Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why you shouldn't buy Kate Somerville ExfoliKate

his is a series in which, in an attempt to work my way through my sample overload, I spend the weekend trying out samples, then inflict capsule reviews upon the internet.

Kate, Kate, Kate. "ExfoliKate?" Must we?

The Unbearable Cuteness of WordPlay aside, this product is pretty much exfoliation salad. It has it all: alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acid, papain, Retinol--everything you need to slough off dead skin cells--except perhaps a box of 80 grit sandpaper.

When I tried this product, I followed the directions precisely. You're supposed to rub the product on your face for 30 seconds, then let it sit there for two minutes. Because I was also trying out a hair mask and am a flighty creature at best, I brought my iPhone into the bathroom so I could use the timer. Precision for the win!

The little single-use packet contained about a teaspoon of product--if that. It was the color of Palak Paneer

and smelled like curry. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I like curry. But I thought to myself, as I lightly massaged the slightly gritty, curry-smelling stuff onto my face, "Perhaps it contains cumin or turmeric or some other food, like kale, that has taken the Healthy Living Community by storm!" But no. A tube of ExfoliKate may be the world's last kale-free zone.

Let's have a look at the ingredient list:

As you can see, in addition to the exfoliating agents—which are legion—there are all kinds of essential oils in ExfoliKate. I see bergamot, lavender, cinnamon, rosewood, orange, and lemon, among others. These would be lovely in a fragrance, but many of these oils are extremely irritating when applied directly to the skin.

Mind you, I have dry, but not particularly sensitive skin. My face gets mad at me when I apply sunblock too close to my eyes, but otherwise, it knows who's boss. It was only slightly red when I emerged from the shower. On the other hand, my neck and decolletage, which I don't tend to experiment upon nearly as much, were quite red and stayed that way for about 15 minutes.

Now let's talk results. I'll admit it; after I used ExfoliKate, my skin did feel smoother. But then, it would have to. ExfoliKate has every active ingredient I've ever heard of (as well as some, like lacto bacillus pumpkin ferment, which, although new to me, fail at sounding pleasantly exciting.)

The thing is, I suspect that mixing all these exfoliators together might lessen each ingredient's effectiveness. First of all, AHAs need the right pH to work. Also, all of these ingredients are only on your face for for two and a half minutes. How much can the AHAs, BHAs, papain, and fermented pumpkin accomplish in that amount of time?

As it turns out, it doesn't really matter whether the active ingredients are all that active.

If you look at the ingredients again, you'll find that after water and lactic acid, the next ingredient is polyethylene, a/k/a microbeads.

These tiny plastic beads are superb mechanical exfoliators, which is why they're found in lots of products, from toothpaste to body scrub. Unfortunately, microbeads don't biodegrade, and are believed to be bad for aquatic life. President Obama just signed a bill outlawing them. I don't know how long it will take before products containing microbeads disappear from store shelves, but I think it's safe to say that the current formula for ExfoliKate is doomed.

Oh, and on top of being malodorous and bad for the environment, this stuff is crazy expensive: $85 for a two-ounce tube.

TLDR: ExfoliKate may be a cult product (and it is) but I don't recommend it. 


  1. I got a sample of this a year ago and the smell ... sort of "herbal" but in a bad way. Microbeads!!! I did not know they were there.
    I will not buy anything with them (microbeads) in it. If its not bad enough seeing the sea of plastic in places like Toys R Us .... when I heard about plastic beads in cosmetics I was stunned!

  2. I have rosacea, I know (now) not to let most of those essential oils near my face but it is maddening how many products have them. AHA does not work for me (instant burning) but at least it is usually prominently advertised on packaging so I know to avoid it.

  3. Wow, that sounds like a whole lot of bullshitty NOPE to me! Thanks for the review.

  4. Lady Jicky, Sharon, and Amblus:

    Skincare companies make me crazy. You wouldn't believe the ranting and general insanity I visited upon Mr. Buxom last night. Seriously, the only thing that makes me crazier than skincare claims is nutrition claims.

    The nice thing is that Mr. Buxom doesn't just listen to me rant; he is my partner in crime. He was a chemistry major, and explains hydroxyl groups and other challenging subjects to this lowly English major.


Gentle Readers:

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xxx, Poppy.