Iluma Intense Bleaching Serum contains some great ingredients to treat brown spots and other forms of discolorations, but is not recommended because it contains far too many irritating ingredients—and why risk the possibility of skin-damaging irritation when there are so many skin-lightening products that omit those kinds of ingredients?
First, the good news: IMAGE Skincare includes the gold-standard skin lightener hydroquinone, which many also consider the gold standard for treating melasma and brown spots; plus it has more than a half century of safety data behind it. Boosting the hydroquinone are brown spot–reducing licorice root extract plus glycolic acid, and this formula's pH of (3.5–4.0) allows exfoliation to occur.
Unfortunately, the multiple fragrant extracts and oils are a problem. Ingredients such as eucalyptus and spearmint oils have a potent ability to provoke irritation in the skin (Sources: Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 2006; and Contact Dermatitis, 2001), and irritation is pro-aging, not anti-aging. See More Info for additional details on fragrance in skin-care products.
We should also note that the name of this product perpetuates the myth that skin lighteners "bleach" the skin. Hydroquinone doesn't "bleach" the skin—it works by temporarily slowing the production of excess melanin in the treated areas. So, once you stop using hydroquinone, the discolorations will return, and you must be good, nay, neurotic, about daily sun protection, which is critical to controlling excess melanin production.
Iluma Intense Bleaching Serum starts off promising, but given the negatives that follow, we recommend considering instead any of the well-formulated alternatives on our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products.
One more comment: The clear glass packaging of this product will not keep its skin-lightening ingredients (particularly the hydroquinone) effective, because routine exposure to light causes these ingredients to break down and lose their potency.
- Contains several research-proven melanin-inhibiting (brown spot–reducing) ingredients.
- Contains numerous irritating fragrance ingredients.
- Packaged in a clear glass dropper. (A tinted container with an air-flow restrictor will better maintain the stability of these ingredients.)
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).
A strong, oil-free formulation of hydroquinone, glycolic, azelaic acid and natural lightening agents to effectively lighten skin discolorations. Tea tree oil helps to calm inflamed skin and provides for a gentle application. Corrects epidermal pigmentation, reduces dark skin spots, treats post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Active Ingredients: Hydroquinone 2%; Inactive Ingredients: Aqua, Glycolic Acid, Citric Acid, Phytic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Xanthan Gum, Mentha Virdis (Spearmint) Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Pineapple-Coconut Enzyme
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.