Dermalogica Review: Does Professional Grade Skincare Work?

Dermalogica Review: Does Professional Grade Skincare Work?


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Dermalogica is a skincare brand that sells a wide variety of products, from cleansers to exfoliants to sunscreen. The brand claims to provide “professional-grade skin care.” 

But are Dermalogica products really better-formulated than cheaper options? Does Dermalogica use ingredients proven to enhance skin quality and reduce wrinkles? Are there any questionable filler ingredients? And how do real Dermalogica customers rate and describe the aesthetic effects of the products?

In this article we’ll answer these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in three of Dermalogica’s most popular products based on clinical studies, to give our take on whether or not they're likely to be effective.

We’ll review Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, Special Cleansing Gel, and Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer. 

We'll also share unsponsored customer reviews of the brand, and explain what allegations prompted Dermalogica to settle two class-action lawsuits within the past three years.

Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator Review

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator ingredients

The ingredients in Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator are shown above.

This is a powder that’s mixed with water and applied to the face, and it contains a number of research-backed active ingredients.

Colloidal oatmeal hydrates the skin. It’s created by grinding raw oats into a very fine powder.

A medical review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that topical use of colloidal oatmeal increases expression of genes related to skin barrier function, and has a moisturizing effect.

Camellia sinensis (tea) leaf extract is a more potent version of raw tea leaves. As we documented in our Hanacure reviews article, this ingredient is proven in clinical trials to delay signs of skin aging when applied topically.

Hydrogenated coconut acid is a mixture of fatty acids from coconut. It’s used rather than whole coconut oil because it’s thought to be less likely to clog pores.

A 2018 meta-study found that coconut oil was one of the most effective plant oils for anti-aging, so we’ll consider this ingredient potentially effective.

Papain, which is an enzyme sourced from papaya plants, may be a questionable choice for a skincare product.

A 2015 clinical trial found that papain degraded human skin and had a pro-inflammatory effect. This was an in vitro (test tube) study, which is a weaker standard of evidence than a human trial, but we recommend avoiding this ingredient in skincare products until further research emerges.

Limonene is a fragrance ingredient we generally recommend avoiding.

Overall, we consider Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator likely to support skin repair, but we don't currently recommend this product due to the inclusion of papain and limonene.

A YouTube creator named “Ivy’s Vine” reviewed Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator and included a live product demo:

Why Was Dermalogica Sued?

In September of 2022, Dermalogica agreed to a $1 million settlement over allegations that the brand unlawfully recorded phone calls with customers, according to Top Class Actions.

It’s unclear what sort of customer communications were potentially recorded, but we’d recommend that individuals be wary of sharing personal or financial information over the phone with Dermalogica in light of this settlement.

Dermalogica appears to have settled a second class-action lawsuit, this time for multi-millions, in 2023.

Plaintiffs in this second lawsuit alleged that Dermalogica stored their biometric data without providing appropriate disclosures, according to the Freed Kanner London & Millen law firm.

Special Cleansing Gel Review

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel ingredients

The ingredients in Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel, which is a face wash, are shown above.

Glycerin is an effective ingredient for a cleansing gel, as it’s been shown in a 2001 clinical trial to improve skin hydration.

Lavender is a natural anti-fungal, as we documented in our Kerassentials reviews article.

There are two inactive ingredients in this formulation that we consider to be questionable from a functional perspective.

Sodium hydroxide is a preservative and a potential skin irritant according to a clinical study published in the Acta Dermato-Venereologica journal.

Lemon oil may cause phototoxicity according to a medical review, which means that lemon oil may make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and accelerate degradation of the skin during exposure to sunlight.

We recommend avoiding potentially phototoxic ingredients until more research emerges.

Overall, we consider Special Cleansing Gel somewhat likely to be effective, but we don't currently recommend this product due to the inclusion of synthetic preservatives and lemon oil.

Dermalogica improved this formulation since our initial publication of this review, removing a preservative ingredient that we highlighted as having the potential to cause significant skin sensitization.

A YouTube creator called “Your FavGoTo” reviewed Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel:

Moisturizer Review

Dermalogica Moisturizer ingredients

The ingredients in Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer, which is one of the brand's most popular moisturizers, are shown above.

