Paula’s Choice Skincare Review & General “Miracle” Skincare Rants: Nerium, La Mer

In my recent quest for skincare I came across Paula’s Choice Beautypedia which has reviews on tons of ingredients and brands. I have some reservations about this Beautypedia as it’s ultimately a brand trying to sell itself so why would it love other brands? While I have a hard time taking all they have to say to heart, because of advertising in general, it is very helpful and interesting to read. It does also list ingredients to products that I have a hard time finding an ingredient list online which is a plus. I do notice Paula dislikes many ingredients such as any fragrance, lavender, lemon oil and the list could go on forever. Well, maybe not forever but it’s lengthy and if you follow it you will cut out a lot of skin care you already own, as well as what’s on the market currently.

In general Paula has some great products and ingredients. It seems like a very safe and practical line. They all come in practical non fancy packaging. I do like that nothing is in open jars and I agree with Paula on that. The more you open a jar and expose the key ingredients to air, the higher the possibility those ingredients will degrade before you can use it all. Putting creams in pumps or tubes is best. Now, yes I do like a fancy nice glass jar, but I can like a glass pump better if my cream stays active. Plus sticking your fingers in the cream everyday introduces bacteria which can degrade it as well. I use small 5mL plastic sample jars and fill my creams in them, then I only open the small amount to air everyday not my whole jar. I use a clean just washed spatula to transfer the cream from the big jar to the sample jar and don’t contaminate my big jar. I just wish everyone would make all that stuff in pumps or tubes, but I know many love the fancy packaging and would not be happy if they’re favorite cream changed shape, but if they knew why maybe they could be on board.

While I do try to stay away from some of the ingredients Paula lists as bad it’s so hard to stay away from all of them. Check out how many of your products have lavender oil. Supposedly it is cytotoxic to some level. It destroys healthy cells. I don’t mind lavender flower water, I try to stay away from lavender oil unless it’s a ingredient in the very end of the ingredient list of an item I really want to try. And Paula does tend to agree some with the EWG(see link on main page to their website) on ingredients. Paula does however, use some parabens and sulfates. However, I do agree with them on this. Parabens got a bad rap based on press. But if you look at it, only Propylparaben is the worst, the rest are less bothersome as far as toxicity. And you have to use it in concentrations so high to make it toxic you can’t be exposed at that level in beauty products. Same with sulfates. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the worst but Sodium Laureth Sulfate is not as bad. So it all depends on the particular ingredient, not the class. Plus, some of the new preservatives they are adding to replace parabens are more skin irritating than parabens. 

You have to take all the ‘bad’ ingredients with a grain of salt. I think it also depends where it’s at in your ingredient list meaning concentration level. I do love that Paula’s stuff is alcohol free. SD Alcohol 40 or denatured alcohol are terrible for your skin. I avoid them as much as I can. They get added to skincare to make it dry on your face faster and not feel as sticky. However, it’s very drying on your skin and has no benefit other than texture. There are natural fatty acids from plants that have alcohol in the name, but don’t be afraid of them. They are not bad for your skin and they help with the texture as well. Companies are putting more of these types in their products lately. The other alcohol is cheaper but it’s very irritating, especially in an eye product. 

Anyway, Paula’s is cheap though and they don’t waste money on fancy packaging. If you’re a fancy packaging lover you probably won’t like them. I did order a few items they have based on their ingredients vs other expensive items I’ve wanted that has similar ingredients. So I tried Paula’s Choice in those items. They all happen to be from her Resist line.

I started with the Resist Ultra-Light Antioxidant Serum. It has all kinds of good stuff for a light moisturizing gel serum. Hyaluronic acid, reservatrol, niacinamide, quercetin, vitamin C and E, sea whip exract, beta glucan. The Vitamin C levels are not as high as I like to be my day serum, I prefer Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. But it’s great for antioxidants and as an extra boost of moisture when you want it. And supplies those beta glucans helpful for skin break outs. This is for combo, oily skin, but can be for normal or dry as well. I would put this as all skin types. This is a great day serum, but no reason you can’t use it at night.

Next I got the Resist Super Antioxidant Serum which is thicker and for drier skin. It has a different set of ingredients such as: vitamin C and E, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, beta glucan, superoxide dismutase, gluthione, uva ursi extract, tumeric Extract. This is for dry or normal skin, it could work for combo skin as well like mine. This feels thick and oily at first but absorbs in five minutes. I use this at night.

I am not a fan of hydroquinone so I have been trying Paula’s Resist Pure Radiance Brightening Serum. This is a thicker gel and not oily. It has lots of good lightening ingredients in it, it just seems to not really be that effective for me after almost a whole tube. Though in all honesty no brightening serum seems to work all that great for me and my brown spots. I use vitamin C, and can’t use Retinol right now as I’m trying to get pregnant and Retinol is a no no plus it really requires a commitment so I feel why bother right now. I try the alternatives and while they’re OK, they don’t compare to Retinol. Next to try is the OSEA Brightening Serum I just ordered. I also feel this thicker gel makes my face cream pill a little, so I’m using up the rest of the tube on my neck at night then not re purchasing.

