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A Doomed Mission — New Clarins Mission Perfect Serum Aims High But Misses

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I don’t even like seeing spots on the flesh of my favorite fruits (like bananas and mangos), so the idea of a speckled complexion makes me cringe. And yet, like most women, I do have some pesky dark spots — some the result of acne scarring (yes, I know better than to pick at pimples, but my hands tend to dart to action before I’m even aware of it), some due to sun exposure (like most reckless teens and twenty-somethings, I didn’t really apply sunscreen religiously until about 25), and some likely due to aging (this one stings the most, but hey, we all get older every day). Needless to say, I’m obsessive about my brightening regimen. Given that I had great success with the Clarins Bright Plus HP range, I was excited to try the brand’s latest brightening product, the allegedly groundbreaking Clarins Mission Perfect Serum ($72 at Nordstrom and Clarins.com)

After three months of consistent use, I’ve officially decided to call ground control and abort this failed mission. In other words, it did nothing to diminish the appearance of dark spots and redness, it failed to make my skin tone appear more even, and I even had some newer spots appear while using this product (and applying SPF liberally). If there was any improvement whatsoever, it was simply too minimal and to subtle for me to ascertain. And while it takes some products a bit longer to yield effects, a three-month span is a more than generous time frame to show and prove.

On a strictly scientific, chemical level, what makes this serum fall short? Well, it’s hard to know for certain, but it’s likely that the active ingredients simply aren’t potent enough. The serum, after all, was created after Clarins researchers discovered the high vitamin C concentration within acerolas, wild cherries that grow in South America (we actually had a tree in our backyard when I was growing up in Puerto Rico, and I ate these slightly bitter cherries on a daily basis). Their research indicated that acerola extract has the capacity to correct the overproduction of melanin that results from UV exposure, in essence canceling out the cause of dark spots. That said, restoring a normal level of melanin synthesis is quite different from breaking up existing melanin clusters.

Other key ingredients include: gingko biloba, which boosts microcirculation and hence helps to accelerate cellular turnover, resulting in more luminous skin; tamarind fruit extract, which is rich in AHAs that encourage exfoliation. Both of these ingredients do, in fact, kickstart chemical exfoliation but, then, that’s not always enough to tackle the most stubborn dark spots. Yes, they can help to make skin look a bit more glow-y but, when it comes to truly obliterating manchas, this botanical duo needs a bit of reinforcement.

The one positive: the serum has a peachy-pink hue and contains mica particles that create a light-diffusing effect, making skin appear a bit more alive. It also smells fantastic.

That said, if you’re waging war against dark spots, this shouldn’t be your general. I actually had a much better experience with the Clarins Double Serum which, although touted as an anti-aging product, actually does fade dark spots while simultaneously boosting the skin’s moisture levels and smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles. If you’re looking for a star serum from Clarins, try the Double Serum and skip the Mission Perfect because, as mentioned, it falls way short of perfection.

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