Do Mary Kay’s Best-Selling Products Work?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care

About the authors:  Jessica Fitzgerald is the newest Contributing Writer.  She is a Sales Director for Mary Kay.  For more, please visit her sales page, Jess Fitz for Mary Kay.  Nicki Zevola is Editor-in-Chief of and contributed to the “What Nicki Says” portions of this article.

It seems the older we get, the more we are invited to “beauty parties” sponsored by our friends and relatives.  But when you’re well-versed in the world of skin care and cosmetics and quite happy with your current regime, what are you to buy at these events? has teamed up with Mary Kay Sales Director Jessica Fitzgerald to find out what sells the best, and then our editor-in-chief Nicki Zevola analyzes the products from a scientific perspective:

Mary Kay Timewise Cleanser
#1 Best-seller: Mary Kay Timewise Cleanser

1.)  TimeWise® 3-In-1 Cleanser

This multitasking cleansing product combines anti-aging with three essential functions in one product to cleanse, exfoliate and freshen to reveal younger-looking skin. (Efficient beauty!!!)

What Nicki Says:  This product is rich in the occlusive agents mineral oil and petrolatum.  Despite popular internet rumors, cosmetic-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are safe for the skin.  In fact, many dermatologists recommend them.  This is because mineral oil and petrolatum coat the skin and prevent trans-epidermal water loss. Examples of other occlusive agents that hydrate in this manner include triglycerides, sunflower oil, soybean oil, jojoba oil, evening primrose oil and olive oil.  The bad thing about them is that they can be messy and not very cosmetically appealing, but when used in a cleanser such as this one, they leave skin feeling soft and hydrated.  If you can afford it, this also makes a lovely body wash!

Water , Mineral Oil , Glycerin , Petrolatum , Bentonite , Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone , Ethylhexyl Pelargonate , Neopentyl Glycol Diethylhexanoate , C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate , Myristyl Myristate , PPG-26-Buteth-26 , Sorbitol , Sucrose Distearate , PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil , Oleyl Oleate , Camellia Sinensis Extract , Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract , Cucumber Extract , Camellia Oleifera Extract , Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Extract , Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract , Echinacea Purpurea Extract , Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Extract , Triethanolamine , Sucrose Stearate , Propylene Glycol , Butylene Glycol , Carbomer , Disodium EDTA , Magnesium Aluminum Silicate , Diazolidinyl Urea , Tocopherol , Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax , Mannitol , Myristyl Laurate , Methylparaben , Cellulose , Propylparaben , C9-15 Alkyl Phosphate , Lauramine Oxide , Phenoxyethanol , Thermus Thermophillus Ferment , Ethyl Linoleate , Ethyl Linolenate , Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose , Talc , Red 7 , Red 4 , Titanium Dioxide , Red 30 , Ultramarines , Red 33

Timewise moisturizer Mary Kay2.)  TimeWise® Age-Fighting Moisturizer

This emollient-rich lotion combines the action of hydration and a patented complex to accelerate the skin’s natural renewal process, revealing firmer, smoother skin with fewer lines and wrinkles. A humectant blend keeps skin moist.

What Nicki Says:  This is a solid lightweight moisturizer for use under make-up.  It does not contain sunscreen, however, so it must be layered under a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen for daytime use.  Despite this, the ingredients are pretty solid, particularly for those with oily or normal/oily skin types.

Humectants are moisturizers that absorb water from the atmosphere and also from the lower layers of the skin, leaving the upper skin more moisturized. Examples include glycerin, glycerol, sorbitol, urea, and lactic acid. The bad thing about them is that sometimes they can actually be drying rather than moisturizing, plus in higher concentrations they tend to be irritating to the skin for those with dry or normal/dry skin types (Skin Therapy Letter, 2001).   However, humectants are light and cosmetically appealing, so this moisturizer is a good choice for the summer months, or those with normal/oily skin.

Ingredients:  Water , TEA-Lauryl Sulfate , Hexylene Glycol , Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate , Triethanolamine , Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer , Arcticum Lappa Root Extract , Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract , Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract , Equisetum Hiemale Leaf/Stem Extract , Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract , Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Bark/Leaf/Twig Extract , Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract , Propylene Glycol , Disodium EDTA , Diazolidinyl Urea , Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax , Mannitol , Methylparaben , Cellulose , Butylene Glycol , Propylparaben , C9-15 Alkyl Phosphate , Lauramine Oxide , Glycerin , Thermus Thermophillus Ferment , Ethyl Linoleate , Ethyl Linolenate , Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose , Phenoxyethanol , Talc , Ultramarines , Red 30

3.)  TimeWise® Firming Eye Cream

Timewise Eye CreamFirms, brightens, moisturizes, Oh MY! We show the signs of aging first around the delicate eye area, so keep that area moisturized to keep those age telling wrinkles away. (I’m 102…you’d never guess) 😉

What Nicki Says:  As far as eye creams go, there are two major types:  treatment and cosmetic.  Treatment eye creams contain ingredients like collagen stimulators and skin brighteners that work gradually over time to improve the undereye area.  On the other hand, cosmetic treatments work immediately, typically firming, depuffing, or hydrating the skin under the eyes.  Unfortunately the effects are more temporary.

