[REVIEW] Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner (Before and After)
Texture: Lightweight gooey liquid
What you get: 40 ml or 150 ml
Ingredients: Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Cactus) Extract, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Gluconolactone, Sodium Polyglutamate (Moisturizer/Humectant), Betaine (Moisturizer/Humectant), Salicylate, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Lactobacillus/Watermelon Fruit Ferment Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract (Moisturizer/Humectant), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Brassica Oleracea Capitata (Cabbage) Leaf Extract, Ipomoea Batatas Root Extract, Sorbitan Oleate (Emulsifying), ♦️Levulinic Acid, ♦️Sodium Levulinate, ♦️Fragrance/Parfum
Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract: 🔴[Not enough research] Antioxidative + Moisturizing. According to Mibellebiochemistry, a manufacturer of this ingredient, it has Soothing and Hydrating properties and may help protect skin cells against UV light. These claims are only linked to the manufacturer, and no independent study/research/clinical trials have been made with this ingredient, which would validate these claims.
Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit Extract: Antioxidant (Lycopene, Vitamin C, E, A, carotenoids, phenolics) + Potentially photoprotective (Lycopene) + Antimicrobial + Potentially anti-inflammatory (Lycopene - a lot of websites and skincare companies claim that this is a fact but there is currently no strong evidence to back the anti-inflammatory properties of Lycopene or watermelon in general) + Anti-aging (Contains Citrulluside which downregulate MMPs (these contribute to wrinkles formation and inadequate wound repair) and inhibits UV-induced MMP expression (which makes Citrulluside also photoprotective)
Glycerine: Widely used as a quality Hydrator (occurs naturally in the skin, and its chemical structure attracts water). You can find this ingredient in most good skin-replenishing products.
Hyaluronic Acid: A molecule that attracts and binds water to the skin, which results in the plumped-up appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This type of water-based moisture also helps with wound healing.
Gluconolactone: A form of PHA (Polyhydroxy Acid) that reduces cell adhesion in the top layer of the skin (decrease cellular bond between corneocytes), which leads to an exfoliating effect. PHAs have a larger molecular structure that presumably serves to make them gentler and less sensitizing as they do not penetrate the skin as deep as AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids). [Anti-aging + Antioxidative + Photoprotective + Moisturizing]
Betaine Salicylate: BHA, a good exfoliant, ultimately is anti-acne and reduces hyper-pigmentation and blackheads since it removes the uppermost layer of the skin and hence prevents skin clogging and accelerates cell turnover.
Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Extract: Tea Tree leaf oil is known to be anti-acne (has Antibacterial, Antifungal, and Antiviral properties), but the leaf extract itself is not well researched. Usually, oils are more concentrated than the extracts, so you could assume that the extract has the same properties but with less potent action. [Also note that some people use the terms leaf extract and leaf oil interchangeably, so this could also be the case]
Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract: Antimicrobial + Antioxidant
Lactobacillus/Watermelon Fruit Ferment Extract:🔴[Not enough research] ‘‘Most fermentation is carried out via lactic acid bacteria (LAB), also known as lactobacilli. Fermentation increases the production of vitamins, minerals, and various other phytochemicals, depending upon the plant being fermented. Often the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of many chemical compounds by freeing them from the food matrix to which they are typically bound.’’ In theory, this ingredient should have the same properties as the ones of Watermelon fruit extract (above in this list), but there are no studies on this mixture or its effect on the skin.
Cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract: Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid, Beta Carotene, Flavonoids, …) + Anti-inflammatory (inhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes) + Hydrating (Polysaccharides) + Perfuming (‘‘Fragrant components that are not sensitizing to skin’’)
Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) root extract: Antioxidant (isoflavones and isoflavone) + Anti-inflammatory (Glycyrrhizin activity is similar to cortisol and steroids) + Prevents hyper-pigmentation (Inhibits Melanin forming activity of Tyrosinase)
Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract: Antioxidant (Flavonoids baicalein, Oroxylin A, and Wogonin) + Anti-inflammatory (Inhibits substances and growth factor related to macrophage proliferation) + Antimicrobial (flavonoids and phenolic acids) + Prevents hyper-pigmentation (Inhibits Melanin forming activity of Tyrosinase)
Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract: Anti-aging
Brassica Oleracea Capitata (Cabbage) Leaf Extract: anti-inflammatory (reduces Immune response of Th1 cells (white blood cells)) + wound healing (increase in collagen production)
Levulinic Acid + Sodium Levulinate: 🔴[Not enough research] Both are preservatives. Sodium Levulinate doesn’t have a lot of studies that establish whether it is safe or not but is generally considered a ‘low hazard ingredient’ (take this with a grain of salt because these statements can be redacted). Levulinic Acid can cause minor irritation if you have sensitive skin or if you apply it near your eye area [Safety assessment source]
Fragrance/Parfum: Perfuming [have the potential to irritate or sensitize your skin]
+CLAIMS ON BENEFITS
Claims taken from the Glowrecipe product page.
Hydrates skin and tighten pores: Yes, it’s hydrating. I think it’s hydrating enough for most people, but if you like the feeling of extra hydration or if you have dry skin, you will definitely need to follow up with another hydrating product (I would go with the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner). As for pores being ‘tightened,’ it is not the case. As I’ve mentioned before: Pores are skin openings, which consist of a multitude of small curved depression over a smooth surface, so to tighten them, you’d need something that will plump up this depression, which usually consists of collagen and elastin production triggering ingredients, or more generally laser treatments. Although there are anti-aging and wound-healing ingredients that should, in theory, promote collagen production, I doubt -yet again- that the level of collagen production needed to make your pores visibly smaller or tighter will be achieved by this product. Any appearance of tighter pores will be due to the fact that this is an exfoliating product that will clean them out, making them look tighter.
Supple, smooth skin: This will give you more supple-looking skin thanks to the antioxidative and hydrating ingredients but don’t expect anything too crazy. You won’t achieve ‘glass skin’ with this toner alone. As for smoothness, this is where I saw the most significant improvement in my skin. I don’t know why but my face hadn’t been looking its best for the past month (lol actually, it was probably due to stress), it was red, sensitive, dull, and a plethora of dark scars had taken over my chin due to a past mask-acne breakout. I looked like a sad piece of bread that had sat outside for too long and was being colonized by bacteria and fungus (very sad fungus). But after using the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, my skin now looks like a french brioche. Don't get me wrong: this is not a miracle product. It will take at least a week or two for you to see any real difference because of the slow-acting power of PHA. But the result is worth it: smoother, glowy, and brighter skin. One thing I didn’t expect was for my redness and irritation to go away, I guess my skin was in need of some hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidative ingredients, and it got just that.
Help prep and plump skin to readily absorb the rest of your routine: I don’t really agree with this product helping other products to get absorbed. Although it is an exfoliant, it is very mild and will only work if you use it every day. Using this just once and then layering on serums or moisturizer won’t make them be absorbed faster. Also, due to the gooey texture of the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, you’ll need to wait a bit for it to get fully absorbed before layering anything else on top of it. As for it plumping up my skin, it did, just like any other good hydrating product would. It plumped up some of my fine lines, but not the deeper ones.
As you can see, the main difference is in the texture and smoothness of my skin. It’s also less inflamed and irritated.
long paragraphs on the issue of fragrance in this product:
Not everyone will have a bad reaction to fragrance. Not all fragrances are harmful: natural mango scent, for example, doesn't contain any compounds that can sensitize skin unless you're explicitly allergic to them. Also, not all products that contain 'bad' fragrances are bad since some of them incorporate perfume in extremely low concentrations. But when it comes down to it, fragrances have the potential to irritate or sensitize any skin. Yes, even if your skin is normal, and your skin barrier is chilling doing its thing. Perfume can make your barrier worse and worse, little by little, without you noticing any real difference as fragrant chemical compounds can directly interact with the proteins on your skin and cause oxidative damage. Other compounds do not have this ability but can oxidize with air or sunlight and become oxidative species on your skin and damaging it.
