Active Radiance Serum
1 fl. oz. for $89
Last Updated:03.31.2015
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

The claims for this product are as disingenuous and as obnoxious as it gets. It is supposed to “Undo sun damage and erase a lifetime of summers,” which it absolutely cannot do in any way, shape, or form. Ignoring the exaggeration and façade, this is merely a serum with a helpful amount of glycolic acid. Although research on that ingredient has shown it can help improve sun-damaged skin, it’s hardly a panacea for a lifetime’s worth of sun damage, anymore than eating broccoli is a cure for a lifetime’s worth of smoking.

As it turns out, the pH of this product is too high for the glycolic acid to exfoliate, which means you’re pinning your hopes on Murad’s vitamin C technology, said to deliver “50 times the free radical neutralizing power of prior generations.” What prior generations is he referring to? Could it be his own products that contain vitamin C, which means they are no longer worthwhile for skin and he should stop selling them?

Either way, there is no substantiated data proving the claims are true and, in fact, there isn’t much vitamin C in this serum anyway, so it is an empty message for your skin. There also are other antioxidants in this product, which is good because there is no single antioxidant that is the best for skin. Where this serum really comes up short is in including two forms of menthol along with fragrance chemicals known to cause irritation, and that is skin damaging, not healing.


This clinically proven, environmental aging treatment protects and repairs skin with a remarkable new Vitamin C technology that delivers 50 times the free radical neutralizing power of prior generations. Undo sun damage and erase a lifetime of summers.


Water, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Glycerin, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Hydrolyzed Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Enantia Chlorantha Bark Extract, Oleanolic Acid, Ectoin, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Zinc Gluconate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Biotin, Mannitol, Chitosan Ascorbate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Sodium Pca, Betaine, Sorbitol, Glycine, Alanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Arginine, Lysine, Glutamic Acid, Methyl Diisopropyl Propionamide, Ethyl Menthane Carboxamide, Menthyl Lactate, Lauryl Laurate, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin, Corn Starch Modified, Xanthan Gum, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Limonene, Linalool, Fragrance, Yellow 5, Orange 4

Brand Overview

Murad At-A-Glance

Strengths: A few good cleansers; a selection of well-formulated AHA products centered on glycolic acid; most of Murad's top-rated products are fragrance-free; the sunscreens go beyond the basics and include several antioxidants for enhanced protection.

Weaknesses: Expensive; no other dermatologist-designed line has more problem products than Murad; irritating ingredients are peppered throughout the selection of products, keeping several of them from earning a recommendation; the skin-lighteners are not well-formulated.

Dr. Murad was one of the first doctors to appear on an infomercial selling his own line of skin-care products, and quite successfully so, at least the second time around. This was largely because the company paid for independent clinical studies to establish the efficacy of Dr. Murad's products. There's no question that AHA products, when well-formulated, can be a powerful ally to create healthier, radiant skin. But in terms of independent clinical studies, we're skeptical, given that there are countless labs that exist solely to perform such studies in strict accordance with how the company wants the results to turn out. Murad certainly wouldn't mention in an infomercial that the clinical studies for his AHA products weren't as impressive as, say, those for Neutrogena's AHA products, or any other line for that matter. And what about BHA products? Clinical studies and testimonials may have prompted consumers to order, but the results from Murad's AHA products are hardly unique to this line.

Although this is a skin-care line to consider for some good AHA options, the majority of the products are nothing more than a problem for skin. Murad may have been one of the first dermatologist-developed skin-care lines, but by today's standards his line is deplorable. This is largely due to a preponderance of irritating ingredients that show up in product after product. Any dermatologist selling products that include lavender, basil, and various citrus oils plus menthol and other irritants doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. The same goes for Murad's overuse of alcohol and his preference for treating acne with sulfur, both factors that keep some of his otherwise well-formulated, efficacious products from earning a recommendation.

Yet what is most objectionable is the endless parade of products claiming they can stop, get rid of, or reduce wrinkles and aging. Regardless of whether dermatologists know best about lotions and potions, no conscientious doctor would or should be selling products using the ludicrous claims Murad makes. Most of the anti-aging products have the same hype, the same unsubstantiated claims, and the same exaggeration about the beneficial effects of ingredients that are often present only in the tiniest amounts, without even a mention of the standard or potentially irritating ingredients that are also present. Dr. Murad’s skin-care philosophy, stated on his Web site, includes the following statement: "Take all the necessary steps to achieve healthy skin—including the right products, the proper nutrients (from both food and supplements) and positive lifestyle choices." That's an excellent piece of advice; the problem is that it is contradicted by Murad’s own products, most of which are far from the "right" options for all skin types.

For more information about Murad, call (888) 996-8723 or visit www.murad.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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Please with Murad Products

I really like this product. I am a 46 year old, dark skin African American who has suffered with Hyperpigmentation and adult acne. I have been using the Essential C products for about one month. My skin has cleared up a great deal. I also have a very radiant glow. I have notice also that the acne breakouts have been not been occurring as much. I would highly recommend this product line

Reviewed by
LOVE this product

Despite Paula's review, I have found that this product has done WONDERS for my skin. I have very oily, uneven skin with large pores. This has smoothed everything out, gotten rid of most of my pimples and just makes me look much smoother and fresher. Not sure which ingredients are doing that, probably the glycolic acid, but whatever it is, it's the first thing that's ever worked for me. Paula's "poor" recommendation now makes me dubious of all her other ratings...

Reviewed by
Grace T
love this - works very well for me

I have used this serum for several years with great results. I have very sensitive, dry, peeling rosacean skin and this helps exfoliate without irritation. I wish it were less expensive but overall I love it!

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