredients, including colostrum, placenta, and noni juice; lip balms with sunscreen contain menthol.
You may have come across this brand while visiting a spa, but like many spa-designed products the claims are far more impressive than the formulas, and it's here that Epicuren Discovery takes the cake! They make some of the most farfetched claims and poorly formulated products the cosmetics industry has to offer.
Promising "a highly effective path to aesthetic improvement" along with an ageless complexion, it's no wonder Epicuren has stimulated so many questions from our readers. It's hard to resist the allure of a line like this, especially when you're being told about the products from well-meaning aestheticians who've just spent the last hour doting on your face.
At the heart of Epicuren is the company's exclusive (always exclusive, isn't it?) enzyme protein complex. They refer to this complex as the Metadermabolic Enzyme and describe it as "a protein that is combined with a waterborne solution of B vitamins to create a protein with intelligence." They claim it encourages your skin to rejuvenate itself, and they actually equate it to how exercise encourages your metabolism. Talk about nonsense! As you might have guessed, there is no research to back any of this up!
Whatever the company wants to call their complex, enzymes, whether from a protein or other substance, aren't extraordinarily beneficial ingredients for skin. They're notoriously unstable and certainly not likely to withstand the environmental exposure inherent to jar packaging, which Epicuren occasionally uses. As for the B vitamins, they show up in most Epicuren products, but they are used throughout the rest of the cosmetics industry as well. More to the point, no single group of vitamins or enzymes is capable of providing skin with everything it needs to repair itself, reduce inflammation, and become better able to withstand the factors that cause aging or the effects of aging.
Most notable is what Epicuren products lack. They come up short on antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-identical ingredients. Skin, just like your diet, needs far more than a few beneficial ingredients. As the largest organ of the body, your skin requires a complex array of substances to keep it healthy and acting younger.
Even more shocking is Epicuren's blatant disregard for both FDA-mandated ingredient disclosure as well as global regulations. Product after product lists either made-up terms (e.g., "food grain distillate" or trade names such as Optiphen, which is a preservative, alongside ingredients that are listed inaccurately [we supply the correct names in parenthesis]). Not only is such labeling illegal, but also it keeps consumers in the dark about exactly what they'e putting on their skin. Epicuren had this same issue when we first reviewed their products in 2000, and it is shocking to me that they're still getting away with this deception on so many of their products.
Epicuren's assertion of being all natural is about as bogus as calling polyester natural. Their products contain synthetic preservatives, synthetic sunscreen agents, synthetic fragrance, and silicones to name a few. Plus, many of the natural ingredients they do include are irritants, and, therefore, are bad for skin.
After all of the bad (perhaps surprising) news above, you may be wondering if there are any bright spots in this line. In fact, there are, though they are few and far between, and those bright spots are dimmed somewhat by the needlessly high prices. The best news is that Epicuren gets all of their sunscreens right in terms of reliable UVA-protecting ingredients. Many of them also have elegant, lightweight textures and non-greasy finishes that consumers will enjoy, and anything that encourages more frequent sunscreen usage is positive. Epicuren also has a few sleeper products, such as a fragrance-free, fast-acting eye-makeup remover and an intriguing skin-lightening product with an impressive amount of the hydroquinone alternative arbutin. None of this good news is enough to warrant an Epicuren shopping spree, but if you're curious about these products or frequent a spa that retails this brand, at least you'll know which ones are worth your time and money after reading my reviews.
For more information about Epicuren Discovery, call (800) 235-1217 or visit www.epicuren.com.
Note: Our research assistant reported that Epicuren's customer service response for an initial email was very good; however, if follow-up questions occur (as is often the case), don't expect to hear from the company again. This odd behavior happened unfailingly, even when our team used a variety of different email addresses.