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The thin line between helping and hurting

Have you ever heard the expressions “beauty is only skin deep” and “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”? It’s likely that the people making LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex have not because this product appears to be one thing on the outside and something else entirely on the inside.

To begin, there are bogus and fantasy scientific claims that have been associated with this product. But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. Instead, visit the TINA.org website or read my related post that also cites their site and talks about why the team at Truth in Advertising has complained to the Federal Trade Commission about Jeunesse Global. Hiding in shiny packaging, behind a big price tag, and under a label with promises of “dramatic” improvements, what we find “inside that counts” of LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex is in fact a range of ingredients that deserve a second look.

LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex claims to help “maintain” that “luminous look” and promises that its “revolutionary growth factor complex” will give skin an “age-defying glow”. But with just a little research, the ingredients in this pricy potion start to match up with the what you’ll find in warning lists. Side effects for the ingredients in LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex, especially depending on the quantities used, range from dry skin and eczema to reproductive toxicity and premature cell aging. That’s pretty wild considering these are the very things that Jeunesse Global “life-changing” products claim to prevent.

Here is a closer look at the top 10 LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex ingredients that you should understand better:


While used widely in the skincare and cosmetics industry, most alcohol-based ingredients yield similar results – including those listed as ingredients in LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex: Isopentyldiol, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Geraniol and Linalool.

According to Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice skin care and author of 20 best-selling books on skincare including Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me (http://www.paulaschoice.com/shop/Shop-Paulas-Choice-Books/_/Dont-Go-to-the-Cosmetics-Counter-Without-Me-9th-Edition/), “alcohol is an anti-aging nightmare for your skin”.

While products that contain alcohol often have a “pleasing, quick-drying finish that feels weightless on skin”, Paula Begoun warns consumers to not be fooled. Often selected for their spreadability, ability to thicken or thin a solution, or to prevent an emulsion from separating, many medical experts believe that a side effect of alcohol is its ability to break the skin’s natural protective barrier, sometimes causing allergic reactions.

Alcohol helps ingredients like retinol and vitamin C penetrate into the skin more effectively, but it does that by breaking down the skin’s barrier—destroying the very substances that keep your skin healthy over the long term.

And dry skin is just the beginning. The most concerning problem surrounding alcohol in skincare products is the research that links alcohol to free-radical damage.

The following studies, including the names of the author scientists, all point to the fact that the inclusion of alcohol in skin care products leads to cell death to one degree or another.

Several skincare products that use alcohol use it at a percentage higher than 3% but some of the studies cited above involved testing skin cells exposed to an alcohol concentration of just 3%. Other experiments used alcohol concentrations “ranging from 5% to 60% or greater” where cell death increased up to 26% over two days of exposure. Damage levels increased not just with an increase of alcohol concentration but also simply with prolonged use. One particular study was damning in its conclusion:

[Alcohol] also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free-radicals — this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren’t bad enough, exposure to alcohol causes skin cells to self-destruct.

Obviously, this is not what you want to hear about a beauty product that is advised for daily use on your face. The fact is, however, that you can’t expect all alcohol to be avoided in your beauty products. There are some benefits to the use of alcohol in lower concentrations, primarily physical properties of the substance or cream. To get the benefit though, you have to make a trade off and the right quantities need to be respected. Problems arise quickly when alcohol concentrations increase, even as low as 3%, especially because alcohol has such a damaging and profound effect on our skin.

One of the more potent alcohols used in LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex is called Geraniol. Geraniol is classified as a D2B (a toxic material causing ‘other’ effects), and is suspected to be an environmental toxin too. It is a known allergen and poses a hazard to skin but it is not uncommon in a range of different products, including mosquito repellant. For this reason, its use in cosmetics is restricted, and fragrances or perfumes also have manufacturing restrictions surrounding the concentration levels that are allowed.

Linalool is another alcohol that is commonly used in beauty products. While it is a naturally occurring alcohol and a fragrant component of lavender and coriander, it can be a potent skin irritant, allergen, or sensitizer when exposed to air. A 2009 thesis presented at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, found that “between 5% and 7% of patients undergoing patch testing were found to be allergic to the oxidized form of linalool”. Considering Linalool is found in “60%-80% of hygiene products” in some markets, contact allergy as a result of Linalool is thought to be common but avoidable.

Research by Anjali Prashar and scientists Locke I. and Evans C. found that the lavender component of Linalool can be cytotoxic (toxic to skin cells). From their research paper:

“This study has demonstrated that lavender oil is cytotoxic to human skin cells… Membrane damage is proposed as the possible mechanism of action.”

So, no big deal, it’s just causing “membrane damage”. Not that I want anything that is “damaging” my membranes anywhere near me. Because Linalool is a likely toxicant and allergen, its use has been restricted by the International Fragrance Association of Codes & Standards, and it is only approved if the special instance satisfies strict manufacturing specifications or purity limits.

Adipose Derived Adult Stem Cell Conditioned Media

This is the star ingredient of the Jeunesse Global product line-up. “Adipose Derived Adult Stem Cell Conditioned Media” is another name for the “patent-pending growth factor complex”.

Controversial mostly due to its source but also because of the way they are being used, human stem cells are often taken from newborn baby foreskins or human fat cells (adipose cells). It is the lab-controlled proteins secreted by these cells that become the ingredient for LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex.

The majority of research around Adipose Derived Adult Stem Cell Conditioned Media deals with using it to assist in healing wounds and repairing soft tissue damage when used together with various plastic surgery treatments. As of yet, however, there is no clear indication or proof of any benefit when applied topically to the face and the FDA has gone after other companies like L’Oreal that have made similar stem cell related claims. Considering the high cost of such an ingredient, there should at least be some facts associated with the benefits of using Stem Cell or Stem Cell related products. Perhaps not surprisingly, nothing like this is available or provided by Jeunesse or any other manufacturer for that matter.

Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate

Perhaps because it is meant to confuse us intentionally, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate has many names; Octyl Methoxycinnamate (INCI), Octinoxate (USAN), Eusolex 2292 and Uvinul MC80 are among these names – and, to those in the know, it might be known simply as “toxic”.

Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate has been known to produce “excess reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signalling, cause mutations, and lead to cell death”. These possible side-effects are obviously the antithesis of the “re-hydrating, renewing and revitalizing” claims associated with the LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex. But there must be some redeeming quality related to this substance.

Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is used to absorb, reflect, or scatter UV rays, is an active ingredient in sunscreen, and has a core function of protecting skin from environmental damage. When used generally in cosmetics and skincare products its use prevents product deterioration caused by the sun, essentially enabling the product to last longer.

In LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex, this particular ingredient has yet another purpose. Limited studies have shown that Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate can be effective at preventing cell aging through a process called Hormesis. This is when a favorable response is brought out with exposure to low levels of toxins or other stressors. The very reason this is being sounds like nothing other than playing with fire.

While Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in small doses, up to a concentration of 7.5%, when reading the ingredient list on LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex it is unclear just how much is being used for the “Hormesis effect”. What we know as a fact is that if the fine balance is tipped, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate runs the very real risk of badly damaging your skin cells, the same skin cells that LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex claims to help protect.


Octocrylene is known for its skin moisturizing, emollient properties. It is also found in many sunscreen solutions. Octocrylene is absorbed into the skin quite easily. And then it gets bad because “it increases the danger of forming free radicals that may become unstable and react with other compounds forming harmful substances when used in excess quantity”.

While it would make sense to use a chemical that would positively deal with free-radicals on the surface of the skin, the trouble begins when it enters the body. Once Octocrylene enters deeper layers of your skin, it causes unnecessary and unwanted changes. For this reason, concentration levels are usually limited to no more than 10-12%. 

The worst part is that some associations with the use of Octocrylene are adverse effects on sexual function and fertility in adults. Despite this, Octocrylene is one of the many ingredients used by Jeunesse Global reminding us that we hope someone on their development staff is carefully watching the thin line between loving your skin and being hateful to it. Fingers crossed.


In May 2008 the FDA issued a warning (http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2008/ucm116900.htm) against a nipple cream called “Mommy’s Bliss” which contained “potentially harmful ingredients that may cause respiratory distress or vomiting and diarrhoea in infants”. Cited by the FDA as a chemical preservative that “can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration in infants”. So with that whopper, it’s no surprise that the use of Phenoxyethanol in the skincare product market is controversial.

Removed from a list of what is allowed by ECOCERT, an organic certification organization, for use in cosmetic formulations, it is also no longer approved for use by the Soil Association. It’s proven that repeated exposure to this substance over prolonged periods has been linked to contact dermatitis, worsening of eczema, reproductive toxicity and neurotoxicity, which is anything related to artificial toxic substances altering the normal activity of the nervous system!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s safety data sheets on Phenoxyethanol state that it is

…harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin

…when used in high concentrations. Numerous studies on animals have supported this.


With numerous studies pointing to Limonene and its oxidation products as skin and respiratory irritants, its use is restricted by the International Fragrance Association Codes & Standards and can only be used in small doses.

A naturally occurring scent found in citrus fruits, because it is so effective at breaking down the skin’s natural defense barrier, consumers should be wary of Limonene’s presence in skincare products, especially in conjunction with other alcohol-based chemicals.


Marketed in dietary supplements for decades, Phytosterol is the name for a compound found in plants that resembles cholesterol. When taken orally it is proven to lower cholesterol and is currently undergoing preliminary research to explore its potential to inhibit lung, stomach, ovarian, and breast cancers.

I have found only limited evidence into exploration of using Phytosterol to boost collagen production and reduce signs of sun damage but either way nothing has been proven. Claims that Phytosterol is capable of helping skin to retain its youthful appearance is hearsay and it is just a marketing tag line to help sell LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex, nothing more.

Hydrogenated Lecithin

Primarily used to treat dry or damaged skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness, Hydrogenated Lecithin is prevalent in a variety of skincare products, including LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex.

Known to play an important role in a cell’s metabolism, it is considered safe for use by both the FDA and National Institute of Health in concentrations of up to 15%. In spite of this, several concerns have been raised over its carcinogenic properties and its ability to penetrate the skin when used in conjunction with other known irritants. That’s what we know about Hydrogenated Lecithin.

Sodium Lactate

Commonly found in meat and poultry products as a preservative, in the world of beauty, the reason to use Sodium Lactate include using it as a buffering agent, pH controlling agent, and as an exfoliant.

Approved by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) expert panel when used below certain concentrations, it is known to be an eye, skin, and respiratory irritant in higher doses than those commonly found in skincare products. There is also reason to believe there that Sodium Lactate may have a link to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ system toxicity and endocrine disruption, or interference with hormone levels in humans.

Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

A compound with a metallic base that can corrode or burn organic tissue (um, skin cells?), Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is widely used in the manufacture of paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps, detergents, and as a pH adjuster up to pH 11 in beauty products.

Due to its high alkalinity, which is to say closer to a pH of 11 than 1, it is widely considered to be a corrosive irritant, and has been classified as “expected to be toxic or harmful” due to its links to cancer, neurotoxicity, and organ system toxicity.

Studies by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/pdfs/0565.pdf) found that Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) causes

…irritation eyes, skin, mucous membrane; pneumonitis; eye, skin burns; temporary loss of hair

…and recommends that consumers prevent skin and eye contact altogether.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0565.html) also reported that

…skin contact with sodium hydroxide can cause severe burns with deep ulcerations. Pain and irritation are evident within 3 minutes, but contact with dilute solutions may not cause symptoms for several hours. Contact with the eye may produce pain and irritation, and in severe cases, clouding of the eye and blindness.

Contrary to claims that products with this ingredient can “rejuvenate skin cells”, it’s believed that solutions as weak as 12% can “destruct healthy skin cells within one hour”.

So there you have it. LUMINESCE™ daily moisturizing complex contains several ingredients that should raise alarm bells. The biggest problem here is that the reason anyone would buy Jeunesse Global products would be to not just avoid but “reverse” the visible signs of aging. But with these disgraceful claims and the facts about what goes into their skincare products, you couldn’t pay me to use this stuff. What do you think?


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After learning about how some skin care companies care so much about profits that they will even put out bad products, I put together this site. But frankly, anyone that is selling things that can hurt customers is in my sights.


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