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While browsing through the online Sephora catalog (something that I do quite often; as somewhat of a skin care pundit, I have to keep up with new releases), I happened upon this eye serum. Usually, I ignore anything labeled as an “eye” product. However, I have to admit that the ferulic acid in the title caught my attention just long enough for me to scan through the ingredients. And while I agree that by no means is ferulic acid one of the heavy-hitters, it does possess several of the same key characteristics found in the “best” antioxidants such as vitamins C, green tea, and pomegranate.[Read More: Are Eye Creams Necessary?]
But anyways, after doing my little optical audit, I found myself rather impressed with the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum ($46.50, amazon.com). So without further ado, let’s examine the ingredients.
The cardinal strength of this product stems from the inclusion of multiple documented ingredients. Chief among them is, of course, retinol. While the retinol concentration is not listed, it’s most likely present between 0.25-0.50%, which is well above the demonstrated bottom threshold of efficacy. Bottom line: retinol has been and is still quite revolutionary.[Read More: Spotlight On: Tretinoin]
The next featured ingredient is ferulic acid (FA), which, similar to retinol, has been shown in vivo to inhibit both UVA- and UVB-induced expression of various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which degrade structures such as collagen. FA does this via the proteasome pathway, which in-turn, will degrade the various MMPs before they do significant damage. To further protect the skin, FA has been shown to upregulate the expression of various antioxidant compounds such as glutathione, and its peroxidase and catalase relatives (Photochemistry and Photobiology, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry).
Licorice Root Extract
The next important ingredient, which is present in even higher amounts than the two discussed above, is licorice root extract. A 1% and 2% licorice gel demonstrated a statistically significant reduction of swelling, itchiness, and redness (think anti-inflammatory) of those with atopic dermatitis (Journal of Dermatological Treatment). The main component of licorice root extract (glabridin) is most likely responsible for this attribute, as it also demonstrates skin-lightening properties similar to hydroquinone (HQ) by interfering with tyrosinase activity. Unlike HQ however, glabridin does this without the mediation of DNA synthesis (Pigment Cell Research).
Botanical and Vitamin-Based Cocktails
In addition, this product contains an aptly-named cocktail of botanical ingredients that are present in moderate to low concentrations. They include the skin-lightening ingredients arbutin (glucosylated HQ) and mulberry; calming willow bark and caffeine; as well as the quercetin antioxidant.
Finally, there are also low amounts of the antioxidants ubiquinone (CoQ10) and vitamin E (as a novel and unproven organophosphate salt). Rounding out this second “cocktail” are the hydrating panthenol (vitamin B5) and sodium hyaluronate water-binding agents.
Something Blu… New
As with most skin care releases, there’s always a few new(er) ingredients included in a formulation to boost interest and press. Fortunately, the marketing team behind this brand chose wisely to not focus on them. Another wise decision: to include new ingredients that actually have potential.
As the non-vehicular ingredient that’s present in the highest amount, this extract does have some limited evidentiary support in terms of efficacy. When applied (in vitro) to human dermal fibroblasts, it was shown to reduce the hydrogen peroxide-induced repression of DNA replication (Experiemtnal Dermatology). This would have a theoretical positive effect in terms of reducing the effects of stress-induced premature senescence. Of course, none of this has been demonstrated in a statistically significant way in any clinical study. But hey, it’s better than nothing right?
Azelaic Amino Acid
Like with the licorice root extract, while the azelaic amino acid content is present in lower concentrations than the Centella extract, its inclusion makes this product much more promising. Azelaic amino acid is obviously a derivative of the prescription-only drug azelaic acid, which is an excellent tool for those dealing with acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. So if we can get some of the benefits of it in an OTC product, that’s pretty exciting. What’s even more exciting is that there’s actually been a study done on the efficacy of this particular derivative. At 5%, this ingredient (along with 1% of a water-binding agent) was shown to exhibit statistically significant improvements in rosacea sufferers in terms of redness and skin hydration (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology). And while there’s nowhere near 5% of azelaic amino acid (potassium azeloyl diglycinate), its high placement on the ingredients list suggests that at least decent amounts are present (hopefully).
Overall Rating: 85%
While the new ingredients are a welcome relief and may actually provide some benefit to the skin, the strengths of this product are still attributed to the inclusion of many well-documented ingredients, primarily retinol.
But what separates this from the other well-formulated and recommended retinol products available on the market? It’s the inclusion of such (relatively) high amounts of the licorice root extract. As shown above, licorice root extract is a very good anti-inflammatory ingredient. Combined with the potential ramifications of azelaic amino acid, this retinol product may allow people with traditionally-retinol-incompatible skin types, such as those with rosacea, to tolerate and receive the impressive benefits of retinol!
Furthermore, the inclusion of other anti-inflammatories and skin-lightening ingredients makes this an even more compelling product choice for those with more sensitive skin types, as they are more prone to postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
So is this the “best” retinol product? Well, I wouldn’t say best is a good way to evaluate this product. Instead, I would say this is a more specialized, unique, or niche take on the traditional retinol product. I have yet to see a similar retinol product. But like I said, for those with more sensitive skin types (especially those with rosacea), this product may be a game-changer!
*Note that while this product does contain low amounts of the salicylic, glycolic, and mandelic acids, the relatively high pH of around 4.7 will not allow them to exfoliate. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the low pH potentially reducing the efficacy of retinol. And while I wish the pH was slightly higher, the less-than-optimal pH (for retinol) was most likely chosen to help preserve the ferulic acid content, whose stability is dependent upon pH.
Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Propylene Glycol, Centella Asiatica Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Ferulic Acid, Retinol, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Arbutin, Morus Alba Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Quercetin, Caffeine, Ubiquinone, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates, Phospholipids, Tetrapeptide-21, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, PVM/MA Decadiene Crosspolymer, Urea, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).