Next is my replacement for my Renee Rouleau BHA Serum. Salicylic acid is great for clearing pores and around my nose this is key a few times a week, or in an area I’m breaking out in at the moment. I decided to try Paula’s Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA liquid. It beats Renee’s gel as it absorbs quicker being a liquid and doesn’t add an extra layer. I use a Shiseido cotton square to apply. It clears my pores, doesn’t sting and overall is cheap and great for clearing pores on my nose or other areas.

Last I got the Resist Weightless 2% BHA Body Treatment which is a large 7 fl oz tube. This is to exfoliate your body. I use it for those “chicken bumps” I get on the back of my arms, the back of my neck and upper back where I can get a few breakouts. It’s a lightweight lotion, I apply after my regular body lotion or oil in the target areas. It works great and is cheap, I love this stuff. They also have liquids if you prefer that form. This would also be great on the bikini line I imagine for ingrown hairs. I’d try it but I got laser hair removal, which is great by the way, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Overall, some things are great from Paula’s Choice. They can be a great safe, cheap alternative, just not that innovative to me. They do sell samples so that’s a big plus as you can try it first easy and their shipping is cheap if you don’t meet the minimum for free shipping. They also have a great return policy if you don’t like it in I believe 30 days you can send it back for a refund.

In part of my skincare rant, Paula seems to cite research articles for everything. It’s a good marketing strategy, as I doubt a lot of people actually click on the research articles, then read them, as well as understand what makes a good or bad research study. I know I didn’t understand research until I took a mandatory class in school. Paula seems to cite good studies though. But, there are a lot of bad studies out there that can skew information if you don’t know what you are looking for. Research is limited based on who does it, sample size, study design, and not all research is reputable. This also works in the case of companies who claim their one miracle ingredient can do it all based on their company paid very limited study. This is fairly common and you almost need to look up the ingredients separately to see if there’s research on the ingredient, not the brand.

I have to admit I’m a sucker for a new cutting edge ingredient even if may not work. I like trying them. I’m a sucker. However, just because I try new ingredients doesn’t mean I agree with claims by companies that one ingredient can do everything. Formulas should be well rounded with multiple ways to attack a skincare issue. There is no one miracle ingredient that can do it all. The old saying if it’s too good to be true, it probably is comes to mind. Nerium I’m looking at you on this one. La Mer as well. I’ve tried almost every La Mer item they make, they smell lovely, hydrate well but claim this one seaweed miracle broth can do it all. I do love seaweed in my skincare, but I would like some cutting edge peptides or AHA or other anti aging proven ingredients to balance it out. La Mer the Creme has mineral oil which is pore clogging, the seaweed extract and some good basic moisturizing ingredients but nothing that special for the price. And I got suckered into it for years. The textures are nice though, I do love the basics they have, I would love to see them do more beyond seaweed, like vitamin C, peptides, maybe an AHA. Something beyond the do it all miracle broth. I have used other cheaper creams that do produce the same effect on my skin.

I feel Nerium and La Mer have basic moisturizing formulas and people who never had a regular skincare regimen previously will see a benefit from it for that reason alone, but as far as one miracle ingredient doing it all for you I don’t buy that. Read here for more about Nerium here and here. I’m not saying these two are the only guilty parties in claiming miracles for average stuff with high prices. I would try Nerium out of curiosity, but I can’t bring myself to put that toxic plant on my face, no matter how safe someone claims it to be. Supposedly a child can eat 400 jars and it wouldn’t be toxic, yet one leaf from an oleander plant can kill a child. So is one leaf of extract in more than 400 jars then? If they have such a low amount of it in the cream, then there’s such a little amount of their star ingredient in the product. You’re mainly getting the other ingredients. They also combine oleander with aloe vera on the ingredient list as NAT-8 and it’s high in the ingredient list, but you really have no idea what concentration of oleander extract is in the NAT-8. It could be 99% aloe vera and 1% oleander, you have no idea. The day cream does have a PDDH peptide that does supposedly help with collagen production, so maybe this with the mostly basic hydrating ingredients is what people are seeing results from. I will give Nerium a thumbs up for being in a pump not a pot.

