This toner misrepresents its AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) by trying to convince you that various fruit extracts have the same effect as glycolic and lactic acids—they don’t. Plus, this toner’s mix of helpful and problematic ingredients is bound to leave any skin type confused (meaning irritated). As such, it is not recommended.
Soothing and gentle refresher removes impurities without tightening or drying. Contains a complex of Alpha Hydroxy Fruit Acids to gently exfoliate, improving skin tone and clarity. Smoothes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Botanical extracts of Cucumber, Chamomile, Ginseng and Green Tea calm delicate skin. Oil-free. Alcohol-free.
Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Bilberry Extract, Oleth-10, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Methyl Gluceth-20, Lemon Extract, Orange Extract, Sugar Maple Extract, Cucumber Extract, Matricaria Extract, Camellia Sinensis Extract, Ginseng Extract, Witch Hazel Distillate, Allantoin, Sodium PCA, Menthol, Glycereth 26, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Lactate, Nonoxynols-15, Phenoxyethanol, Methyl Lactate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea
Merle Norman opened her first cosmetics studio in Santa Monica, California, in 1931. She believed strongly that women would love her products, if only she could "get them on their faces," and the company's now-famous try-before-you-buy program was launched. To this day, women who visit any of Merle Norman's 2,000 boutiques spread across the United States, Canada, and Mexico can take advantage of the company's product samples before making a purchase.
The free samples are great, but the question is why anyone would be inclined to try Merle Norman skin-care products. Although there have been some improvements since the Cosmetics Cop Team last reviewed this brand, much of what was problematic back then is still around today, and still problematic - and that's not good news for your skin.
Across the board, the biggest issue is jar packaging. Several of the moisturizers didn't receive better than a neutral face rating because they are poorly packaged. For a company claiming to be cutting edge, they somehow missed, or chose to ignore, the research showing how state-of-the-art ingredients deteriorate when exposed to light and air. In addition, repeatedly sticking your fingers into a product isn't sanitary, and further degrades the ingredients. What good is adding a lot of antioxidants and other plant extracts or vitamins to a product if their efficacy is all but gone within a week or two of opening?
There are other weak spots to watch out for, too, especially in the Luxiva Changing Skin and Luxiva Clear Complexion lines. Merle Norman also sells a group of antiquated products that are little more than cold cream and super-greasy moisturizers. These are as far removed as you can get from what we know about what skin needs to look younger and function in a healthy manner. Using many of Merle Norman's products is like using a typewriter instead of a computer.
As far as what's to like, you'll find several well-formulated cleansers and toners, some reliable AHA and BHA products, and an impressive lip balm, and most of the SPF-rated products provide broad-spectrum protection. Ultimately, it wouldn't be wise to try to assemble a comprehensive skin-care routine from Merle Norman, but if you focus on their better products you'll do okay.
For the record, it is perfectly fine to mix Merle Norman products with those from other brands. We doubt you'll get this advice if you visit any of the Merle Norman Studios, but it's true. In fact, this applies to any skin-care brand—what counts is the individual product and how well it's formulated, not the company's predetermined ideas that their products work best if and only if they're used together.
For more information about Merle Norman, call (310) 641-3000 or visit www.merlenorman.com.
Note: We know that we've stated for quite some time that the team wouldn't be revisiting this line because of Merle Norman's complete disinterest in helping us get the information we need to review their products accurately. Over the years, my staff has been kicked out of several Merle Norman boutiques, both here in the Seattle area and in other states. As soon as we began taking notes or if we asked too many questions, we were eyed with suspicion and then asked to leave. There are two reasons we changed our mind: (1) our Beautypedia subscribers kept asking us to re-review this brand, and (2) a Merle Norman employee agreed to help us obtain the information we need, as long as she remained anonymous. We wish to extend a sincere thanks to the woman who sent us dozens upon dozens of samples and helped us compile all of the accurate information that made these reviews possible.
Please note: These product prices are in U.S. dollars, and for reasons unknown Merle Norman products are substantially more expensive in Canadian boutiques. Please be aware when shopping that these ratings are a reflection of U.S. prices only.