Yet other compounds are fine and do nothing damaging. The issue with the way products are formulated is that we, as consumers, usually are not informed about the exact type of fragrance or concentrations used. As with this product, the perfume is only labeled as 'fragrance' accompanied by a statement from Glow Recipe: "We formulate using the minimum amount of fragrance, when needed, to create a sensorial, enjoyable skincare experience. Fragrance is always less than 0.5% of our formulations, and all fragrances are vegan and free of PCM compounds, acetone, and much more." PCM (Polycyclic-musks) compounds and acetones are two chemicals known to lead to skin irritation, so that's good. But there are other compounds that are irritants, so what would actually be helpful would be for them to just tell us what the fragrance is exactly made out of. Also, although 0.5% does seem like a little, it ultimately depends on the actual fragrance being used. And don't forget that a good portion of the products you're using probably also have a scent: layering on these additional products will increase the concentration of perfume you're exposing yourself to.
Now I could go on and on in this review to tell you why fragrance isn't good. Why even if your dermatologist hits you with that 'fragrance is fine in low concentrations, your skin type can handle it,' it's actually not. Your skin type will only be able to handle it in the short run, just like it can handle UV rays, with damage only showing years after continued exposure. I'm not pretending to be more knowledgeable than a doctor, but the truth of the matter is that the adverse effects of perfume have only recently been popularized and that a lot of studies are needed for us to state anything of the sort accurately. Moreover, the more people do research and studies on these compounds, the more they find irritant and sensitizing reactions.
Fragrances give a luxurious feel to products and have aromatherapy benefits. But luxury and aromatherapy should not come above healthy skin. Anyway, for now, I will leave you with these resources to read:
Perfume Allergies by the European Commission scientific committee for health and consumers. Here's a fun little quote: "According to the criteria described in chapter 6.3, a total of 54 individual chemicals and 28 natural extracts (essential oils) can be categorized as established contact allergens in humans, including all currently regulated substances."
If you prefer to read something that isn't explicitly 'sciency,' there's this article written by someone who has a very 'I'm trying to diss skin influencers and 'skintellectuals' but ultimately I'm proving them right' vibe (yes, I'm being very salty): "Fragrance in Skin Care: Derms Weigh In on the Social Media Backlash Toward Scented Products."
On oxidative damage: It is important to note that free-radical oxygen species cause oxidative stress, premature aging, skin damage, and even cancer- and that all the hype around antioxidative serums is due to their ability to fight these molecules and protect the skin against them. Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons that destroy skin cells to 'steal' electrons from them.
At this point, you're probably wondering if I'm going to recommend the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner or not. Frankly, this one is up to you. I have personally not experienced any sensitization (which doesn't mean that I won't encounter any in the future). And I've even used it on my very sensitive lips and got no irritation (I actually saw an improvement with my usually very chapped lips). I really like this product, and I think people with dry or sensitive skin would benefit the most from it - but people with sensitive skin shouldn't use fragrance unless they know what it is composed of so it is ultimately up to you to decide whether or not you're going to trust this brand with your skin. If you end up using this toner, follow up with a good antioxidative serum to counterbalance any potentially harmful effect like the AXIS-Y Artichoke Intensive Skin Barrier Ampoule or The Plant Base Time Stop Collagen Ampoule (yes, this is me being very precautions, but I guess that’s my brand at this point).
One thing, if your skin is more mature or if you're looking for a potent exfoliating product, this ain't it. Try something like the SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense Serum instead.
Mild but effective exfoliation
Gets absorbed easily (if you don’t put on too much)
Gives you brighter smoother skin without the negative effects of exfoliating products
One-step product for people looking to simplify their skincare routine
Presence of fragrant compound which can lead to irritation and sensitization
I don’t like the smell (fake watermelon)
Will not tighten your pores
🍉Score:3/5 ——— I liked this product and had good results with it. It would have gotten a higher score if it didn’t have fragrance in it and if it didn’t have a claim that isn’t achievable (tighter pores)