Iluma Intense Lightening Serum

by Image Skincare  Illuma
Price:
$36 - 1 fl. oz.
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Category:
Skin Care > Serums > Serums
Last Updated:
8/14/2014
Jar Packaging:
No
Tested On Animals:
No

IMAGE Skincare nearly had an impressive product in their Iluma Intense Lightening Serum! There are a number of plant extracts present in this formula that have research-supported potential to inhibit melanin (skin pigment) production, such as bearberry, mulberry, and licorice root extracts, as well as arbutin, multiple forms of vitamin C, and azelaic acid. Wow! But don't get too excited—this has a considerable flaw that keeps it from being a product we recommend.

The show-stopping ingredient is the fragrant Satsuma orange (Citrus unshiu) peel extract, present in an amount greater than any of this product's beneficial ingredients! Satsuma peel extract contains an abundance of irritating fragrance components (primarily limonene and linalool), which can provoke an allergenic and irritant response on the skin (Sources: Contact Dermatitis, 2006 and 2010).

Inflammation in the skin is a prime factor in the development of aging free radicals, and the goal when using an anti-aging treatment is to reduce that type of pro-aging activity. See More Info for additional details on fragrance in skin-care products.

IMAGE Skincare also included the ingredient hexylresorcinol—a synthetic ingredient that has been shown to have skin-lightening ability in cell cultures, but there is limited research about its effect when applied topically to the skin. It functions primarily as an antioxidant, antiseptic, and anesthetic (numbing agent) (Sources: Free Radical Research, 2003; and Archives of Pharmacology, 2009). Research shows that it reduces browning in fruit and shrimp, but how it works in doing that isn't the same as the various methods of treating skin discolorations. For more on this ingredient, see our entry in the Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary.

Because many of the most intriguing ingredients in Iluma Intense Lightening Serum are sensitive to air and light, the clear glass dropper packaging is a problem. Ideally, such a product should be housed in a container that doesn't actively work against the ingredients' stability; a bottle with some degree of air restriction (which this product lacks) would be better.

Bottom line: The beneficial ingredients present in Iluma Intense Lightening Serum don't outweigh the potential harm from the significant amount of citrus extract it contains. Instead, consider any of the well-formulated alternatives on our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products.

Pros:
  • Contains a comprehensive array of proven melanin-inhibiting and antioxidant ingredients.
Cons:
  • Includes a potent amount of Satsuma peel extract, which has well-established irritant potential for the skin.
  • Packaged in a clear glass dropper, which allows the light- and air-sensitive ingredients to deteriorate. (A tinted container with an air-flow restrictor would better maintain their effectiveness.)
More Info:

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 formulation of botanical lighteners, vitamin C and grape seed extract which gently reduces inflammation while promoting a clear, fresh-looking complexion. Calms skin following skin treatments, laser and waxing. Vectorize-Technology delivers a complex of encapsulated ingredients time released up to 48 hours for a long lasting effect. Ideal for all skin types.

Aqua, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Algae Extract (and) Mugwort (Artemesia Vulgaris) Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi Leaf (Bearberry) Extract, Dimethicone Copolyol Eicosinate, Hexylrescorcinol, Arbutin, Azelaic Acid, Sucrose Palmitate, Puerararia Tuberosa Leaf Cell Extract, Chlorella Vulgaris Extract, Corallina Officinalis Concentrate, Morus Alba (Mulberry) Leaf Extract, Echinacea Purpurea Extract, Rumex Occidentalis Extract, Phyllanthus Embilica Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Polystyrene Sulfonate

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.

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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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