Tested on animals:Yes
L'Oreal finally gets in the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) category with their Revitalift® Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Peel Pads. These soft, nicely-sized pads contain what the brand describes on the product's box as "10% glycolic complex". We're not sure what that means but as far as the ingredient list is concerned it is highly unlikely the formula contains 10% glycolic acid. That's too bad, because 10% glycolic acid is an impressive, effective amount for a product labeled "peel".
Unlike many AHA products, this one's formula is pH-correct. The pH of 3.6 means the AHA will work to exfoliate skin—so even if the amount of glycolic acid is below 10% (we suspect it's hovering between 3—5% but L'Oreal wouldn't confirm the amount), you'll still see skin-smoothing, tone-improving benefits. Products with 10% glycolic acid typically list the ingredient much higher up on the list, but since it’s the seventh one listed here, we’re skeptical that the “10% glycolic complex” is actually 10% glycolic acid. It’s more likely that in calling it a “complex”, L’Oreal may be including other ingredients, but the brand wouldn’t confirm this when we called.
Not really disappointing so far, but, as they say, wait for it: The pads are stepped in a potentially sensitizing amount of denatured alcohol—the kind that's a turn for the worse for all skin types. See More Info to learn why seeing this much alcohol in any skincare product is a problem.
Interestingly, even though the formula also contains fragrance, the pads don't have a perfume-y scent. Instead, you get a strong hit from the alcohol, which fades as you apply to skin. Despite this, seeing fragrance in a product with denatured alcohol and a potentially moderate amount of glycolic acid at a lower pH isn't doing your skin any favors.
Another concerning ingredient is hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid (also known as HEPES). It’s a buffering ingredient (typically used to establish a neutral pH) with research indicating it can generate free radical damage in the presence of oxygen (Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, August 2005, pages 1,653-1,660 and November 2004, issue 11, pages 1696-1702). That has us worried even though research on how this directly impacts skin hasn’t been done. Still, there are definitely other buffering agents that could have been used instead of this seemingly problematic one.
With some minor tweaks, these daily-use pads could've been a great (though ultimately pricey) way to visibly improve skin in multiple ways. Instead, we urge you to check out our list of Best AHA Exfoliants for better ways to see younger, smoother-looking skin.
- Contains glycolic acid formulated within the right pH range for exfoliation to occur.
- Soft, nicely-sized pads are easy to use.
- Amount of alcohol poses a risk of sensitizing skin.
- Contains an ingredient that could potentially promote free radical damage.
- Amount of AHA glycolic acid might be less than what's touted on the box.
- Fragrance ingredients pose a risk of sensitizing skin (though these pads don't have a perfume-y scent).
- Meant for daily use, but the price doesn't make these pads a wise buy.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Alcohol's effect on your skin is similar to its effect on the rest of your body: it steals the good (hydration) and leaves the bad (dryness, redness, and discomfort). Research has made it clear that alcohol as a main ingredient in any skincare product you use repeatedly is a problem.
When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we're referring to denatured ethanol, which you'll most often see listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat, denatured alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol on the ingredient label.
When you see these names of this type of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, without question they will aggravate and be cruel to skin. No way around that, it's simply bad for all skin types.
These types of volatile alcohols give products a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it's easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. But those short term benefits lead to negative long term outcomes!
Consequences include dryness, erosion of skin's surface (that's really bad for skin), and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.
We are often challenged on this information based on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology, July 2007, issue 1, pages 74-81 that concluded "alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing…" The only thing this study showed is that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash containing sodium lauryl sulfate. Think about it this way, if you test to see whether or not you'll get burnt by a flame or slowly boiling hot water, you will quickly get damaged by the fire. You will eventually be damaged by the slowly boiling hot water it will just take longer, but burned you will be.
There are other types of "alcohols", known as fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be exceptionally beneficial for skin. Examples you'll see on ingredient labels include cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol. All of these are good ingredients for skin. It's important to discern these skin-friendly forms of alcohol from the problematic types of alcohol.
The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from alcohol can lead to an increase in bumps and enlarged pores. Alcohol can actually increase oiliness because of the irritating feeling it creates, so the immediate de-greasing effect is eventually counteracted, prompting your oily skin to look even shinier.
References for this information
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, issue 1, pages 41-49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, issue 6, pages 542-551
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, issue 3, pages 179-190
Aging, March 2012, issue 3, pages 166-175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77-80
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, issue 3
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, issue 5, pages 360-366.