Rodan + Fields is an expensive skincare company that’s a multi-level-marketing (MLM) business. Most of their best-selling products cost over $100, and the brand claims they’ll help get you the “best skin of your life.”
In this article we’ll review the ingredients in some of Rodan + Fields most popular products based on medical research to determine if they’re likely to actually provide anti-aging effects, and also highlight some of the legal challenges faced by the company.
Total RF Serum Review
The most popular product sold by Rodan + Fields is an anti-aging serum called Total RF Serum. It costs $175 for 1 fluid ounce, equivalent to around $2,600 per pound. For this price, we would expect an unbelievably effective formulation with multiple ingredients proven effective for reducing wrinkles and improving skin appearance, and no harmful filler ingredients.
Total RF Serum contains niacinamide, which is a form of Vitamin B3 that’s been found to be beneficial for skin. Medical research has proven this compound to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve the surface structure of skin.
Most of the research studies we’ve reviewed on niacinamide use for anti-aging had a concentration of at least 3.5%, but Rodan + Fields doesn’t publish the niacinamide concentration of their serum.
Another effective ingredient in this serum is Pterocarpus Marsupium Bark Extract, which was proven in a clinical trial published in 2020 to have an anti-aging and skin brightening effect. The study authors found that topical application of this botanical ingredient caused a marked increase in skin elasticity and a statistically significant decrease in fine lines.
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate is a derivative of sodium hyaluronate, which is one of the most well-studied skincare ingredients which is found in several of the brands we recommend like Hanacure.
This derivative appears to be as effective as standard sodium hyaluronate. It was found to exhibit remarkable anti-aging and anti-wrinkle effects in a 2021 clinical trial published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Sodium acetylated hyaluronate was shown in the study to inhibit gene expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which degrade skin with age.
Total RF Serum contains two peptides: Tetrapeptide-16 and Ogliopeptide-10. While research on topical peptides for dermatology is still emerging, a recent medical review on topical peptides as cosmeceuticals found they were a promising treatment for skin aging. It’s unclear at this point exactly which peptides and at which concentrations are the most effective, but we find it likely that these ingredients are effective.
While Total RF Serum contains many effective anti-aging ingredients, it also contains several filler ingredients we recommend avoiding. One is fragrance, which we find to be highly unnecessary for skincare products. Consumers are using this product to reduce the effect of wrinkles, not to give their face artificial scents.
There are legitimate health concerns about fragrance compounds documented in medical research, and we always recommend that consumers avoid products containing fragrance. This is a broad category descriptor which doesn’t explain exactly which chemicals are used, which leaves consumers without the ability to determine the safety of the product.
The serum also contains preservative phenoxyethanol, which we discussed at length in our NuFace reviews article of another skincare product containing this ingredient. There are some minor toxicity concerns with this compound and we tend to recommend safer preservatives.
Another fragrance ingredient in Total RF is benzyl salicylate, which was categorized as a “hazard class 2” by a Japanese regulatory body due to toxicity data. It also has potentially endocrine-disrupting effects.
While Rodan + Fields Total RF Serum is well-formulated from an efficacy standpoint, we can’t recommend it due to the preservative and fragrance ingredients, as we believe these may pose health risks. We don’t understand why so many skincare brands feel a need to add multiple synthetic fragrance ingredients to a facial serum, and hope this trend changes.
This product is likely to be effective for wrinkle reduction, but there are alternative products which contain similarly-effective formulations without the questionable additive ingredients.
R + F Lash Boost Review
Rodan + Fields’ lash boost is their second-best-selling product, and is even more absurdly priced than their facial serum. It costs $155 for 0.17 fluid ounces, which is slightly less than half of the price of gold by weight. The brand claims this product can promote hair growth and thickness of lashes.
One ingredient which may be effective is hydrolyzed keratin. This is a form of the most predominant hair protein called keratin. A clinical trial found that a recombinant (genetically-altered) keratin increased hair diameter by almost 50%.
Pumpkin seed oil may be an effective ingredient for hair growth, but more research is needed to confirm this. A medical trial found that this botanical ingredient was effective for inducing hair growth in women suffering from pattern hair loss, but that doesn’t mean that it can promote lash growth in healthy women.
Lash Boost also contains biotin, a B Vitamin which may be beneficial for hair growth but only in patients with biotin deficiency, as documented by medical research. The idea that biotin helps grow hair in healthy adults without a deficiency is popular but unfounded.
The product contains preservative phenoxyethanol which we discussed in the previous section, but also another preservative called chlorphenesin which has documented toxicity concerns and irritates the eyes, making it a strange choice for a preservative in an eye serum.
While R + F Lash Boost does contain several ingredients which may be effective, we don’t believe the efficacy data is nearly as strong as that for the face serum. This is mainly due to the fact that there are fewer compounds proven effective for increasing hair growth and thickness compared to compounds to reduce wrinkles.
We wouldn’t recommend this product based on the price, questionable efficacy, and inclusion of several preservative ingredients we recommend avoiding.
Rodan + Fields has dealt with legal issues from consumers, competitors, and governmental bodies, and we believe this is a red flag to the ethics and quality control of the company.
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a warning letter to the brand, because their “Consultants” involved in the MLM were suggesting that partnering with the company was a great earning opportunity during the COVID-19 crisis.
The class-action lawsuits against Rogan + Fields, along with the insurance lawsuit, mostly have to do with the fact that the brand uses a drug ingredient called isopropyl cloprostenate in the lash boost we previously reviewed.
Unlike natural compounds, active drug ingredients must be cleared with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., and it appears that Rodan + Fields failed to do so, which is a massive quality control and consumer safety oversight.
Rodan + Fields also dealt with pressure from regulators over another potentially toxic ingredient called benzophone. Inclusion of this ingredient required a Prop 65 Warning, to demonstrate toxicity to California residents, but Rodan + Fields added a “click here” link in the warning to an industry-funded website minimizing the risk of the ingredient. This Environmental Working Group (EWG) letter to the FDA explained why this move by Rodan + Fields was intentionally misleading, and potentially harmful to consumers, and we agree fully with the EWG’s stance.
Instead of overpriced topical serums with potentially harmful filler ingredients, we believe that a superior skincare stack would be oral collagen supplementation and a topical cream containing hyaluronic acid.
Oral collagen supplementation is proven in medical research to improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, increase skin hydration and increase dermal collagen density. It’s the main structural protein in skin, and consuming it as a supplement is effective for increasing skin levels.
We recommend a collagen dosage of 10 grams (g) daily, as this appears to be the maximally-effective dose based on published medical research. We recommend brands like Vital Proteins and Bulletproof that source their collagen from pastured animals and use no flavorings or harmful filler ingredients; the only ingredient should be collagen.
Hyaluronic acid and its associated compounds like sodium hyaluronate and sodium acetylated hyaluronate are similarly effective in reducing wrinkles when applied topically. This is one of the most well-studied anti-aging compounds, and it’s proven to absorb through the skin at various molecular weights.
We recommend a topical serum containing hyaluronic acid (or one of the above-listed versions) which contains no fragrance or harmful preservative ingredients. We have not found one yet that we would recommend but we will update this section when we do.