Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator Product Review

Skin Care

Estee Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator Serum

Every once in a while, a product launch comes along that is so huge, you can’t help but notice it.  Such is the case with the new Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Cooling Illuminator, featuring a major ad campaign starring models Joan Smalls, Carolyn Murphy, and Liu Wen.  The multiracial beauty is to promote the idea that Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator is safe for all skin tones.  The company reports a 62% improvement in the appearance of skin tone within a few weeks of use.  The product is also supposed to improve redness, acne marks, dark spots, sun spots, and other discolorations.

Ingredient Analysis

There are five ingredients in the product that have been proven to have effects on the skin.  These include, from highest to lowest concentration:

  • Ascorbyl glucoside, a form of vitamin C;
  • Turmeric root extract;
  • Grapefruit extract;
  • Salicyclic acid;
  • Acetyl glucosamine.

Ascorbyl glucoside:  Vitamin C, but sweeter (literally)

Ascorbyl glucoside is a more stable form of vitamin C than many others commonly found in skin care products, meaning that it better tolerates heat, light, and air exposure.  Its secret is that has a structure in which the C2-hydroxyl group of L-ascorbic acid is masked with glucose. Once permeated through the skin, the naturally-occurring enzyme alpha-glucosidase breaks ascorbyl glucoside is broken down into L-ascorbic acid and glucose.

Because ascorbyl glucoside is broken down into L-ascorbic acid, it has the same functions as L-ascorbic acidantioxidant; coenzyme [helper] for enzymes involved in collagen synthesis (namely prolyl and lysyl hydroxylase); and inhibiting the synthesis of melanin.  Research from the creators of ascorbyl glucoside, Hayashibara International, has demonstrated that this breakdown process leaves a high enough concentration of vitamin C in the skin to be effective.

Turmeric Root Extract:  The Old-School Phenom, Now Purified for a New Generation

As I wrote on a June 12 post titled, “The New Skin Care Ingredient You Can’t Afford to Miss,” turmeric root extract is quickly proving to be the new hostess with the mostest in the world of skin care ingredients, with potent antioxidant activity, as shown in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, as well as the ability to potentially boost sun protection when used under sunscreen, but this suggestion has not yet been proven in published research, at least not the best of my knowledge.

Johnson & Johnson has recently produced some promising studies that demonstrate that tetrahydrocurcumin, an active compound in turmeric root extract, may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by up to 50% when used twice daily for four weeks.  This is promising, though I still have my doubts that turmeric is as effective as retinoids or glycolic acid in eliminating fine lines and wrinkles.  Still, for those who do not wish to use potent treatments, turmeric seems to be an excellent choice thus far, as the well-purified forms found in quality products like those from Estée Lauder or Johnson & Johnson have not yet been associated with irritation in any published reports.

Grapefruit Root Extract:  A Bright Idea

There is limited, but significant, research to demonstrate grapefruit root extract may promote skin lightening.  According to a 2010 study published in the journal SOFW, citrus fruit extracts, including grapefruit, increase tyrosinase inhibition (i.e., inhibit sunspot formation) and increase brightness of the skin after 28 days of use in both Caucasian and Asian patients.  The study results have not been repeated in African patients.

Salicyclic Acid:  Old-School Favorite

I’ve always loved salicyclic acid, mainly because it helps to promote the efficacy of other skin care ingredients.  Salicyclic acid works by softening keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. This helps to loosen dry scaly skin, increasing cell turnover and effectively renewing the skin. It is often used in acne treatments to cleanse and to prevent clogging of the pores.

Acetyl glucosamine:  Another Hyperpigmentation Regulator

N-acetyl glucosamine has been established to make a statistically significant difference in hyperpigmentation, as reported in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2009.

Bottom Line:  This Product is a 10/10 (for non-severe age spots)!