Their creams have Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate a preservative which can be irritating and a formaldehyde releaser according to the EWG. There is also the possibility that the oleander extract causes inflammation, this would make your skin plump up a little(like bee venom products) which would make it look like your lines and wrinkles are less. Which like bee venom would be OK on occasional use, but chronic inflammation is aging. Their only published research study I can find lists 34 people as it’s sample size, which is small and not a good study size. And it’s only 4 weeks there’s no follow up at maybe 8 weeks, or 3 & 6 months which would make it stronger as a study. They also don’t list having a control which makes it a weak study. Between 2 and 4 weeks the percentage of improvement in discoloration and fine lines dropped. I imagine this was the period where the hydrating properties were starting to become less impressive. Meaning, if your skin was dehydrated and you rehydrate it you will see a rapid improvement in the first few weeks, then it tends to level off. So it would be nice to see what the improvement levels were at 8 weeks and 3 and 6 months. Again, the problem with cosmetic companies research is their skewing it to make it look good, it’s all marketing.

I do hate the MLM marketing strategy. It’s similar to commission which I’m also not a fan of, it makes the seller care more about their money/prize than the product. I worked for a company like that once, all you learn is marketing strategies, learn to recite company blurbs and answers to common questions. It’s like Amway, Avon and all that, it’s really popular for a few years then it dies down and the company finally decides to sell the product online vs only through people. I also hate the before and after shot part of marketing. It can be skewed so easy. The before photos always have bad hair and makeup, bad lighting that accentuates wrinkles and flaws, they always have unhappy looking mouths too. Then the after photos have happy faces, great lighting that hides flaws and they wear some makeup. The lighting alone can make or break a photo, plus how easy it is to photoshop a bit. I never buy anything based on a before/after photo campaign as it can be so easily rigged. I will say Nerium is great at marketing, I think that’s what makes it sell well. That’s probably why myself and others try to pick it apart more than other brands you buy over the counter.

Their safety claim is from oleander not being able to be absorbed into your bloodstream, but if you have open acne sores and put a cream on, you risk the chance of it getting absorbed. However, if the concentration of the oleander is so low to not be toxic orally then it shouldn’t matter. So, I’m mostly thinking it’s not toxic but might be irritating based on the plant it is. Overall the benefits don’t outweigh the risks to me as there are plenty of other great anti aging creams and products for the same price. Plus, I put my money in my serums not always my moisturizer. A serum is concentrated with the active ingredients more so than a cream. That’s why they usually cost more as well. 

Also interesting is Nerium Biotech, the parent company, also made an anti cancer drug based on oleander called Anvirzel but it was not approved by the FDA for use in the US. I only bring this up as since not being able to be sold in the US due to questionable risks(there was 2 deaths related to the drug) yet they are selling it in Latin America which you can check out here. Nerium has also recently released Optimera internationally. Optimera does not have the nerium oleander extract in it’s ingredient list at all. Why not? Otherwise this new cream seems OK for a cream, they even took out the irritating preservative. I don’t get why they left their miracle ingredient out of this new cream? Based on the Optimera ingredient list I would try it. Maybe it will be the replacement for Nerium in the US when they sell out of Nerium stock? Who knows. Read the American Cancer Society’s page here stating the oleander leaf is on Germany’s banned list of ingredients in cosmecueticals. The debate over Nerium is interesting and they certainly are not the only company to have skewed research for marketing. They seem to be experiencing what happens with bad press. Such as parabens and sulfates, once branded bad it’s hard to get away from it. But different from La Mer whose miracle ingredient won’t harm you, Nerium has too much pointing to oleander not being more beneficial vs harmful. Mainly in chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, not toxicity. You have to read the two linked pages above to see how I got there.

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress cause aging. This is why we apply sunscreen to avoid oxidative stress from UV rays. Trying to avoid anything that causes extra oxidative stress seems logical right? Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can also cause cancer. I would personally avoid anything that has the possibility of this, such as the oleander extract. No benefits from it can outweigh that risk possibility, despite how any person tries to sell me on it. Even without the oleander extract the formaldehyde releaser is enough to make me not want to try it. Granted there are other ingredients in skincare that cause chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. It’s not just oleander. Avoiding them all is helpful in the fight against aging. I always try to remember that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe, and just because someone says it’s a miracle doesn’t mean it is.

My advice on anti aging products: Get a good sunscreen and wear it everyday and around the eyes. Even if you don’t go outside, UV light still comes through windows. Use an antioxidant serum in the day with a high concentration of stable vitamin C(10-15%). These two prevent future damage. Exfoliate with chemical(AHA, glycolic acid etc 3-5 days a week as your skin tolerates) and physical scrubs(at least weekly). A deep weekly face peel is nice too with some AHA. Glycolic acid lightens brown spots, adds moisture and helps fine lines and wrinkles. Keep your skin hydrated and find a daily routine you can stick to. You don’t have to do a 10 step routine, but sticking to it is important. Find a nice night serum you like. You can try peptides or retinol(even derivatives like palmitate or vitamin A if you can’t do retinol) whatever makes sense for your skin. Night is when skin repairs and regenerates. Protect in the day, regenerate at night. Just only do retinol products and derivatives at night. I’ll discuss why in my future sunscreen post. And don’t be afraid to look up a products ingredients to see what’s good and bad in them, and at what concentration level.

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