The Professional-C Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask is a brand new product from the brand Obagi. According to the description it claims to “minimize the appearance of fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage to boost a youthful glow. This exfoliating formula first sloughs off dead skin to refine skin’s texture. Then leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes, as it infuses skin with botanical oils and vitamin C. This two-in-one polish and mask leaves lackluster complexions with a soft and brighter finish.”
I can’t lie… Obagi has a few ingredients here that raise some red flags for me:
Ascorbic acid is a type of vitamin C. Among all types of vitamin C, ascorbic acid is scientifically proven to have the most outstanding skincare benefit in peer-reviewed studies. It is the most biologically active form of vitamin C and has a remarkable performance on topical use. Its benefits include fighting free radicals, reducing signs of aging, and brightening the skin. It also inhibits melanin production, so it can help with irregular hyperpigmentation such as melasma.
The flaw of ascorbic acid is its instability, particularly under exposure to air and light. Continuous exposure under light and air can wear off all of its potency. As a result, all skincare products that contain ascorbic acid are supposed to be packaged in opaque and airless containers such as a needle head tube.
A Jar? For A Vitamin C Product?
That brings me to my first issue with this mask. Why did Obagi use jar packaging for a vitamin C product? Jars are by far the worst offenders of the available skincare containers because they are opened and closed frequently, exposing the entire surface of the product to airborne contaminants. Add in the fact that light and air also hit the top surface of your cream every time you open the jar, breaking down unstable ascorbic acid. With each application, you transfer bacteria from your finger into the bacterial breeding ground that is your moisturizer. According to dermatologist Dr. Jeannine Downie, M.D., “You can find staphylococcus, you can find micrococcus… and if you’re very unlucky… E. coli, which is obviously from fecal matter.” (source)
The “polish” part of this product is from silica. Silica, sometimes referred to as silicon dioxide, is an oxide of silicon. Fun fact: silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust (after oxygen, obviously). But it rarely occurs in nature as its pure form, but rather, as silica. Silica can also be found in sandstone, clay, and granite. It is typically colorless to white and insoluble in water.
According to The Derm Review, “Silica is a gentle abrasive that is often used in exfoliating skincare products, such as body and face scrubs. After President Obama signed a bill that banned the manufacture and distribution of products containing plastic microbeads, manufacturers turned to silica as an alternative. Some companies have even figured out a way to manufacturer synthetic silica. Products that contain silica as an abrasive will help to exfoliate the top layers of skin, removing makeup, excess oil, dirt, and other impurities that may have accumulated during the day.”
The silica here isn’t terribly abrasive but when you take into account that this product contains ascorbic acid and added fragrances (more on that in a minute), it can be irritation central for those who have sensitive skin.
Why Are We Still Using Added Fragrances in 2019?
Vitamin C smells. If you’ve ever used Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum, or SkinCeuticals C E serum you know that the scent is likened to hot dogs or sour water. It’s not pleasant but it’s just the way it is and the scent dissipates quickly. I can only assume that the Obagi Professional-C Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask includes added fragrances in order to conceal the natural scent of ascorbic acid. This is completely unnecessary and ruins the product for me.
It also begs the question, why are brands still adding fragrances to their products in 2019? Added fragrance can wreak havoc on your skin by causing contact dermatitis (a red, itchy rash) and other allergic reactions like a headache or asthma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “the fragrance is the biggest cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis. It’s up there with nickel and poison ivy, which most people know how to avoid.”
Another issue with added fragrance is that it’s too broad! It may be listed as one ingredient on a product label but that “fragrance” could be a blend of many ingredients. The AAD says that there are about 5,000 fragrance molecules that are used in heavy rotation in beauty products. It’s impossible to figure out what exactly can trigger a reaction in your skin when you don’t know what exactly makes up the “fragrance” in your product.
Obagi is a brand that is touted by dermatologists and skincare fanatics everywhere, so I am really let down by this product. Added fragrances, jar packaging, and abrasive polishes? This product feels like it should have come out 10 or 20 years ago. But in the year 2019, all these things are not only irritating but seriously outdated. This is definitely a pass for me.