I don’t give away 10’s very easily (call me the Len Goodman of skin care), but I must say that Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Cooling Illuminator features a lot of high-quality, well-proven, skin-brightening ingredients that also simultaneously fight and prevent age spots.  However, I personally would use this serum under a cream with niacinamide, as a 2009 study demonstrated that n-acetylglucosamine in conjunction with niacinamide lightened hyperpigmentation better than n-acetylglucosamine alone.

Even though I have given this product a 10/10, I must also recommend that anyone with severe hyperpigmentation and age spots may benefit somewhat more from visiting their dermatologist.  Products and treatments available exclusively from physicians, such as LumixylTM, a product with efficacy similar to hydroquinone in published studies, 4% hydroquinone, and chemical peels have been found to have tremendous effects on age spots in a relatively short amount of time.  So even though I love Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Cooling Illuminator as an over-the-counter product, I must say that there are other products and treatments available from the dermatologists’ office that may be a bit better.

I would also take care to use sunscreen over this product during the day.  Although it contains titanium dioxide, the amount of sun protection has not been quantified and hence is not reliable as a sunscreen in my book.  Luckily, the serum is silicone-based, so it dries quickly and evenly on the skin, making it perfect for SPF application afterwards.  (Makeup also looks great over it, but that’s another story!)

All in all, I love Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Cooling Illuminator, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to brighten their skin and prevent hyperpigmentation in the future!

Ingredients in Estee Lauder Idealist Cooling Eye Illuminator: Dimethicone, Isododecane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, Ascorbyl Glucoside, PEG-10, Dimethicone, Gentiana Lutea (Gentian) Root Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Morus Bombycis (Mulberry) Root Extract, Trametes Versicolor Extract, Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract, Salicylic Acid, Caffeine, Cholesterol, Acetyl Glucosamine, Squalane, Yeast Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake, Isohexadecane, Dimethoxytolyl Propylresorcinol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Propylene Glycol Dicaprate, Polysorbate 20, Glycyrrhetinic Acid, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Sulfite,  Sodium Metabisulfite, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Di-C12-18 Alkyl Dimonium Chloride, Fragrance, Tromethamine, Tin Oxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Linalool, Limonene, Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891) , Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Carmine (CI 75470)

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  • Lehana

    I would like to query the safety of some of the ingredients in this product: “Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Metabisulfite” – would this also qualify as “sulphate” compounds in cosmetics that consumers are worried about and why?
    And where can I find out the size of the TiO2 used in the product. Apparently nano particles bad and micro particle = good.

  • @Vivian – I would use this product in the morning and clindoxyl/retinsol-a at night. The reason is because vitamin C derivatives often work best with a more acidic pH, whereas retinol-based products have increased esterification at slightly higher pH levels. Check with your dermatologist to be sure for your specific skin type/concerns.

  • Vivian

    Will i be able to use this product with my clindoxyl or retinsol-a?

  • Theresa Alvaraz

    Prevage Clarity Targeted Skin Tone Corrector!!!

  • Jeff

    Lauder makes excellent skin care products, that i believe women as well as men can use. At 40, I look younger than all of my younger female co workers

  • Hi Laney,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to clarify this error. I appreciate it very much, and also hope that you and others at Estee Lauder enjoyed it. If there are any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com.

    Thanks so much,

  • Helane Crowell


    Thank you for your review of our product. I just wanted to clarify that the model used in this campaign is not Carolyn Murphy but Constance Jablonski.

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I would appreciate if you could make this correction!

    All the best,
    Laney Crowell
    Director of Online Communications

  • EXCITING! Almost makes me wish I had hyperpigmentation so I could try it out. I agree, the ingredients look fantastic, the ascorbyl glucoside being so high on the list is akin to a lot of great products from the Lauder group, so you know they believe they’re onto something.

    One caveat, it seems like the salicylic is well below the 1% line, in addition to there being a lack of a pH adjusting ingredient….which makes me unsure whether any measurable exfoliation effect can be seen? Lauder had great success with the original idealist skin refinisher in this category, partly because it exfoliated so gently, so i have a feeling this is a test it out so you can tell type of situation. Have you had a chance to test it out personally?

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