Ageless Total Skin Lightening Serum, like many of the products in the IMAGE Skincare line, comes close to greatness yet is held back by its heavy-handed approach to fragrance ingredients that pose a risk of irritation. That's unfortunate, because for those wishing to get rid of brown spots, this contains a number of plant extracts that have research-supported potential to inhibit excess melanin (skin pigment) production, such as bearberry, mulberry, and licorice root extracts, as well as vitamin C and azelaic acid.
We'd love to recommend this, but because we know the research, we can't look past the generous amount of fragrant Satsuma orange (Citrus unshiu) peel extract present. Research demonstrates that this ingredient's primary fragrance components (limonene and linalool) have strong potential to provoke an allergenic and irritant response on the skin (Sources: Contact Dermatitis, 2006 and 2010). The damaging impact of this type of inflammation in the skin will fight against the anti-aging goals you likely are hoping to reach when using a product like this. See More Info for additional details on fragrance in skin-care products.
One of the skin-lightening ingredients present is kojic acid. Although it's a good one, like many such ingredients, it's unstable, and will lose its potency when exposed to air or light. This is worth mentioning because Ageless Total Skin Lightening Serum is housed in a dropper (without any internal air restrictors) and packaged in clear glass, both factors that will likely allow this unstable ingredient to lose its effectiveness (a common sign is rapid browning of the serum).
We should note that IMAGE Skincare makes grandiose claims surrounding the plant stem cells in this formula. While plant stem cells may have antioxidant benefit for the skin (much like most plant extracts), they aren't the miraculous skin-cell saviors cosmetics companies make them out to be. In fact, unless you want to be a plant, plant stem cells are relatively useless (See More Info for a reality check on plant stem cells).
Bottom line: Ageless Total Skin Lightening Serum is a mixed bag—and the beneficial ingredients present don't outweigh the potential irritation from the citrus extract present. Instead, consider any of the well-formulated alternatives on our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products.
- Contains a comprehensive array of proven melanin-inhibiting and antioxidant ingredients.
- Includes a potent amount of Satsuma peel extract, which has well-established irritant potential for the skin.
- Packaged in a clear glass dropper, which likely reduces the potency and stability of several ingredients.
- The plant stem cells do not work as claimed.
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 (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).
Stem Cells in Skincare Products: Stem cells are cells in animals and plants that are capable of becoming any other type of cell in that organism and of producing more of those cells. Despite the fact that stem cell research is in its infancy, many cosmetics companies claim they are successfully using plant-based or human-derived stem cells in their anti-aging products. The claims run the gamut, from reducing wrinkles to elastin repair and cell regeneration, so the temptation for consumers to try these is intense.
The truth is that stem cells in skin-care products do not work as claimed. In fact, they likely have no effect at all because stem cells must be alive to function as stem cells. Once these delicate cells are added to skin-care products, they are long dead and, therefore, useless.
Plant stem cells, such as those derived from apples, melons, flowers, and rice, cannot stimulate stem cells in human skin, but because they are from plants these ingredients likely have antioxidant
properties. Actually, it's a good thing plant stem cells can't work as stem cells in skin-care products; after all, you don't want your skin to absorb cells that can grow into apples or watermelons!
There are also claims that because a plant's stem cells allow a plant to repair itself or to survive in harsh climates, these benefits can be passed on to human skin. How a plant functions in nature is unrelated to human skin, and these claims are completely without substantiation.
Another twist on the issue is that cosmetics company's claim they have taken components (such as peptides) out of the plant stem cells and made them stable so they then can work as stem cells. This approach is not valid because stem cells must be complete to function normally. Even if you could isolate substances or extracts from these cells and make them stable, there is no published research showing they can affect stem cells in human skin.
An oil-free serum with a natural blend of Bearberry, Kojic Acid and Licorice to lighten freckles, melasma and age spots. High doses of Vitamin C immediately reduce the redness associated with Rosacea.
Aqua (Deionized Water, Eau), Citrus Unshiu (Peel Extract), Glycerin, Kojic Acid, Rumex Extract, Butylene Glycol, PEG-8/SMDI Copolymer, Arctostaphylos UVA Ursi Leaf Extract (Bearberry), Morus Alba Leaf Extract (Mulberry) Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (Green Tea), Hydrocotyl Extract (Centella Asiatica), Coneflower Extract, (Echinacea Purpurea), Azelaic Acid, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (Licorice) Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract (Chamomile), Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract
IMAGE Skincare, a brand operated out of West Palm Beach, Florida, focuses on the concept of “pharmaceutical grade” skin-care products (more on that in a moment). Developed by its president and CEO, Janna Robert, IMAGE Skincare is distributed in spas and dermatology offices. However, it can also be found on retail websites like Amazon (despite the company’s claim that these aren’t approved retailers).
