Perricone MD Formula 15 Product Review

Reviews, Skin Care
Formula 15: $125 for 2.0 oz

Now, the Perricone MD Formula 15 ($125 for 2.0 oz) claims to embody fifteen years of research development and product success from the formulary team at Perricone MD; it’s a way to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the brand.

Therefore, this formulation must be unique, right? Unfortunately, it is not; both the main vehicular and non-vehicular ingredients are either the same or very similar compared to those used in several previously-released Perricone MD products.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I have reiterated before, it’s the old but well-scrutinized ingredients that achieve the best results. Will this formulation endure such scrutiny?

Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE)

Present in this product at perhaps (5-10%), DMAE has been shown to be an effective skin firming agent. In the Spotlight on: Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) post, I summarized that:

“It’s pretty obvious that it [DMAE] does induce firming of the skin via vacuolization (which may or may not be harmful), rather than ACh [acetylcholine] generation. But is it worth the risk? On one hand, clinical studies show that DMAE is able to penetrate and thicken the dermis, indicating that vacuolization does occur at that depth. On the other hand, volunteers used a 3% DMAE gel for an entire year without exhibiting adverse reactions. Furthermore, as vacuolization can be slowly reversed and is a partially reversible process, stopping applications of DMAE may result in varying degrees of loss in terms of skin firmness.”

DMAE: Effective Only At a Basic, Alkaline, and High pH?

Skin that's alkaline is more suspectible to microbial growth.
Skin that’s alkaline is more suspectible to microbial growth.

I also touched briefly on a pH issue in the DMAE ingredient profile. As DMAE is naturally stable and effective at an alkaline pH (~10), if this product is actually that basic, it would definitely not be beneficial to immerse the skin in such an environment, as it will reduce the skin’s ability to function properly, while encouraging microbial proliferation.

If the product isn’t at that alkaline pH, then the DMAE content will be largely meaningless. A way around this would be to use a neutral salt like DMAE bitartrate, which theoretically can be equally effective. However, as the ingredients list states DMAE in its free form… I don’t really know how the Perricone MD brand got around this formulary obstacle, if the company chemists did at all.

As stated in the DMAE post, there are just too many unknowns and not enough payoff (in my opinion) to include such an ingredient in your routine.

***Also note that the phosphatidylcholine content will not convert to choline, and then acetylcholine because the enzyme responsible for the first metabolic step (phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase) exists only in the liver.

Thioctic Acid or Alpha Lipoic Acid

On the other side of the spectrum, the research behind alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is abundant. Unfortunately, very, VERY little of it has anything to do with ALA when applied topically. Please see the Spotlight on: Thioctic Acid or Alpha Lipoic Acid post for more information.

Ultimately, the lack of clinical studies and presence of contradicting theoretical information, make ALA just a “meh” ingredient. There are plenty of better and more-researched antioxidants available.



Tyrosine is one of the twenty-two amino acids present in humans, and is one of the essential twenty. However, like with ALA above, while tyrosine is ubiquitously present throughout the body, its relevance and potential in skin care are virtually nonexistent.

In melanin formation, tyrosine is hydroxylated by the tyrosinase enzyme to become 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA). However, there is absolutely no research implying that the topical application of tyrosine will increase melanogenesis. And would we even want that…? If tyrosine actually worked like it’s supposed to, we’d be subject to increase hyperpigmentation and unevenness in skin tone! Furthermore, since most people apply facial products to just their face and neck, would you want a tanned face and neck, while the rest of the body is pale…?

Altogether, I think it’s fortunate that tyrosine does NOT work topically! Its mild water-binding (humectant) properties are all I would want.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid’s array of beneficial attributes are covered in Part II of the series on hydroxy acids.

In the context of this product however, it is unlikely that the pH is sufficiently low (<4.0) to allow glycolic acid (GA) to function. As noted above, the optimal pH for DMAE (the “star” ingredient present in the highest concentration, second to only water) is highly alkaline (~10). And even if the neutral salt is present or somehow able to form in solution, a pH of 7 would still render the glycolic acid content useless.