All of the active ingredients in this formulation are "chemical" sunscreen ingredients that we recommend avoiding from a health and environmental perspective.

Octinoxate is a "chemical" sunscreen ingredient that has been clinically shown to be harmful to both human health and to aquatic life, as we documented in our Perbelle CC Cream reviews article. 

Octinoxate is a potential endocrine disruptor, which means it may disrupt hormone function in humans once absorbed through the skin.

Avobenzone is another "chemical" sunscreen ingredient that was found in a 2021 medical review to rapidly degrade after exposure to UV rays, suggesting that it may not be the most effective compound for sunscreen.

This moisturizer contains several inactive ingredients we consider highly effective for improving skin quality and reducing wrinkles including sodium hyaluronate (which is arguably the best-studied ingredient for wrinkle reduction) and topical peptides like palmitoyl tripeptide-5.

There are some inactive ingredients like preservatives and fragrance ingredients that we recommend avoiding, but for the sake of brevity, we'll end this product review here because we already shared our concerns about the active ingredients in this moisturizer.

Overall, we consider Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer likely to have an anti-aging effect and to protect the skin from UV rays, but we don't currently recommend this product due to our health concerns about its active sunscreen ingredients.

A YouTube creator named Zulayla published a review of this moisturizer that appears unsponsored:

Our Clean Skincare Picks

There are skincare products containing ingredients shown in clinical trials to be effective for reducing wrinkles and improving skin quality.

Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum is our top anti-aging serum.

It contains hyaluronic acid which was described as a "skin-rejuvenating biomedicine" in a medical review due to its ability to reduce wrinkles and signs of facial aging.

HYDRAGLOW by CLEARSTEM is our top moisturizer pick.

It features bakuchiol as an active ingredient which was described in a 2014 clinical trial as "clinically proven to have anti-aging effects."

Bulletproof Collagen Powder is our top skin supplement.

Collagen supplementation was shown in a medical review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology to reduce visible signs of skin aging as well as improve skin elasticity and skin hydration.

All of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy or unsafe.

Real Customers Review Dermalogica

Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion.

The brand's most-reviewed product on Amazon is currently Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, with over 9,000 total reviews and an average review rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

The top positive review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named “AMJ” who gives the product a 5/5 star rating, and claims it's effective:

“I’ve not been happy with my facial exfoliating attempts of late. I bought this after reading a review that apologized for it being worth the money. Well…..it is! One use made my skin feel so much smoother and better! I’m looking forward to seeing the results of more use.”

The top negative review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named “Jessica” who gives the product a 1/5 star rating, and claims it's a waste of money:

“Did not work at all. Is supposed to help diminish dark spots from pimples on face and it hasn’t worked at all and the entire bottle has been use. Waste of time and effort and money”

Dermalogica currently has an average review rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Facebook.

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel currently has an average review rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Google.

Pros and Cons of Dermalogica

Here are the pros and cons of Dermalogica in our opinion:

Pros:

  • Some products are affordable
  • Highly positive online customer reviews
  • Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator should exfoliate skin
  • Special Cleansing Gel should help cleanse skin
  • Dynamic Skin Recovery Moisturizer should provide sun protection
  • All three formulations analyzed contained some research-backed active ingredients

Cons:

  • Brand settled two recent class-action lawsuits that alleged customer data breaches
  • Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator contains papain
  • Special Cleansing Gel contains lemon peel oil
  • Dynamic Skin Recovery Moisturizer contains "chemical" sunscreen ingredients
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

For the prices, most Dermalogica products are relatively high-quality.

In this article we reviewed three Dermalogica formulations and don't currently recommend any of them.

Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator should be functionally effective, but contains an enzyme shown in at least one clinical trial to degrade skin quality.

Special Cleansing Gel should help to clean the skin, but it contains an ingredient that's clinically shown to increase skin's sensitivity to UV rays.

Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer contains "chemical" sunscreen ingredients that have been shown in some clinical trials to be harmful to human health and to the health of natural ecosystems.

It's worth noting that Dermalogica has settled two different lawsuits within the past three years related to alleged mishandling of customer data.

In light of this information, we recommend that consumers be wary about sharing data with Dermalogica.

Most of the online customer reviews of Dermalogica that we came across while researching this article were positive.