Jan Marini's Age Intervention Enlighten Plus appears to be a reformulation of the brand's discontinued Age Intervention Enlighten Facial Lotion. Unfortunately, it wasn't a change for the better, as this version has the same substantial flaws that make it (and what it replaced) not worth your time or money. However, let's soldier on and take a closer look at what you're getting for a hefty price tag.
Age Intervention Enlighten Plus uses kojic dipalmitate as its main skin-lightening agent. Sounds promising, but whoops, there's a problem: Kojic dipalmitate isn't the same as pure kojic acid, a skin-lightening agent that some cosmetic companies use as a substitute for hydroquinone.
Although kojic acid isn't the most reliable skin-lightening agent either, it does work. It's just that it can be problematic for some in terms of causing skin irritation. Hydroquinone has some negative research as well, but considerably more positive research (including safety and toxicity studies) to support its effectiveness and ongoing use.
In contrast, kojic dipalmitate has few published studies, and that merely examined how to detect the ingredient in cosmetic products, not whether or not it actually worked to lighten skin discolorations. (Sources: Talanta, April 2008, pages 407–411; Analytical Biochemistry, June 2002, pages 260–268; and American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2000, pages 261–268). Still, because kojic dipalmitate is related to kojic acid, it may theoretically have some lightening effect, but it's not a sure thing, and for the price Marini is charging, you should expect a product that actually has the potential to live up to its claims.
The other skin-lightening agent used is hexylresorcinol, an antimicrobial agent, and the only research pertaining to its effect on melanin (skin pigment) has to do with treating fresh shrimp during processing to prevent black spots (melanosis) that would undoubtedly decrease their visual appeal at the local seafood counter. (Sources: Journal of Food Science, April 2008, pages S124–S133; and Journal of Food Protection, January 2005, pages 98–104). While we're all for innovation in skin care, it is a stretch that either one will be the answer to your skin discoloration issues, as human skin cells and the those of dead shrimp are not exactly related.
Marini also references the retinol in this product as being capable of suppressing excess melanin production, but that ability isn't reflected in the body of research for this vitamin A ingredient, at least not when used by itself and not when compared to tretinoin (the active ingredient in Renova and Retin-A). Instead, retinol's role in skin lightening tends to be more as a co-factor when paired with skin-lightening agents such as hydroquinone, vitamin C, or glycolic acid (Sources: Cutis, December 2007, pages 497–502; and Cosmetic Dermatology, January 2005, Supplement: "Revisiting Retinol"). That's one more reason why a good retinol product should contain other ingredients to ensure maximum results—retinol alone isn't enough.
Lighten up! The good news for those seeking alternatives to hydroquinone is there are plenty of ingredients (and ingredient combinations) that truly are effective. Arbutin, vitamin C, niacinamide, acetyl glucosamine, mulberry and licorice root extract are all examples, and most importantly, published research has demonstrated them effective in treating brown spots and other discolorations from sun damage and breakouts. While Age Intervention Enlighten Plus does utilize licorice extract and arbutin in smaller amounts, they aren't enough to rescue this flawed formula, especially considering the numerous well-formulated alternatives on the market. See our top picks in the Best Skin-Lightening Products section.
- Uses relatively unproven ingredients to lighten skin discolorations.
- Uses the ingredient arnica, which is an irritant in daily, long-term application.