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? Do they include ingredients proven to optimize skin quality and reduce wrinkles? Are there any harmful filler ingredients? And how do real users respond to their products?

In this article we’ll answer these questions and more by reviewing every ingredient in Dermalogica’s most popular products. We’ll review Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, Special Cleansing Gel, and Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer. 

We'll share real user reviews of these products as well as information about a lawsuit that Dermalogica settled over allegedly recording customer calls.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator Review

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator ingredients

Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator is a powder that’s mixed with water and applied to the face. According to the brand’s website, it should be massaged in gently for one minute and then rinsed off.

This product contains a number of effective ingredients for improving skin quality.

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 colloidal oatmeal actually increases expression of genes related to skin barrier function, and improves skin dryness and moisturization.

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 thorough 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.

One ingredient we consider questionable is papain, which is an enzyme sourced from papaya plants. 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 until further research emerges.

Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator also contains limonene which is a fragrance ingredient we recommend avoiding.

Overall we consider this to be a well-formulated product and superior to most skincare products that we’ve reviewed on Illuminate Health, but we do not recommend it due to the inclusion of papain and limonene.

One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator is published by a channel called “Ivy’s Vine” and is both a product tutorial and review:

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel Review

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel ingredients

Dermalogica sells a gel product called Special Cleansing Gel that’s used after washing the face.

Glycerin is an effective ingredient for a cleansing gel, as it’s been shown in a clinical trial to improve skin hydration. This is a relatively common ingredient in cosmetic gels, and can be found even in cheaper products.

We are unable to identify any other ingredients in this formulation we consider effective for skin quality improvement.

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel contains several ingredients we recommend avoiding.

Caprylhydroxamic acid is a preservative that’s irritating to the skin of many individuals. A medical review published in the Contact Dermatitis journal described “an epidemic of allergic contact dermatitis” due to this ingredient, which the study authors described as “a new allergen.”

This gel also contains sodium hydroxide, another potential skin irritant according to a medical study.

Lemon oil may cause phototoxicity according to a medical review, which means that it 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 to have a worse formulation than Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, since we are only able to identify one ingredient that we consider effective in this formulation, and it’s an ingredient that can be easily acquired in other, cheaper products.

A YouTube channel called “Your FavGoTo” published a review of Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel:

Dermalogica Moisturizer Review

Dermalogica Moisturizer ingredients

Dermalogica sells several moisturizers, but their most popular appears to be the Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer.

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

Octinoxate is the first chemical sunscreen ingredient, and as we detailed in our Perbelle CC Cream reviews article, there is extensive medical evidence suggesting that octinoxate is harmful to both human health and to aquatic life. It's 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 medical review to rapidly degrade after exposure to UV rays, suggesting that it may not be the most effective option.

We recommend physical sunscreen ingredients exclusively, because they tend to sit atop the skin and not be absorbed into the bloodstream. Using a sunscreen with an active ingredient like zinc oxide would be a healthier choice in our opinion, and a better choice for the environment.

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

Overall we consider this moisturizer likely to be effective for improving skin quality and providing sun protection, but we don't recommend it due to the questionable chemical sunscreen ingredients.

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

Dermalogica Lawsuit

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

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

Our Clean Skincare Picks

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

Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum is our top skin cream pick because of its effective and clean formulation. 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.

Interested consumers can check out Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum at this link to the product page on the official brand's website.

Hydraglow 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."

Interested consumers can purchase Hydraglow at the secure checkout below:

The only oral supplement we recommend for skin quality improvement is Bulletproof Collagen Powder.

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

Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Collagen Powder at this link to the product page on the brand's official website.

None of the products recommended in this section contain additive ingredients that we consider questionable from a health perspective.

Dermalogica Real Customer Reviews

Dermalogica is sold on Amazon, which is a more objective resource for customer reviews in our opinion than a brand’s website. Their most-reviewed product on Amazon is the Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, which has 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 claims the product is 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… 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 claims that the product is 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”

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


We do not recommend any of the Dermalogica products reviewed in this article. For consumers set on purchasing from Dermalogica, we consider the Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator to be their best-formulated product.

All three Dermalogica products reviewed contain added ingredients we recommend avoiding, including a preservative that may be irritating in the gel, and a fragrance ingredient in the exfoliator.

Dermalogica settled a lawsuit recently over allegations that the company was illegally recording customer phone calls.

Dermalogica has favorable overall reviews on Amazon.

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