It is likely that the team at Perricone MD included GA in an attempt to increase product validity in the eyes of the increasingly-aware consumers. However, as the two ingredients are incompatible (either one works or neither do), the inclusion of GA is just a hollow promise; something that most consumer do not realize. Still, GA will act as a water-binding agent, which is a good thing as it, along with the other water-binding agents, will facilitate the vacuolization process triggered by DMAE.

Potentially Irritating Ingredients

Both limonene and citral can be derived from lemons.
Both limonene and citral can be derived from lemons.

At the very bottom of the ingredients list, you will see five fragrance compounds: linalool, citronellol, geraniol, limonene, and citral. As discussed in the Is Fragrance in Skin Care Good or Bad? post, these compounds are part of Fragrance Mix I and II, and the Others, which can certainly provoke allergic and other adverse cutaneous reactions.

However, they are all known chemical penetration enhancers, which are there to ensure that DMAE penetrates deeply into the skin to have a more profound capacity to increase firmness (via vacuolization).

It varies from situation to situation, but sometimes these potentially irritating ingredients are an appropriate and beneficial factor in a skin care product. However, I don’t personally believe this is one of those times, mostly because of the fact that so many of them are listed IN ADDITION to Fragrance/Parfum. There are just too many present, which probably offsets the balance between efficacy and irritation.

Perricone MD Formula 15: Conclusion

I think it’s rather clever and cunning that the team at Perricone MD capitalized on DMAE, since it provides a highly desirable cosmetic effect: skin firming. And since consumers who love the results will continue to use these products, they’ll never see that the effect is in-part temporary.

If you want something from Perricone MD, go for the Blue Plasma Peel!
If you want something from Perricone MD, go for the Blue Plasma Peel!

Formula 15 is overall, decent. However, I would not recommend shelling out $125 for this product unless you desperately want some noticeable firming of the skin and don’t care much for the potential consequences addressed. There are just better alternatives if you want to firm the skin. Furthermore, these alternatives (like those in the retinoids family) actually change the skin. DMAE only alters the appearance of the skin by basically filling it up with water. I mean, if you’re going to be spending this kind of money to firm the skin, you might as well go get some prescription Retin-A or Renova.

In essence, this “15th anniversary celebration” is anything but memorable. On the other hand, the newly-released Perricone MD Blue Plasma Peel is rather special.  


Water/Aqua/Eau, Dimethyl MEA, Thioctic Acid, Isopropyl Palmitate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Tyrosine, Glycolic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Propanediol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Urea, Ceteareth-20, Cyclopentasiloxane, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Dimethicone, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Phosphatidylcholine, Caprylyl Glycol, Hydroxylated Lecithin, BHT, Zinc Gluconate, Magnesium Aspartate, Acetyl Tyrosine, Disodium EDTA, Pyridoxine HCl, Zinc Sulfate, Pantethine, Fragrance/Parfum, Sorbic Acid, Copper Gluconate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Citral.

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  • @Angela

    Mhm, will do!

  • Angela

    Thanks, John! Sounds good. Aside from Retin A, it would be great to know what, if any, are better alternatives if you want to firm the skin.

  • @Angela

    Well, there aren’t TOO many demonstrated “firming” ingredients, but I’ll keep your request in mind. If I don’t get around to writing a post on this, I’ll pass the idea along to one of the other writers if that’s okay with you. 🙂

  • Angela

    I’d love to see an entire in-depth post on skin firming including the top 10 skin firming products.

  • @jeff

    Sure, I can give you a quick eview now. The product is indeed a scam, and as you probably guessed, contains nothing particularly helpful for the skin. The collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans contents are far too large to penetrate into the skin.

    The only other ingredient worth mentioning (and not in a good way), is the nerium oleander leaf extract, which is in fact a poisonous plant found in New Zealand ( and ironically the origin of the product name.

    Way to go…NeriumAD.

  • @Janessa

    Yeah there are quite a few ratings on Sephora, but very few actual reviews of this. Glad you liked the review!

  • jeff

    Would you please review NeriumAD? Their ban partners (its an MLM scheme) think its the best product going.

  • Janessa

    I’ve seen this product in stores and online and I’ve never paid much attention to it because of the price tag but wow, I’m a bit shocked at its performance. Thanks for the review, John! It’s so fascinating to read about skincare products diligently broken down and explained with science– the essence of Future Derm!

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