Strengths: Huge assortment of AHA and PHA products, all with correct pH to exfoliate; sunscreens that include AHA and/or PHA at right pH and provide reliable broad-spectrum sun protection; good cleansers; some excellent serums and lightweight moisturizers; the Exuviance makeup products are worth a try if you need full coverage with sufficient sun protection.
Weaknesses: No BHA products (better for blemish-prone skin or for those who can't tolerate AHAs or PHA); no topical disinfectants (a basic for those with acne); all hydroquinone products have at least one major negative; irritating toners; jar packaging; potentially problematic self-tanning products; lip balms contain irritating spearmint oil; most NeoCeuticals products are terrible.
Exfoliation is the name of the game for this line! The original NeoStrata and Exuviance brands were created by Drs. Eugene Van Scott and Ruey Yu, the two researchers who own the original patent (actually, they hold over 80 patents) for the use of glycolic acid (AHA) in relation to its ability to diminish wrinkles, among other capabilities. Few lines offer reliable and effective formulations for exfoliation, so those that do deserve your attention. Well-formulated AHA products are those that have an effective concentration of AHAs and a base with an acidic pH that allows them to have maximum benefit. The exfoliation that AHAs provide reduces the thickness of the skin's outer layer, helping skin to quickly look smoother and feel softer, which in turn can solve many skin problems, including dryness, blemishes, sun damage, and skin discolorations. A good deal of research also shows that AHAs can help increase the thickness of the underlying layers of skin, improve skin structure, increase collagen production, and allow penetration of other skin-care ingredients. Moreover, NeoStrata is one of the only companies to sell a range of reliable sunscreens that also contain effective AHA formulations.
Both the NeoStrata (these products are reviewed separately) and Exuviance lines contain glycolic acid (AHA), but even more of these products contain a polyhydroxy acid (PHA) called gluconolactone (also patented by Scott and Yu), and for which similar claims are made. Gluconolactone is supposed to be gentler and longer acting than glycolic acid, and its delayed penetration is attributed to its larger molecular size. However, according to an article in Cosmetic Dermatology (July 1998), the skin can't tell the difference between the various effective AHAs, and the possibility of gluconolactone staying on the surface of skin longer than other AHAs did not prove out. So in terms of exfoliation and potential side effects, PHA ends up being as good as AHA. Gluconolactone may be slightly less irritating for some skin types, but this isn't quite the magic bullet for exfoliation NeoStrata claims, though it does indeed work when properly formulated (but so do glycolic and lactic acids). Another PHA NeoStrata uses is lactobionic acid. However, there is no definitive, published research establishing it as an effective alternative to (or partner for) other AHAs or BHA.
Beyond the numerous products that exfoliate (which is NeoStrata's main selling point) there's not much to get excited about, especially for what the company is charging. And it's upsetting that a dermatologist-driven, physician-sold line still has weak spots such as the occasional inclusion of irritating ingredients with no established benefit for skin and, believe it or not, a sunscreen that leaves skin vulnerable to UVA damage. NeoStrata has their act together when it comes to AHAs and PHA, but that tunnel vision has, in some respects, kept them from branching out to offer a better assortment of state-of-the-art products.
For more information about Exuviance, call (800) 225-9411 or visit www.neostrata.com.
Caution: Keep in mind that skin needs only one reliable exfoliant at a time. Exuviance sells so many good ones, you may be tempted to double (or triple) up, but doing so can backfire and be more irritating than helpful.
NeoStrata Exuviance Makeup
The small assortment of Exuviance makeup products takes the "makeup as skin-care" approach by including gluconolactone in all the makeup products. Although Exuviance makes much ado about gluconolactone being a gentler AHA alternative with advanced hydrating and antioxidant ability, information presented in Cosmetic Dermatology (July 1998) doesn't bear this out. That is, it's hard to see any better possibilities for gluconolactone than for the older, mainstay AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. What's not discussed are the effects on skin when multiple products containing gluconolactone are used. Although its reduced rate of penetration might make it less irritating, the fact remains that skin does not need multiple products for sufficient exfoliation.
The most encouraging news is that each Exuviance makeup product includes an effective sunscreen. As far as anti-aging goes, that feature is far more essential than the next AHA alternative. Exuviance makeup has changed hardly at all since it was last reviewed. The three foundations still do not offer a middle-of-the-road option when it comes to coverage. You're left to choose between the opaque CoverBlend makeups or the sheer Skin Caring option. The CoverBlend Concealing Treatment Makeup SPF 20 is truly in a class by itself when it comes to traditional full-coverage makeup, and it's highly recommended if you need significant coverage for discolored areas on the face or body. The tube concealer also offers full coverage (though the colors are not the most neutral around), and the loose powder is a fine, albeit overpriced, option.