If the claims for L’Oreal’s Youth Code products and their GenActiv technology sound familiar, that’s because Lancome (which L’Oreal owns) claimed almost the same thing in 2010 when they launched their Genifique products. No one on the Paula’s Choice Team was surprised when Youth Code was announced, as it isn’t uncommon for L’Oreal and Lancome to offer similar products whose only significant differences are price and retail location.
Before we discuss the “breakthrough claims” and the technology behind this product, you need to know that this product is merely a lightweight daytime moisturizer with an in-part avobenzone sunscreen (the avobenzone is stabilized by octocrylene, which is great). L’Oreal got the critical UVA protection issue right this time, something they often leave out of their formulas here in the United States. Other than that, this product, which is best for normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin, doesn’t break any new ground. In fact, the overall formula is average when compared with the other options you’ll find on our Best Moisturizers with Sunscreen list.
The crux of Youth Code is the claim that it stimulates genes in your skin that supposedly are responsible for its regenerating power.
It is absolutely true that there are genes in our skin responsible for generating proteins. These proteins create antioxidant pathways that protect skin from intrinsic (internal) and external signs of aging. As we age (actually, as we accumulate more sun damage from years of exposure), these genes become less able to “express” themselves in a healthy manner. That leads to oxidation within the skin and a decreased ability for the gene-generated proteins and enzymes to handle oxidative stress. The result of these deficiencies is damaged collagen, inflammation, and unwanted changes to skin texture, such as roughness, increased sensitivity, and, yes, wrinkles (Sources: Planta Medica, October 2008, pages 1548–1559; Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, February 2008, pages 79–88; and Free Radical Biology & Medicine, August 2008, pages 385–395).
What is L’Oreal’s solution—a yeast ingredient known as bifida ferment lysate. The problem is that there’s no research proving that this specific form of yeast has any anti-aging, regenerating, or gene-stimulating activity when applied to skin. You’d think that after 10 years of research, L’Oreal would publish their findings, but they haven’t. Of course, there’s also the issue that treating aging skin depends on more than a single ingredient or even one group of ingredients.
Getting back to the bifida ferment lysate, there is limited research showing that yeast ferment filtrate (a compound different from bifida ferment lysate) reduces oxidative skin damage in the presence of UV light, but this research also showed that many other antioxidants have a similar effect (Sources: Archives of Dermatological Research, April 2008, pages S51–S56; and Journal of Dermatological Science, June 2006, pages 249–257).
In the end, despite all the gene-stimulating and youth-regenerating claims, this isn’t a must-have product for skin of any age, although the sunscreen is certainly capable of providing broad-spectrum protection.
After 10 years of research, L’Oréal scientists unlock the code of skin’s youth by discovering a specific set of genes that are responsible for skin’s natural power of regeneration. With L’Oréals breakthrough GenActiv Technology, this powerful daily moisturizer can increase skin’s power of regeneration so it regains the qualities of young skin. See smoother, youthfully luminous and rested skin emerge. Plus, skin is protected with broad spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 30 to help prevent future signs of damage. The lightweight, oil-free texture of this lotion leaves a smooth and velvety soft finish on your skin.
Active: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (2.7%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (7%). Other: Water, Isononyl Isononanoate, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Sucrose Tristearate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polysorbate-61, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Carbomer, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein, Triethanolamine, Dimethiconol, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Adenosine, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylparaben, Fragrance, Limonene, Potassium Sorbate
Just like its sister company Lancome, L'Oreal doesn't have its act together when it comes to skin-care products. For all their talk of advanced formulas, fancy double-page ads in fashion magazines, and impressive-sounding quotes from scientists at their research and development facilities, most of what L'Oreal offers for skin care is a whole lot of nothing—or at least nothing tremendously helpful for helping skin look and feel its best.
An ongoing issue with L'Oreal (at least in the United States) is the lack of sufficient UVA-protecting ingredients in their daytime moisturizers with sunscreen. Very few of them contain the actives that provide as much UVA protection as you can get from a sunscreen. Yet this major oversight (and it’s not just with the older products—several newer sunscreens launched with this deficiency) didn't stop L'Oreal from heralding the FDA's approval of their patented ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) sunscreen for use in the United States. (Mexoryl SX has been approved for years in Europe, and L'Oreal routinely uses it in the sunscreens they sell there.) The attention-getting headline was that Mexoryl SX provides "the best" and "most stable" UVA protection, but that's not entirely true; there are other options. Why didn't anyone in the media point out to L'Oreal that while Mexoryl SX may be great, that doesn't explain why the majority of their other sunscreens leave the consumers who use them vulnerable to UVA damage… Sigh… Inadequate UVA protection is not only unhealthy for your skin, it severely damages L'Oreal's credibility as an international skin-care authority.
Aside from the sunscreen frustrations, L'Oreal's moisturizers are a yawn-inducing, fairly repetitive bunch. A cursory review of their formulas demonstrates that L'Oreal is simply not keeping pace with the competition, just as Lancome isn't at the department-store level. When it comes to moisturizers or serums, just about anything from Dove, Olay, Neutrogena, or Aveeno is preferred. L'Oreal does well with most of their cleansers, along with scrubs and self-tanning products, but given the widespread availability and financial resources of this line they could be doing so much more. (You have to wonder if they're more interested in advertising and public relations than in advancing skin-care expertise.) The makeup has made major strides and now ranks as the best overall color collection at the drugstore—imagine the results if their skin care followed suit!
Note: Unless mentioned otherwise, all L'Oreal skin-care products contain fragrance.
For more information about L'Oreal, call (800) 322-2036 or visit www.loreal.com or www.lorealparisusa.com.
L’Oreal Paris Makeup
L'Oreal's extensive makeup collection retains its stature as the overall best at the drugstore, though they have stiff competition from Revlon and, in some cases, sister company Maybelline New York. In recent years L'Oreal has made significant strides with foundation shades, powder textures, concealers, and, of course, superlative mascaras that rarely fail to impress. Their lipsticks are excellent and you will find many L'Oreal makeup products have a Lancome counterpart, and that the differences are minor, if they exist at all.
L'Oreal's displays in many drugstores have been updated to reflect better-organized products and shade categories (though testers are still scarce). Given the number of lipsticks they sell, it only makes sense to put them in color families so consumers have a better shopping experience. Their True Match products are also sensibly laid out, but the rest of the foundations aren't as organized, likely due to the smaller selection of shades. Speaking of foundations, L'Oreal has made further strides by offering more that provide sufficient UVA protection. Revlon still has the edge for consistently launching impressive foundations with sunscreen, but at least L'Oreal is (finally) catching up. The bottom line is that every category of L'Oreal’s makeup has some winning (and in some cases, benchmark-setting) products. They fall short with their powder eyeshadows, but not enough to warrant avoiding them, especially if you prefer sheer eye makeup. Still, with only minor tweaking and consistent adherence to the importance of UVA protection in their cosmetic products with sunscreen, L'Oreal could pull ahead to be the hands-down winner when it comes to shopping for makeup at the drugstore.