Mary Kay Timewise Firming Eye Cream is more of a cosmetic eye cream.  The first five ingredients are all hydrating agents.  (Yes, cetearyl and isostearyl alcohols are hydrators, despite the name “alcohol.”)  The treatment is a probiotic, but it is contained in rather low concentration.  As a result, this eye cream can be used to hydrate the skin under the eyes before going out and/or with a treatment eye cream.

Ingredients:   Water , Glycerin , C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate , Cetearyl Alcohol , Isostearyl Alcohol , Triethanolamine , Hydrogenated Lecithin , Behenyl Alcohol , Propylene Glycol , Dimethicone , Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2 , Ceteareth-20 , Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate , Silica , Carbomer , Diazolidinyl Urea , Lauramine Oxide , Disodium EDTA , Betaine , Glyceryl Polyacrylate , Methylparaben , Sodium PCA , C9-15 Alkyl Phosphate , Tocopheryl Acetate , Sorbitol , Propylparaben , Serine , Threonine , Proline , Arginine , Glycine , Alanine , Lysine , Glutamic Acid , Thermus Thermophillus Ferment

4.)  TimeWise® Replenishing Serum+C

Mary Kay Timewise + C SerumGive collagen a boost, based on Mary Kay-based in vitro testing.

Skin elasticity is enhanced and skin looks lifted as the serum hydrates. Wrinkles appear diminished. TimeWise Replenishing Serum+C™ is the catalyst that can visibly brighten, transform and revive the appearance of the skin. Formulated with a patent-pending complex of botanical extracts, this serum contains ingredients that have been shown to help protect against the breakdown of collagen.* The innovative packaging keeps the formula preserved in an airless environment to maintain the product’s effectiveness first drop to last.

What Nicki Says:  There are four ingredients in this serum I like a lot:  magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, argan oil, palmitoyl pentapeptide-7, and palmitoyl oligopeptide.  Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is a more stable form of vitamin C than L-ascorbic acid in the presence of light and air.  What’s more, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate has been shown in Photochemistry and Photobiology to have the same skin-brightening, skin-firming effects of L-ascorbic acid over time.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, you can control the amount of L-ascorbic acid you buy – 10%, 15%, and 20% are all common.  But no manufacturers to date have published the concentration of magnesium ascorbyl phosphate in their products.  Nor has any study shown that 1% magnesium ascorbyl phosphate = 10% L-ascorbic acid, or something like that.  So, for me at least, I only buy products with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate if the rest of the ingredients in the formulation are alluring.

In this case, the rest of this formulation holds its ground.  I love argan oil, found to have three times the amount of antioxidant vitamin E found in olive oilArgan oil is also a natural source of linoleic and oleic fatty acids, found in the scientific literature to help protect and maintain skin elasticity, smoothness, and radiance.

Lastly, this serum contains palmitoyl pentapeptide-7 and palmitoyl oligopeptide.  Unfortunately, due to their low placement on the ingredients list, we know they are each <1% of the formulation.  Still, their effects are not to be ignored.  Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 reduces inflammatory cell-signaling proteins known as interleukins when applied to the skin (Clinics in Dermatology, 1999).  By reducing inflammation, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 may potentially reduce the cumulative amount of damage that occurs following exposure to UV light, pollution, internal stress, and other pro-inflammatory factors.

On the other hand, palmitoyl oligopeptide significantly stimulates collagen production in human fibroblasts, as shown in a 2007 study in Dermatologic Therapy.  When used twice daily for a significant period of time – about six months – this means firmer skin, provided that other factors remain the same (i.e., weight, sun exposure, etc.).  So if you’re going to a Mary Kay party, this is a solid buy, particularly if you have dry or normal/dry skin.

