The claims for this fragrance-free skin-lightening product go a bit beyond the realm of possibility; for example, no skin-lightening product can prevent the formation of melanin, except for prescription products that contain extremely high concentrations of hydroquinone, especially if the product doesn’t contain sunscreen. Nonetheless, this does contain some intriguing ingredients with reliable research on their ability to lighten brown spots and other sun-induced discolorations.
It’s not good that the main ingredient is witch hazel water, but at least the water form of this plant irritant is more diluted than pure witch hazel, which has constricting properties that cause skin irritation. Still, the main ingredient—witch hazel water—keeps this skin lightener from earning a higher rating. Please see More Info for details on the problems irritating ingredients can cause.
The skin-lightening ingredients include alpha-arbutin, undecylenoyl phenylalanine, and phenylethyl resorcinol, the latter of which poses a risk of irritation due to its resorcinol component. The alpha-arbutin is present in an amount that’s likely to be effective, assuming you’re also diligent about applying a well-formulated sunscreen rated SPF 15 or greater daily.
Formula-wise, this has a light lotion texture and also contains cell-communicating ingredients and antioxidants, making it PCA Skin’s most well-rounded skin lightener. If not for the witch hazel water, this would be worth considering by those looking for an alternative to the gold standard skin-lightening agent, hydroquinone.
- Contains a blend of intriguing skin-lightening ingredients supported by a growing body of research.
- Treats aging skin to fortifying cell-communicating ingredients and antioxidants.
- The main ingredient—witch hazel water—poses a risk of irritation.
- One of the skin-lightening ingredients is a form of resorcinol, which increases the irritation factor this lightener presents.
Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation, and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. For this reason, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients. Please see our list of Best Skin-Lightening Products for preferred options.
This specialized formula features a blend of natural and bio-engineered brighteners that target all forms of hyperpigmentation. It inhibits pigment production and prevents melanin deposit, allowing the skin to remain evenly toned. Antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents and MMPi agents work together to provide further protection against hyperpigmentation while neutralizing free radicals and promoting a healthier-looking complexion.
Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Alpha-Arbutin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Olivate, Glycerin, Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, Carnitine, Dipropylene Glycol, Sorbitan Olivate, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Tocopherol, Betula Alba Bark Extract, Scrophularia Nodosa Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Glycosaminoglycans, Sodium Lactate, Squalane, Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Alcohol Denat., Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Phenoxyethanol
PCA Skin is a product line you may have seen at your spa, salon, or dermatologist's office. Founded by an aesthetician in 1990, the brand became relatively popular after developing a series of professional alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels marketed as "medical clinical aesthetics"; in other words, these products are sold to dermatology practices offering cosmetic services such as facials. More recently, PCA Skin has teamed up with a dermatologist and other medical professionals to develop skin-care products. The peels are for professional use only and, in fact, except for a facial scrub, PCA Skin does not sell exfoliants that consumers can use at home.
Not surprisingly, PCA Skin's medical and aesthetics background is supposed to be rooted in science. The company states that "we use rigorous research and science to develop safe, highly effective products that deliver healthy, beautiful skin." Although PCA Skin products contain many beneficial, research-supported ingredients, they also contain numerous problematic ingredients that cause irritation; somehow, that "rigorous" research overlooked those. Irritation is always a problem for skin, causing inflammation and collagen breakdown, and impairing the skin's ability to heal.
Chief among the irritants you'll find throughout the PCA Skin line are witch hazel, citrus and numerous other fragrant oils (whether synthetic or natural, fragrance is almost always a problem for skin), drying cleansing agents, and alcohol (we mean, really, alcohol?!). In our Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary, we provide detailed information on why each of these ingredients is a problem; for all of their talk about science, chemistry, and research, PCA Skin should know better.
If you remain intrigued by this brand (or find the sales pressure from your aesthetician too intense to ignore), there are some worthwhile products. It’s great that every SPF-rated product from PCA Skin includes reliable broad-spectrum sun-protection ingredients, and fans of facial scrubs should know this brand does offer a gentle option. Also, their eye cream and retinol serum are worth a look, and several products are fragrance-free, although you need to choose carefully because many of their products contain fragrant plant extracts or oils despite being listed as fragrance-free.
PCA Skin's science-based mission is admirable, but just because an aesthetician and doctor teamed up, the results for these products aren't going to be spectacular, or even all that helpful.
For more information about PCA Skin, call (877) 722-7546 or visit www.pcaskin.com.