The IMAGE Skincare approach promotes the concept that those of a certain age should use a certain line of products—a visit to their website’s product recommendation page has their five collections categorized by age range, which is a silly concept.
Here’s why that approach makes for poor skin care: Simply put, age is not a skin type—the types of ingredients skin needs to stay healthy and act younger are the same whether you’re 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years old, or beyond. Just as a healthy diet doesn’t change as you age, the same is true for skin care. What skin needs to be healthy does not change with age.
To underscore this fact, IMAGE Skincare’s recommendations are virtually identical, no matter which age range you select. Interestingly, their age ranges are grouped into three categories: 1–18 (OK, … a 1-year-old? How bizarre is that! A baby is supposed to have a skin-care routine?); 19–35; and then...”36+.”
Someone over the age of 40 (all the way to those over 65) can have oily skin and breakouts, and teens can have dry, sun-damaged skin. Research shows that the same ingredients are needed to improve and heal the problem, regardless of age. Relating age to skin care is just silly!
IMAGE Skincare defines their “aging later” approach to mean that if you want to delay the signs of aging, you need to give skin more of what it needs to stay healthier, longer. That includes their recommendation of regular use of AHA/BHA exfoliants, formulas loaded with antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients, as well as wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
We absolutely agree with those points—anti-aging is about taking care of your skin, keeping it protected from environmental harms (i.e., unprotected sun exposure and pollution), and ensuring that all of your products are loaded with beneficial ingredients, no matter your age. Their list of recommendations should also include using products that are free of irritants; that is, ingredients that have documented research indicating their potential to harm skin by causing inflammation and free-radical damage.
Unfortunately, that latter point is where many of IMAGE Skincare’s products veer off the mark. For all their claims of including only what’s best for the skin, we were disappointed to find that almost all of their products contain at least one irritating fragrance extract or essential oil (some IMAGE Skincare products are overloaded with them), and the fragrance is often overwhelming, lingering on the skin and wafting from the container immediately on opening.
On a side note, the intense fragrance of many of their products makes us skeptical of their ingredient lists—they don’t list what could be causing the perfume-like, sickly sweet odor. Fragrance, whether natural or synthetic, is a problem for the skin because of the irritations it can cause.
What about their claim of offering “pharmaceutical grade” ingredients and formulas? When a brand uses the term “pharmaceutical” in describing their products, they’re trying to invoke the idea that their formulas are somehow different or “stronger” than those you can find anywhere else. This is nothing more than marketing wordplay—there are no (repeat, no) pharmaceutical-grade skin-care products because the term is not regulated by the FDA, so there is no standard or meaning to the claim. Just as the words “cosmeceutical” and “hypoallergenic” are meaningless, “pharmaceutical grade” is as well.
What matters is that the ingredients they include have published, peer-reviewed research and that your products conform to the safety guidelines and standards set forth in the FDA’s labeling regulatory requirements (or international regulatory bodies, if you’re outside the United States).
Strangely enough, it was challenging to find accurate ingredient lists for IMAGE Skincare. In some instances, the list on the packaging was incomplete and/or very different from the ingredient list found online (even from “approved” resellers allegedly using information supplied by IMAGE). We are reluctant to trust any company that can’t get this simple regulation right; think about buying food at the grocery store that didn’t have a label listing everything that was in it.
For example, IMAGE Skincare’s Prevention + Daily Matte Moisturizer Oil Free SPF 30+ claims to contain microsponge technology (absorbent polymers that help to control excess oil), and yet the product packaging doesn’t list any such ingredients. And, in the case of one of their anti-acne treatments, the combined use of the two active ingredients falls outside of FDA guidelines for anti-acne products (Source: FDA 21 CFR 333.310, 2014).
In the end, some of the products IMAGE Skincare offers are (possibly) worth looking into, but overall we were disappointed in the brand because so many of their formulas, including those of some otherwise impressive products, contained an excess of fragrance, made outlandish marketing claims, and had an abundance of ingredient misinformation wrapped in “pharmaceutical-grade” pseudoscience. We prefer science based in reality—everything else is just hype, and hype is not the way to take the best possible care of your skin… at any age!
For more information about IMAGE Skincare, call 1-800-796-SKIN (7546) or visit www.imageskincare.com.