Here’s what’s up with my product reviews. Mostly, I’m reviewing things I get samples of, or things I’ve gotten in exchange for my points at Sephora. No one is paying me to run this blog, and it’s been hell finding a spa job that meets my needs, so until companies start sending me stuff (which, btw, if anyone knows how to make that happen, get at me, seriously), we’re working with samples. I like doing this is because I know a lot of people are in the same boat, using samples and travel sizes to construct their skincare routine until they find something they like or they’re able to afford larger sizes.
Last year’s birthday gift at Sephora was a Peter Thomas Roth cleanser and mask duo. I avoided using it until recently because they are gel products, and gel cleansers tend to dry me out. Gel products are generally best for those with oily, combo, or normal skin. But lately my skin has been breaking out more than usual, so I read through the ingredients and gave them a try. Here are my “in a nutshell” thoughts. If you’d like a thorough analysis of the ingredients used, that will be below.
Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel (Sephora, $38/8.5 fl oz, same price and size at Ulta): As I suspected, this cleanser did dry me out a bit. HOWEVER! I really like using this cleanser in the same way I’d use a clarifying shampoo; not regularly, but every now and then to get a really thorough clean. It lives up to its claims and I was so pleasantly surprised by it. This cleanser contains glycolic acid (an AHA) and salicylic acid (a BHA), which is a fantastic combo for both anti-aging and acne. Some of the fruit acids may irritate more sensitive skin, so be cautious of that. The ingredient deck is great. I do not think pricey cleansers are necessary since you’re going to wash it right off of your face, but I really like this cleanser as a “treatment cleanser” of sorts, and definitely recommend it. Especially for those struggling with adult breakouts and anti-aging concerns simultaneously. I also recommend this to my gothy, glam, and other heavy makeup wearing readers, since it’s so deeply cleansing.
Cucumber Gel Mask (Sephora, $52/5 fl oz, same price and size at Ulta): Would I buy this at the $52 price tag? I’d hesitate. At the same price as the cleanser? Definitely. It is described as being “refreshing, calming, cooling, moisturizing.” Any gel mask is going to be refreshing. I used it after having a severe allergic reaction to another product, to test the calming claim, and honestly? Straight aloe gel is more calming, but it did calm my skin, to a degree. It does have a cooling effect without the use of menthol (this is a big plus for this mask), and is lightly hydrating, so good for skin types needing some, but not excessive, moisture. The ingredient deck is great. Using it for ten minutes twice per week didn’t give me AMAZING results. I just personally have trouble spending more than $30 on a mask, since it’s meant to be washed off.
Now that you know my basic thoughts, let’s look at the claims made on the bottles and the ingredients to figure out WHY these products are effective or ineffective.
Claims: “Oil-Free anti-wrinkle technology rejuvenates clarifies brightens with glycolic acid salicylic acid and fruit extracts for all skin types.” There is no punctuation on the bottle, do you know hard it was for a grammar nerd like me to type all that out?! Anyway. Let’s look at the back of the bottle now: “Luxurious facial cleansing gel helps produce a beautiful, fresh, youthful-looking complexion. Advanced deep skin renewing action increases cell turnover to help diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. Detoxifies the pores, dissolves makeup, emulsifies oil, and improves skin texture as it gently sweeps away dead skin cells and impurities that can dull the complexion.” WOW those are some big claims. Almost “miracle in a bottle” type claims.
- Sodium laureth sulfate: emulsifier, surfactant, less irritating than sodium lauryl sulfate. This is the cleansing agent in this cleanser. According to my ingredient dictionary, it “exhibits a mild to moderate skin irritation index in irritation tests.” This confirms the cleansing claim and the emulsifying claim.
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine: surfactant derived from a coconut oil salt. This is what gives the product it’s creamy foam. Again, this confirms the cleansing, luxurious, makeup dissolving, and skin texture claims.
- Coco-Glucoside: very mild cleansing agent derived from coconut oil and fruit sugar. Meets cleansing, luxurious, makeup dissolving, and skin texture claims.
- Propylene Glycol: Less greasy than glycerin; humectant, solvent, and preservative. It is one of the most common moisture-carrying vehicles used in cosmetic formulations. It can be irritating in high concentrations. Meets cleansing, luxurious, makeup dissolving, and skin texture claims.
- Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid): anti-inflammatory, exfoliating, anti-microbial, anti-septic, preservative enhancer, and pH adjuster. This is the wonder ingredient that meets almost every claim on the cleanser’s label: it improves the look and feel of skin by dissolving the top layer of skin cells; reduces sebaceous follicle blockage; and it appears to improve wrinkles, roughness, and tone. It may cause redness and irritation in higher concentrations.
- Glycolic Acid/Arginine (Alpha Hydroxy Acid): reduces excess buildup of dead skin cells which can be associated with acne, dry skin, and wrinkles. It facilitates sloughing of dead skin cells (it’s an exfoliant). Enhances moisture uptake as well as increases the skin’s ability to bind water. This is the other all-star ingredient that substantiates the label’s claims. It’s beneficial for acne-prone skin, diminishing the signs of age spots, anti-aging, hydrating, moisturizing, and skin normalizing, all of which lead to reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Use of this killer ingredient leads to softer, smoother, healthier, and younger looking skin. In high concentrations, it can be irritating.
- Peach Fruit Extract: abrasive; adds bulk and moisturizing activity. It’s used in products recommended for dry skin. And as we know, dry skin ages faster. So the use of this ingredient can substantiate the anti-aging claims. Plus it smells yummy.
- White Oak Bark Extract: reduces inflammation and prevents infection. It is slightly tonic, strongly astringent, and antiseptic. I suspect this is what gives the sort of dry and tight effect due to the astringent.
- Lemon Fruit Extract: anti-bacterial, anti-septic, astringent, and toner. Also used to perfume products. It’s suggested for treating sunburn, acne problems, and oily skin and it contains citric acid as well as vitamins B and C. It can cause irritation and allergic reactions, which is why I included the disclaimer in the beginning of my review.
- Lime Fruit Extract: perfuming, emollient, soothing, and anti-septic. It’s a source of vitamin C and can cause photosensitivity.
- Linden Flower Extract: known for helping problem or blemished skin, and is considered to be refreshing and soothing. Anti-septic, skin-clearing, soothing, sedative, circulation-stimulating, hydrating, and astringent. (After researching this ingredient, I’ll definitely be looking to implement more products that utilize it.) It’s used effectively for irritated skin and the relaxation of muscle tension and cold, and to mask odor and condition skin.
- Grapefruit Fruit Extract: anti-septic and skin-conditioning. Good for oily skin, contains vitamin C and is very acidic. In high concentrations, it is too caustic to be used on the skin; but as it is lower down on the ingredients, it should not be a problem.
- Citric Acid: astringent and anti-oxidant. Product stabilizer, pH adjuster, and preservative.
- Citrus Bioflavonoids: I had to go to Google for this one, because there was no information in my ingredients dictionaries. Basically, citrus bioflavonoids are used for their antioxidant properties.
- Allantoin: healing, calming, and soothing botanical. It’s an excellent temporary anti-irritant, and it stimulates new tissue growth, helping to heal damaged skin. Derived from comfrey root, it’s good for sensitive, irritated, and acneic skin.
- Methylparaben: non-comedogenic and very low sensitizing preservative, used to combat bacteria and molds.
- Quaternium-15: this is a somewhat controversial preservative. When used in leave-on preparations, such as moisturizers, serums, etc, it is considered highly sensitizing. However, used in low concentrations of 0.02 to 0.3 percent, it is safe and effective without the risk sensitization. Also, it’s one of the last ingredients in this product, meaning very small amounts of it are used. This should not present a problem.
- Red #40, Yellow #5, Fragrance: all unnecessary ingredients that lend to the product’s aesthetic and do nothing for your skin. Again, as these are the last ingredients and therefore the most diluted, they should not present a problem.
Claims: “Extreme detoxifying hydrator. Refreshing cooling moisturizing calming gel helps soothe dry irritated skin with extracts of cucumber papaya pineapple aloe.” And the back label: “This ultra-gentle gel helps soothe, hydrate, and detoxify dry, irritated skin with botanical extracts of cucumber, papaya, chamomile, pineapple, sugar maple, sugarcane, orange, lemon, bilberry, and aloe. For all skin types.” No huge claims here, just soothing, detoxifying hydration. I’m always a little cautious of detox claims, because they never tell you what’s being detoxified. But as far as mask claims go, this is pretty standard.
