FaceTheory Review - The Dermatology Review

FaceTheory Review



The Story Behind FaceTheory 

Founded by Jamie Shuker in 2015, FaceTheory is a UK-based skin care brand that’s on a mission to formulate clean skin care products by combining nature with science. The majority of FaceTheory skin care products take a dual approach of carefully chosen botanicals like green tea and chamomile which are combined with high-performing actives like retinol and vitamin C. FaceTheory has grown in popularity over the years and is now available in over 40 countries worldwide. The brand has now shipped over 200,000 orders and have over 40,000 customer reviews of their products. In this review, we’ll discuss the brand’s best selling products, key ingredients, FaceTheory reviews from real customers, and more. 

What Are The Best Selling FaceTheory Skin Care Products?

FaceTheory skin care products include everything you need to build a complete skin care routine, including cleansers, masks, serums, creams, toners, oils, and more. Below we’ll give you the details on the top five best selling FaceTheory skin care products. 

Regenacalm 2% