After a long time, not only do I have a new cosmetic review, but also another ingredient analysis. I spotted this Lacura serum in Aldi for unbelievable 4 Euros (well-known brand serums are usually 40 Euros or more for the same amount of product). I thought it was too good to be true, so I checked the ingredients and as I didn’t see anything nasty mentioned in there, I decided to get it and look at it more closely. Hence here is my review of the serum and analysis of the ingredients. If you’re not interested in the details, feel free to scroll down for the conclusion.
The serum comes in a very nice packaging, especially for a product with this price. It has a paper box with ingredient information etc. The serum itself comes in a glass(!) bottle with pump plastic pump. There’s no cover for the top but it should be fine as pump is the most microbial contamination resistant type of packaging (there was a study that proved it). The front and back have plastic stickers. The plastic pump and stickers can be removed after the product is finished for easier recycling (bonus points), though the lid and label are not recycled in most places (minus points). The writing on the stickers comes off a bit, but it doesn’t contain any important information anyway.
The bottle contains 50 ml of product which can easily last for half a year or more with twice a day application on face (you’ll use up more if you want to put it also on your neck and décolletage. The product is pretty viscous and it sticks to the sides of the bottle, so I feel that it will be hard to get the last couple of drops out. But since the bottle is see-through, at least you know what the usage status is. The serum is recommended for normal skin, I would recommend it also for people with slightly dry skin and even people with oily skin since this serum is fairly light and does not feel oily at all. People with very sensitive skin should probably not use it or make sure they know what ingredients sensitize their skin as this serum contains several chemicals which can cause reaction in some people. It is produced exclusively for Aldi and should be available everywhere where there are Aldi stores, though I’m only sure about ROI and UK.
I’ve been using this serum more or less twice a day for the past 4 months. The amount you get by pressing the pump completely down is actually a bit too much, though it depends on how thickly you want to apply it and where. For just face, about half to two thirds of the amount is enough. It looks very similar to the conditioning gel I had from Japan before and it feels very similar too. It is easy to spread out and tap into skin and absorbs quite fast without leaving the skin overly sticky or greasy, but if you press your palm on your face, they will stick a little bit. It is easy to layer with other skincare and make-up and has no negative effect on their staying ability.
It has no miraculous properties (as you’ll see below from its ingredients), but it does the basics very well. It cools (alcohol) and soothes (aloe vera) the skin well and it is very moisturizing (half of he ingredients), I sometimes skipped my cream when I didn’t have enough time and my super dry nose was still fine.
I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do, but I divided the ingredients into those, which are added in order to have a particular effect on the skin and hose which have only structural/stabilizing/preserving properties. I thought it might give you a better idea of how much of the serum is the stuff that works and how much are the fillers and necessary stuff to keep it together. The problem is that some things work as both, in such cases, I put them in the skin conditioning part.
Skin Conditioning Stuff
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
Aloe is anti-inflammatory1, it helps wounds heal2, it can partially prevent dermatitis caused by radiotherapy3, it reduces pain caused by burns and help them heal faster4, and it can minimize frost-bite damage5. It has also plenty of uses not related to topical application on skin. Though it seems like there’s nothing new to be researched about Aloe, the opposite is true – it has at least 200 different biologically active molecules after all5. Some emerging potential uses, not tested on humans yet, include skin lightening6 and reduction of psoriasis7.
Glycerin is a humectant (chemically an alcohol) helping to hydrate stratum corneum (SC) and it also improves skin’s barrier function. It also helps to make SC more compact, which reduces the risk of contact dermatitis. It also helps the product from drying. It is non-irritating, unless you drop it in your eyes, which would be quite uncomfortable and have a rabbit-eye effect. When used alone, it can be quite sticky, but this issue can be overcome with optimizing the formula1.
This compound is a synthetic emollient (~softener). For those more chemically inclined, it is a fatty acid ester and it has a lighter feel than oils and waxes. Esters of nonanoic acid (or more poetically, pelargonic acid) are considered safe, non-irritating and non-toxic (in any way) considering current use8.
Sorbitol (an alcohol) is a humectant which is often used together with glycerin to make the cream less heavy and sticky. Together with glycerin, it helps to keep the cream from drying1.
Panthenol is a moisturizing compounds and is often used in after-sun products. However, it can cause allergic reaction in some people1 (that does not mean it’s a horrible dangerous molecule, plenty of nice stuff causes allergies to some unfortunate souls).
Humectant, also a potential allergen for some unlucky people1.
Sodium lactate is a moisturizing compound and better humectant than glycerin and sorbitol. It increases water holding capacity of SC1.
Urea helps treat dry skin. Some studies argue that it increases skin permeability. Though this can potentially enhance skin permeation of active molecules, it also makes skin more permeable to nasty stuff or stuff that is considered safe with regard to normal permeation rates, but may be troublesome if it gets in more efficiently. However, another bunch of studies doesn’t agree, at least considering normal concentration in creams, and some actually found that use of urea protected skin from irritation by other compounds. It is considered safe with noted minor issues such as burning on damaged or dry skin1.
This compound is a moisturizer and anti-microbial agent that helps to preserve the serum9.
Lactic acid is a humectant, which is naturally present in SC. It can help against acne, too. Since it’s an acid, in pure form it can cause injury to the skin, but it is safe at concentration and pH commonly used in cosmetics1.
Allantoin has anti-inflammatory an calming properties1.
Proline, Alanine, Serine
These three are amino acids and are used as moisturizers and humectants1.
Lecithin is an emollient, refattener and moisturizer which softens and nourishes the skin and improves the “feeling” of the serum on skin1.
Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract
According to a patent, it improves skin barrier function, it promotes collagen and elastin synthesis, has cryoprotective properties and moisturizing effect10, but I didn’t manage to find any studies other than cosmetic patents.
Na/K/ammonium hydroxides form salts with hydroxy acids (in this case lactic acid) and those are used to treat skin dryness11.
Alcohol is used as a cooling agent as its evaporation induces sensation of coolness, but it can also irritate skin1.
Addition of sodium chloride (NaCl – the same stuff that we put in food) into creams containing urea was shown to potentially increase the moisturizing effect12.
Keeping it Together etc. Stuff
Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer
Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate cross-polymer
These are emulsifiers forming a film on the skin and leaving it with a smooth feel1.
An emulsifier forming a film on the skin and leaving it with a smooth feel. Even though hyaluronan is present in skin, it cannot crawl from the top of dead cell layers inside as it is too big1. Therefore, in this particular product, it doesn’t really do anything. However, there has been research suggesting that hyaluronic acid could be delivered to bottom layers of skin via peptides which can penetrate skin more easily – so it’s not impossible that in other products it may be a more “active” ingredient20.
Thickener and stabilizer. Safe, it is authorized for use in food as well and is generally considered to be a natural additive, since it’s secreted by a bacterium and then precipitated1.
Emulsifier, can cause allergy in some people1.
This salt is used to balance pH of the serum21.
Adds some sort of smell. Not very strong in the case of this serum.
Phenoxyethanol is a preservative and anti-microbial agent1. Preservatives are very nice compounds in the sense that they’re widely studied and therefore easy to find information about. Phenoxyethanol has very low risk of skin sensitization compared to other conventional preservatives13 and has fairly low cytotoxicity (it can be used up to 5% concentration) and very low genotoxicity – the values are a lot better than those for parabens14. Phenoxyethanol has very low toxicity for marine organisms, but the studies available are limited15.
Benzoic acid is another preservative16 which can cause allergic reaction in some people1. It doesn’t cause reproductive and developmental toxicity, genotoxicity and is not carcinogenic under current usage17.
Dehydroacetic acid is also a preservative18, it can be cytotoxic, but is perceived as safe in low concentrations in food and cosmetics19.
My experience and the ingredients of the serum indicate that it is a very good product for its price and it can affect the skin mainly by moisturizing, cooling and soothing it. The ingredients used are very safe and have little irritation potential, though people with extremely sensitive skin should be careful. The preservatives used are all considered to be non-toxic given their typical use and one of them, which was tested for environmental toxicity, was considered much less toxic to marine organisms than other preservatives. While this serum cannot perform any special function (whitening, rejuvenating and what not), it is a good choice for people without special needs and for younger women and anybody who doesn’t want to spend too much on decent skincare.
References (I missed you, endnote!)
1. Barel AO, Paye M, Maibach HI. Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology. New York: Informa Healthcare; 2009:869.
2. Liu PH, Chen DL, Shi J. Chemical Constituents, Biological Activity and Agricultural Cultivation of Aloe vera. Asian Journal of Chemistry. Sep 2013;25(12):6477-6485.
3. Haddad P, Amouzgar-Hashemi F, Samsami S, Chinichian S, Oghabian MA. Aloe vera for prevention of radiation-induced dermatitis: a self-controlled clinical trial. Current Oncology. Aug 2013;20(4):E345-E348.
4. Shahzad MN, Ahmed N. Effectiveness of Aloe Vera Gel compared with 1% silver sulphadiazine cream as burn wound dressing in second degree burns. Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. Feb 2013;63(2):225-230.
5. Ahlawat KS, Khatkar BS. Processing, food applications and safety of aloe vera products: a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology-Mysore. Oct 2011;48(5):525-533.
6. Ali SA, Galgut JM, Choudhary RK. On The Novel Action of Melanolysis by a Leaf Extract of Aloe vera and Its Active Ingredient Aloin, Potent Skin Depigmenting Agents. Planta Medica. May 2012;78(8):767-771.
7. Dhanabal SP, Dwarampudi LP, Muruganantham N, Vadivelan R. Evaluation of the Antipsoriatic Activity of Aloe Vera Leaf Extract Using a Mouse Tail Model of Psoriasis. Phytotherapy Research. Apr 2012;26(4):617-619.
8. Johnson W, Heldreth B, Bergfeld WF, et al. Final report of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel on the safety assessment of pelargonic acid (nonanoic acid) and nonanoate esters. Int J Toxicol. Dec 2011;30(6 Suppl):228S-269S.
9. Varvaresou A, Papageorgiou S, Tsirivas E, et al. Self-preserving cosmetics. Int J Cosmet Sci. Jun 2009;31(3):163-175.
10. PÉRez AR, Oncins BC, GarcÍA AJM. Cosmetic or dermopharmaceutical composition containing pseudoalteromonas ferment extract: Google Patents; 2010.
11. Van Scott EJ, Yu RJ. One or more hydroxycarboxylic acids: Google Patents; 1983.
12. Hagströmer L, Nyrén M, Emtestam L. Do Urea and Sodium Chloride together Increase the Efficacy of Moisturisers for Atopic Dermatitis Skin? Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2001;14(1):27-33.
13. Schnuch A, Mildau G, Kratz EM, Uter W. Risk of sensitization to preservatives estimated on the basis of patch test data and exposure, according to a sample of 3541 leave-on products. Contact Dermatitis. Sep 2011;65(3):167-174.
14. de Carvalho CM, Menezes PFC, Letenski GC, Praes CEO, Feferman IHS, Lorencini M. In vitro induction of apoptosis, necrosis and genotoxicity by cosmetic preservatives: application of flow cytometry as a complementary analysis by NRU. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Apr 2012;34(2):176-182.
15. Tamura I, Kagota K, Yasuda Y, et al. Ecotoxicity and screening level ecotoxicological risk assessment of five antimicrobial agents: triclosan, triclocarban, resorcinol, phenoxyethanol and p-thymol. Journal of Applied Toxicology. Nov 2013;33(11):1222-1229.
16. Eriksson E, Auffarth K, Eilersen AM, Henze M, Ledin A. Household chemicals and personal care products as sources for xenobiotic organic compounds in grey wastewater. Water SA. 2003;29(2):135-146.
17. Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Safety Assessment of Alkyl Benzoates as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology. Nov 2012;31:342S-372S.
18. Spencer HC, Rowe VK, McCollister DD. Dehydroacetic Acid (DHA) I. Acute and Chronic Toxicity. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 1950;99(1):57-68.
19. Yamashoji S, Isshiki K. Rapid detection of cytotoxicity of food additives and contaminants by a novel cytotoxicity test, menadione-catalyzed H2O2 production assay. Cytotechnology. 2001;37(3):171-178.
20. Chen M, Gupta V, Anselmo AC, Muraski JA, Mitragotri S. Topical delivery of hyaluronic acid into skin using SPACE-peptide carriers. Journal of Controlled Release. Jan 2014;173:67-74.
21. Ptchelintsev D, Scancarella N, Kalafsky R. Oxa acids and related compounds for treating skin conditions: Google Patents; 1998.