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Read the Label: Medik8—The Essential CSA Kit

Contact Author Rachael Polowyj
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In 2020, we welcome a new author to our online "Read the Label" column: Rachael Polowyj, a recent graduate from the London College of Fashion with bachelor's and master's degrees in cosmetic science.


Her thesis was presented as a poster at the IFSCC Congress in Munich in 2018, which was later published in Cosmetics & Toiletries. While studying, she won awards from the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumery Association (CTPA UK) for "best placement year" and the Society of Cosmetic Scientists (SCS UK) for "most innovative cosmetic product." She started her career as a research and development chemist, formulating products for skin, hair and color cosmetics. She is now a technical account manager at IMCD.

This edition of "Read the Label" reviews Medik8's Essential CSA Kit—i.e., vitamin C, sunscreen and vitamin A. As most consumers are aware, the sun is the main cause of skin aging, so Medik8 has developed products containing vitamins A and C specifically to reduce premature signs of aging, such as uneven skin tone and wrinkles, while including an SPF restricts further UV damage.

The kit consists of three products: an AHA/BHA cleanser (Surface Radiance Cleanse), a vitamin C day cream with SPF 30 (Daily Radiance Vitamin C) and a retinol night cream (Night Ritual Vitamin A). The brand claims the kit leaves skin with a healthy, glowing complexion where wrinkles are visibly reduced.

Consumers are instructed to employ the system by first applying the Surface Radiance Cleanse to wet skin on the face and neck, both morning and night. After the morning cleanse, the Daily Radiance Vitamin C is to be applied. Finally, later in the day, after the evening cleanse, the Night Ritual Vitamin A is used. 

Editor's note: This column reviews the ingredient listings on products for claims substantiation and functionality. In addition, the kit was tested personally by the author for a number of weeks. She offers the following insights.

While our regular "Read the Label" series provides an overview of the ingredients cosmetic manufacturers use and their related claims, without specified use levels or access to clinical studies, the author is drawing conclusions based on speculation—albeit from training, formulating experience and, in some instances, evidence in the literature. The following is offered for your consideration and further verification.

In-use Testing

I slowly introduced retinol into my skin care regime and I could see a difference in my skin; it looked supple, dewy and the fine lines on my forehead were slightly reduced. I increased my retinol use to four applications per week, as the brand recommended using it twice per week initially and gradually increasing, but I did notice dry patches of skin appearing, so I reduced it back down to three to see if this improved.

Vitamins A and C are specifically used to reduce premature signs of aging, such as uneven skin tone and wrinkles, while including an SPF restricts further UV damage.

After four weeks of use, Medki8 recommended using the Night Ritual Vitamin A every evening, so I am excited to [hopefully] see a further reduction of my fine lines. Upon reviewing the ingredients in each formula, following is an overview of the key components that appear to be providing performance efficacy.

Surface Radiance Cleanse

Salicylic acid and mandelic acid: Salicylic is a commonly used β-hydroxy acid (BHA), and mandelic is an α-hydroxy acid (AHA). Past formulation experience has shown that acids can often be challenging to formulate with, particularly salicylic. They are, however, very effective at clearing the skin of blemishes and brightening the skin tone.

Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, sodium cocoamphoacetate and cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine: These are the primary and secondary surfactants that make up this cleansing product. Note the absence of sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which is a growing trend due to the negative press sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) has received in recent years.

As formulators will know, consumers often mistake SLES for SLS, when in fact SLES is much milder. Both materials have fantastic foaming properties, with instant flash foam upon rubbing and excellent lathering capabilities. Medik8 has selected the above blend as these surfactants can withstand high levels of acids, making them a suitable choice for this AHA/BHA cleanser.

Daily Radiance Vitamin C

Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate: This oil-soluble grade of vitamin C is my favorite to work with, as it remains effective over long periods of time; although I’ve often used this grade under a different INCI name: Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate. Due to its lipophilicity, it’s more stable than standard ascorbic acid, i.e., pure vitamin C, which begins to degrade the moment it is mixed with water to cause yellowing and an unpleasant odor. Vitamin C is a workhorse in our industry and is wel-known for its powerful skin brightening and anti-acne effects.

Diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine and ethylhexyl triazone: This blend of organic UVA and UVB filters gives the product its SPF 30 value. Ethylhexyl triazone is particularly effective in face creams, as it has some water/sweat resistance. Again, formulating with organic filters can be challenging both in the lab and in the face of regulations, which differ around the world insofar as which ingredients can be used in a sunscreen product.

'Ethylhexyl triazone is particularly effective in face creams, as it has some water/sweat resistance.'

Night Ritual Vitamin A

Retinol: Retinol has been used as an anti-aging ingredient for years. It’s not only very effective in this application, but it also works well for the treatment of acne; you will often find medical products containing this ingredient or its more potent form, retinoic acid, which is strictly for medical use only.

As retinol is an alcohol in structure, it will oxidize to an aldehyde on the skin: retinal. This then oxides further to its most potent form of retinoic acid. It is important to apply retinol and/or its derivatives at night as it reacts with UV light to cause photo-irritation, which leads to the production of reactive oxidative species (ROS), amongst other negative side effects. Research continues to uncover information about retinol and its phototoxicity.

Sodium hyaluronate: This INCI is deceptive because there are many different versions of the molecule that fall into this INCI name category. Is it a high weight molecular chain, or low? My guess is it’s a high weight chain as this night cream leaves skin soft and plump the next day. Longer chains tend to sit on the surface of the skin and have an amazing skin feel, whereas lower chains can have deeper skin penetration action and work to produce more collagen, but they don’t feel as viscous or luxurious to touch.


Overall, I would recommend this kit to anybody who has skin aging concerns or who is just interested in using retinol. I enjoyed testing these products but personally, $129/£99 for the kit is rather expensive, although breaking the cost down individually between three products (say $43/£33 each) makes it seem more reasonable. I will buy the Night Ritual Vitamin A cream again as I felt I could see the most significant change in my skin after using this, and in the mornings after application, my skin felt soft.

For the Daily Radiance Vitamin C product, I would have preferred it to be lighter in texture for a day cream. It’s quite heavy but did work well when my skin was dry after too much retinol. If I were at the stage of using retinol every night, perhaps this would be more beneficial but for my intermittent use, it was too oily for my skin type. I would buy this again with the intention of using it as a treatment product once or twice per week.

Regarding SPF, I would wear this every day but in my opinion, I prefer a non-organic zinc oxide base over organic filters. I just find non-organic to be less greasy for everyday use and this helps my makeup stay on for longer.

Finally, due to the absence of SLES in the Surface Radiance Cleanse, I found this product had a poor flash foam—I had to rub my hands together repeatedly to create any foam. But once applied to skin, the bubbles were dense and it felt luxurious. The AHA/BHA content made my skin tingle a little after the first few applications but my skin adjusted after continuous use and I felt squeaky clean.

Disclaimer: This article was written in London and therefore the INCI listing and INCI names comply with European labelling requirements.

Ingredients (Surface Radiance Cleanse): Aqua (Water), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Salicylic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Disodium EDTA, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Garcinia Mangostana (Mangosteen) Peel Extract, Yucca Schidigera Root Extract, Lactic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Yogurt Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Peel Oil, Limonene, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Ingredients (Daily Radiance Vitamin C): Aqua (Water), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Dibutyl Adipate, Dimethicone, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Cetearyl Alcohol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Glycerin, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Coco-Glucoside, Cetearyl Glucoside, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Hydroxyacetophenone, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Benzoic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Flower Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool.

Ingredients (Night Ritual Vitamin A): Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Methylpropanediol, Tricaprylin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Polymethyl Methacrylate, C12-16 Alcohols, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Distarch Phosphate, Stearic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinol, Squalane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Arginine, Hylocereus Undatus (Dragon Fruit) Fruit Extract, PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, Cetearyl Olivate, Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Oil, Behenyl Alcohol, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Flower Oil, Palmitic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, VetiverIa Zizanoides (Vetiver) Root Oil, Sorbitan Olivate, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Oil, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Hydroxyacetophenone, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Phenylpropanol, Sorbitol, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Sodium Acrylate / Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, Ascorbic Acid, BHT, Limonene, Linalool.

Source: Medik8 website

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