Ingredients:   Water , Glycerin , Dimethicone , Hydrogenated Polydecene , Butylene Glycol , Propylene Glycol , Betaine , Alcohol , PEG-32 , Maltodextrin , Polyacrylamide , Triethanolamine , Diazolidinyl Urea , Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer , Alcohol Denat. , Disodium EDTA , Malpighia Punicifolia (Acerola) Fruit Extract , Argania Spinosa Kernel Extract , C13-14 Isoparaffin , Urea , Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract , Glucosamine HCL , Methylparaben , Algae Extract , Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract , Phenoxyethanol , Lecithin , Silanetriol Trehalose Ether , Myrciaria Dubia Fruit Extract , Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Extract , Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate , Laureth-7 , Xanthan Gum , Punica Granatum Extract , Propylparaben , Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride , Carbomer , Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract , Pinus Sylvestris Bark Extract , Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose , Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Leaf Extract , Rutin , Benzophenone-4 , Chlorphenesin , Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate , Sodium Methylparaben , Ethylparaben , Pentylene Glycol , Potassium Benzoate , Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 , Palmitoyl Oligopeptide , Titanium Dioxide

5.)  TimeWise® Microdermabrasion Set

Mary Kay MicrodermabrasionA super exfoliate that fights fine lines, refines pores and achieves beautifully smooth skin. Gets rid of dry, flaky skin and is an instant skin brightener.

(Bye, Bye Apricot scrub torture!)

What Nicki Says:  As far as at-home treatments go, this one is pretty solid. Dermatologists use alumina crystals in their offices for microdermabrasion treatments, which is also the main ingredient in this kit. As is advised to patients, then, consumers of this microdermabrasion kit should know that it will not treat acne scarring.  It will, however, improve photoaged skin, comedonal acne, lengitines, striae (stretch marks), scars, palmoplantar keratoderma, Darier’s disease, and actinic keratoses (Photoaging).

In a study from Dermatological Surgery, fourteen patients aged 40-75 underwent microdermabrasion once every 2 weeks over the course of 12 weeks at a dermatologist’s office. By patient assessment, there was a statistically significant improvement in skin’s roughness, mottled appearance, and overall appearance. There was also some improvement in age spots. However, acne scars were not improved with the treatment, and required deeper resurfacing. A second study in Dermatological Study also found improvements in oiliness, thickness, and dilated pores.

Ingredients in Step 1:   Water , Alumina , Butylene Glycol , Cyclopentasiloxane , Hydrogenated Polyisobutene , Glycerin , Myristyl Myristate , Glyceryl Stearate , Cyclohexasiloxane , PEG-100 Stearate , Dimethicone , Cetearyl Alcohol , Cetyl Alcohol , Propylene Glycol , Caffeine , Benzyl Alcohol , Steareth-20 , Sodium Stearate , Potassium Stearate , Triethanolamine , Myristyl Laurate , Diazolidinyl Urea , Disodium EDTA , Polysorbate 60 , Carbomer , Titanium Dioxide , Methylparaben , Propylparaben

Ingredients in Step 2:  Water , Glycereth-26 , Isododecane , Dimethicone , Propylene Glycol , Glycerin , Polyacrylamide , Boron Nitride , C13-14 Isoparaffin , Triethanolamine , Panthenol , DMDM Hydantoin , Disodium EDTA , PEG-4 Laurate , Allantoin , Carbomer , Laureth-7 , Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract , Glyceryl Polyacrylate , Phenoxyethanol , Tocopheryl Acetate , Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate , Methylparaben , Cyclopentasiloxane , Ascorbic Acid , Cyclohexasiloxane , PEG-75 , PEG-150 , PEG-8 Cetyl Dimethicone , Mica , Titanium Dioxide , Red 33 , Ext. Violet 2

Bottom Line

Overall, Mary Kay has some effective products.  Nicki’s recommendations are the TimeWise Cleanser (for normal/dry or dry skin), the Timewise Replenishing Serum + C (for normal/oily or oily skin), and the Microdermabrasion Kit.  For more buying information or to find out how to become a Mary Kay consultant, please visit Jessica Fitzgerald’s page at

Please note:  No one was compensated for this post.

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  • Cheryl Hutchinson

    I would like to ask Nicki did you ever try the TimeWise Essence Serum? Its brightens and helps with hyperpigmentation? I love it!! I have the vitamin C serum and I use that but I’m having trouble when to figure out when to use the vitamin c serum and when I should use the Essence serum? Or should I use both together?

  • Mary Kay’s moisturizer and facial cleanser are my favorite products- I can’t do without! My skin is so soft and clear and after the first week of use I found my pores to be all but invisible. I’m thrilled with the results and won’t use anything else! Highly recommend 🙂 Thanks for the great post.

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