- Propylene Glycol (repeat from cleanser): Less greasy than glycerin; humectant, solvent, and preservative. It is one of the most common moisture-carrying vehicles used in cosmetic formulations. It can be irritating in high concentrations.
- Cucumber Extract: moisture-binding, moisture-regulating, soothing, tightening, anti-itching, refreshing, softening, healing, and anti-inflammatory. Obviously this ingredient is carrying most of the mask’s claims. And given that the mask has cucumber in the name, it’s fantastic that cucumber extract is the third ingredient. Nothing bothers me more than a product being named after an ingredient that is barely even used. It’s excellent for eye treatments and treatments for oily skin, and effective as a tightening agent for tired, stressed, skin. It’s used in sun preparations as a refresher. The best part of cucumber extract is that it contains amino acids and organic acids that are claimed to strengthen the skin’s acid mantle.
- Papaya Fruit Extract: cleanser for acne-prone skin. It’s a very gentle exfoliant (and one of my personal favorites). It softens the skin and can help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is something you should look for in ALL masks.
- Pineapple Extract: anti-inflammatory and exfoliant. It can be irritating to the skin.
- Whole Leaf Aloe Vera: I could gush about aloe for hours. It’s an emollient and a thickener, but has so, so many benefits. It is hydrating, softening, healing, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory. Aloe is most recognized for its moisturizing properties because it supplies moisture directly to the skin tissue. It relaxes the skin, which is why it’s so valuable for sensitive, sunburned, and sun-exposed skin. This is another killer ingredient that you should incorporate whenever possible.
- Bilberry Fruit Extract: bilberry is the cuter name for huckleberry. Astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, slightly muscle relaxing, and protects against collagen degradation.
- Sugarcane Extract: I had trouble finding information on this one. It is, essentially, the raw form of glycolic acid.
- Sugar Maple Extract: natural source of AHA, which is exfoliating.
- Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract: anti-inflammatory and repairer. Bactericidal, anti-itching, soothing, antiseptic, purifying, refreshing, and hypoallergenic, with the ability to neutralize skin irritants. It is non-comedogenic and is excellent for dry skin.
- Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Oil: another form of chamomile.
- Lemon Extract (repeat from cleanser): anti-bacterial, anti-septic, astringent, and toner. Also used to perfume products. It’s suggested for treating sunburn, acne problems, and oily skin and it contains citric acid as well as vitamins B and C. It can cause irritation and allergic reactions, which is why I included the disclaimer in the beginning of my review.
- Orange Extract: perfume, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, and sedative. It’s good for sensitive, delicate skin.
- Glycerin: one of my personal favorite ingredients! It is a humectant and a moisturizer, and it improves the spreading quality of products.
- Sodium Pca: a humectant that is a component of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor. It’s recommended for dry, delicate, and sensitive skins.
- Allantoin (repeat from cleanser): healing, calming, and soothing botanical. It’s an excellent temporary anti-irritant, and it stimulates new tissue growth, helping to heal damaged skin. Derived from comfrey root, it’s good for sensitive, irritated, and acneic skin.
- Disodium Edta: a low-concentration preservative.
- Sodium Polyacrylate: suspending agent, stabilizer, and emulsifier.
- Triethanolamine: emulsifier and pH adjuster.
- Carbomer: thickening and suspending agent.
- Polysorbate 20: solubilizer, emulsifier, viscosity modifier, and stabilizer of essential oils in water.
- Diazolidinyl Urea: antiseptic, deodorizer, and broad-spectrum preservative against bacteria and fungi.
- Methylparaben (repeat from cleanser): non-comedogenic and very low sensitizing preservative, used to combat bacteria and molds.
- Propylparaben: one of the most frequently used preservatives against bacteria and mold. It’s considered to be one of the safest preservatives.
- Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Blue 1 (CI 42090): product colorant.
I’m really happy with the ingredient decks on these products. Although they both contain several ingredients that may cause irritation, they both also contain ingredients that are used to combat those effects. I saw results with the cleanser after just a few uses, which is rare for me. I definitely recommend the cleanser, and the mask as well if you don’t mind the higher price point.
Have you ever used PTR Skincare? If so, which products did you love? Let me know in the comments below!