Niche parisian products with pharmacy-like ingredients and that are hard to find in the U.S.? Sign me up. Sigh, then my wallet cries foul! I heard about Institut Esthederm from a few beauty blogs that focus on high-end or niche products. I had heard about the sun cream which is supposed to block the sun, despite no official SPF rating referred to in its marketing literature and i decided to pass. But I didn’t pass on investigating some new products that sounded really tantalizing. I bypassed their wrinkle and oil control products and went straight to their acne care products. Many american drugstore brand products for acne are just too weak and not meant to irritate even somewhat sensitive skin. My skin’s tougher than that, or so I thought. I am always trying to find the middle road for OTC skincare products that won’t irritate my skin, but will have a powerful effect degunking my oil-gunked pores. Wow, that’s so pleasant sounding…right? No.
But I was on a ‘do the french pharmacy-luxe brands have something that American brands just don’t have?’ kick. I mean european brands are known for using cutting edge ingredients before they find their way in to the U.S. On the otherhand, many of these cutting edge ingredients have nominal real world efficacy for the intended problem. But I persisted. I have tried La Roche Posay, Roc and Vichy. There have been a few nice gems in these brands. Surely, I could find something to knock my socks off. When I picked up Institut Esthederm’s Intensif Ginko A and Intensif Propolis I got something knocked off all right. My burning skin cells as they reacted to the totally INTENSIF POW in these ingredients. These products are not for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned.
First some info on Institut Esthederm – YUP, they are parisian. Can’t ya tell? It is a Paris based brand that has been creating skincare products for the last 30 years. For the past decade and change, the brand has focused on delivering active ingredients in a “charged” water that they call “Cellular Water,” which is meant to recreate an ideal environment for skin cells, by mimicking cellular water. This is in contrast to the demineralized water used in most cosmetics. Institut Esthederm organizes its skincare by five family lines. The two products that I chose are from the Pure System, which focuses on products that liquify sebum and normalizes the skin to reduce imperfections.
Intensif Ginkgo A is a white treatment cream that you can use all over the face, or on the targeted areas of your face with the break outs, completely avoiding the eye area. It’s star ingredient is Ginkgo Biloba combined with Zinc Gluconate and 10-Hydroxydecanoic Acid. The brand literature doesn’t actually do a good job of explaining why and how these ingredients work. It is basically asking the reader to make positive associations with the known BUT VERY GENERALIZED effects of these ingredients from popular studies and your skin. Ginkgo Biloba is known to be one of the hardiest trees out there able to withstand very hostile environments. While Zinc Gluconate is a kind of salt that is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that is known to help reduce certain types of acne. 10-Hydroxydecanoic Acid is taken from Royal Jelly and it is known to have a significant restorative, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. These ingredients along with the glycolic acid, salicylic acid and glycyrrhetnic acid (also anti-inflammatory and reduces melanin production) are supposed to work together to …well, what does the marketing material say? It says and I quote “provide a dermotoesthetic response to skin problems.” Seems to me – the brand doesn’t actually know for sure either, they just know it does something.
On me, it just ended up burning my skin. In all fairness, I did use a combination salicylic/glycolic acid cleanser and Retin-A Micro when I used this product. I ended up chucking the Retin-A Micro for a while to see the difference and it was not as harsh on my skin, but it does have an inflammatory effect on my skin, like a slight, mild sizzle. Normal, thin-skinned and sensitive-skinned folks should stay far, far away from this stuff. Despite it’s very INTENSIF effect on my skin, I have not given up on this tube. I will figure out a corresponding skincare routine to allow me to use this stuff. But for the rest of you, save your money. If I figure out this skincare rubrics cube, I will pass on the info, but honestly, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. I’ve sunk my money, so I have nothing to lose but time and layers of inflamed skin.
BRING IT ON!
Now, you think that maybe the Intensif Propolis would somehow counter the flammatory effects of the Intensif Ginkgo A. NOPE. Propolis is supposed to be packed full of restorative, gentle, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory good stuff, but this was also kind of harsh on my skin. It was also somewhat unpleasant to use. It is a brown slightly tacky, liquid that does not disappear into the skin visually or texture-wise. Propolis is a resin that is collected by bees from the tree saps and flowers they get up all close and personal with. There is no exact content for propolis because it always varies. However, per the marketing material, it always contains resin, wax, essential oils, pollin, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and flavenoids. This all seems wonderful and I am not anti Propolis. I LOVE propolis. But I am used it being in a far more gentle delivery system that actually babies skin and doesn’t inflame it.
After realizing how unpleasant it is, I started using it exclusively in my t-zone where I have my rather large pores. I did notice that there did seem to be a positive effect on my super oily pores, but ironically I couldn’t just let it sit there on my skin. After letting it simmer on my skin for a few hours, I would have to wash it off because this stuff does not evaporate into nothing. It felt like it might be suffocating my skin and actually cause a breakout. Then of course I take a closer look at the ingredients and realize it contains propylene glycol and dimethicone before the actual propolis ingredient. Here is a tip…don’t add dimethicone to an ingredient that is supposed to penetrate pores.
I am still figuring out a use that is beneficial to my skin and if I find anything I will report back. But this isn’t a winner either. Both are rather expensive bottles and I would caution anyone falling for these french luxury pharmacy lines. Yeah, it looks great on vanity or in a medicine cabinet, but really they are just really aggressive, inflammatory window dressing.