This water-based serum is said to be excellent for treating cystic acne, rosacea, and insect bites—quite a diverse range of problems. Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus has a formula that differs little from the other vitamin C–based serums from iS Clinical, although those others are sold with quite different claims. We suspect iS Clinical didn’t think anyone would notice.
As it turns out, this serum is neither healing nor helpful for any skin problem, especially rosacea, because it contains alcohol. Alcohol causes free-radical damage and irritation, and hurts the skin’s ability to heal. The amount of alcohol isn’t considerable, but its mere presence isn’t good news for skin battling acne or rosacea; plus, it’s listed before the beneficial ingredients such as retinol and tocopherol (vitamin E).
Particularly troubling is the claim that this serum can treat cystic acne. This type of acne, which can lead to disfiguring scars, is not treatable with over-the-counter skin-care products. Even well-formulated anti-acne products that contain ingredients that research has shown to be the gold standard for acne (i.e., benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid) don’t offer much relief for this severe condition. Medical intervention is needed to get this type of acne to heal. Moreover, there is minimal research indicating vitamin C (the main “active” ingredient in this serum) is a winning ingredient for any type of acne. It is definitely not preferred to retinol or salicylic acid, and the form of vitamin C used in published studies on treating acne isn’t the same kind that iS Clinical uses (Sources: International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2009, pages 41–46; and Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, April 2008, pages 955–971).
What about rosacea? Unfortunately, the acid component of ascorbic acid (vitamin C’s native form, which is what’s in this serum) can be too irritating for rosacea-affected skin. Stabilized forms of vitamin C (e.g., magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) may prove helpful for rosacea due to their anti-inflammatory action. However, anyone struggling with rosacea should avoid products or ingredients that cause flare-ups, regardless of any specific ingredient’s traits.
This advanced serum combines Vitamin C, Olive Leaf Extract, Vitamin E and Vitamin A for excellent antioxidant and healing properties. This serum is excellent for treating rosacea, cystic acne, insect bites and some forms of dermatitis.
Water, Ascorbic Acid, Laureth-4, Alcohol Denat., Pentylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Zinc Sulfate, Tocopherol, Polyporus Umbellatus (Mushroom) Extract, Arbutin, Glycerin, Bioflavonoids, Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol
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.