Active Serum
1 fl. oz. for $128
Last Updated:12.23.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

This serum is a clear example of why iS Clinical is far from being an innovative line whose products deliver “long-term positive results.” Not only is the price for this tiny bottle of serum outrageous, but also the water- and acrylate-based formula is completely incapable of improving wrinkles and discolorations. The amount of alcohol is cause for concern (alcohol causes free-radical damage and encourages collagen breakdown rather than stimulation) and none of the plant extracts have convincing research proving they are capable of doing what iS Clinical states. The plant extracts have antioxidant ability, but there are lots of other products with better antioxidants in considerably better formulations. Last, the menthol in this product may make you think it’s doing something for your skin, and it is, but that’s a problem because what’s happening is irritation, without benefit, and that’s not the way to look younger. This is an embarrassing, problematic formula for all skin types.


This fast-acting, long-term formula decreases the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Excellent for all skin types except hyper-sensitive, this powerful botanical serum does not have a drying effect on the skin.


Water, Glycerin, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Butylene Glycol, Sd Alcohol 30, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Extract, Triethanolamine, Arbutin, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Polyporus Umbellatus (Mushroom) Extract, Menthol, Phenoxyethanol

Brand Overview

iS Clinical At-A-Glance

Strengths: Good (but pricey) water-soluble cleanser; one exceptional serum and eye cream; good body lotion.

Weaknesses: Very expensive; repetitive serum formulas; several serums contain skin-damaging alcohol; impossible to assemble a comprehensive skin-care routine; the SPF 20 Powder Sunscreen is terribly dry and a huge mess to use; skin lighteing products whose benefits are iffy, yet they cost a fortune.

From a marketing point of view iS Clinical is trying to be yet another "cosmeceutical" line of products designed by physicians and pharmacologists. The owners of iS Clinical claim to have assembled a "world renowned" team to bring consumers the best in anti-aging skin care and what they describe as "anti-aging medicine," even though iS Clinical products aren't about medicine any more than a spoonful of sugar is about medicine (with apologies to Mary Poppins).

The "iS" in the brand's name stands for "innovative skincare." Couple this with the "clinical" portion of the name and it's hardly surprising that lots of consumers concerned about aging skin are wondering yet again if this is the final frontier for their older looking skin. We'll cut to the chase: iS Clinical isn't the anti-aging line to beat, buy, or borrow. In many ways, several of their products are either dated, antiquated formulations or basic one-note products. Overall, their products don't hold up to lots of other products with far superior formulations, many of which cost a lot less, such as Clinique, Estee Lauder, and Paula's Choice to name a few.

The prices for iS Clinical products are definitely on the high side, which is one reason why it's critical that you know which ones are worth the splurge and which ones are a must to avoid, not only for the sake of your beauty budget but also for the health of your skin. As usual in such lines, there are a handful of outstanding products to consider, but there also are a lot to watch out for.

Back to the team behind this brand: If they're indeed preeminent men and women in their fields, it's truly embarrassing that they've created products whose claims are not based on proven, substantiated scientific research. For example, instead of using thoroughly researched exfoliants, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid, iS Clinical went back to the 1990s fad of including mixed fruit and sugarcane extracts for exfoliation. Think of it as using a typewriter instead of a computer; why would you ever go back to a typewriter?

Another shortcoming is their Active Serum for acne, which contains a lot of skin-damaging alcohol and menthol (both really bad for skin), while being void of ingredients proven to benefit blemish-prone skin.

One more point: iS Clinical promotes, under their "Integrity" header on their Web site, the idea that they "…strive to dispel myths in the skincare industry by disclosing and clinically validating all of the ingredients we use." However, there is absolutely not a shred of clinical validation anywhere to be found. It seems that iS Clinical wants you to think they're doing the consumer a favor by providing ingredient lists on each product, but disclosing ingredient information is required by law and has been in the United States since 1976—it's not a discretionary decision cosmetics companies can sidestep, although some have tried! Besides, the company's site only lists key ingredients (those they want to play up) so you're still not getting the full story.

It's almost funny, but not really, that as a way to explain the rationale behind their formulas, they have a section on their Web site called "Clinical Opinions." Well, "opinions" are not the same as scientifically validated research, and that's precisely what is lacking. In fact, the information presented has little to do with skin care. It's actually bizarre because the only thing they provide is a set of the same tired before-and-after pictures and improvement charts for certain products; but, without knowing key details about how the tests were performed and under what conditions the pictures were taken, they aren't just opinions, they are misleading.

For more information about iS Clinical, call (888) 804-4447 or visit www.isclinical.com.

Note: Now this was a first! When my team contacted iS Clinical to inquire about their animal testing status, we were told that they do not make this claim because they believe human beings are animals, and of course, their products are meant for people. We have no idea what that means.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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No major problems so far

I generally refer to Beautypedia to get reviews but I have to say that everyone's skin reacts differently. A point was made about going backs to the 90's by using the exfoliants such as sugar cane. I have used products with both lactic and glycolic acids and they have not worked for me. I am using it for acne and it has only been a few weeks, it recommends a noticeable difference after 3 months. I can already notice smoother skin and improved tone. I do hope the ingredients are not harmful

Reviewed by
Love it!

I'm so thankful I read some of these reviews because I almost did not purchase this product because of what paula said. The skin clinic I go to recommended this product but before buying I wanted to check out reviews online. I love this stuff! !! I've used it gir the last month and it's been a godsend for my skin. I haven't really noticed a change with wrinkles but they aren't too bad anyway. My skin is clearer, softer...more even. I stopped wearing foundation. I've worn foundation since 16!

Reviewed by
Shannon k
Active Serum is amazing!

I love this product! I've been using this product to treat spots and for evening out texture! I've only used this for a month and I have noticed a dramatic difference. My skin feels so much smoother and looks brighter. I have barely any uneven pigmentation and my skin is very nearly flawless! I will continue to use this product. One downfall is that it can leave your skin very dry and flaky so moisturizer is key! It leaves my face feeling fresh and has definitely done it's job.

Reviewed by
Elizabeth B

I've used iS clincial cleansing complex, active serum/ hydra-cool for +5 yrs to treat acne. I have combination skin... dryer in the cool months and combination in the summer. Using Active Serum and Hydracool moisturizing serum together has keep my skin dewy, brighter and acne free for years... even with the high price tag I would never want to go without it. I have used Skin Medica, and Obagi before trying iS Clinical and would not want to go back.

Reviewed by
Tracy K
Active Serum is the best!

I have used this product for seven years, It is amazing! I am 59 years old and look 10 years younger because of active serum. My skin looks healthy, limited if any lines & never used Botox. I think your comments are so unfair and all of my friends who use Active Serum love it. Thanks goodness not everyone listens to you because they would be missing out on a celebrity favorite. Honestly!

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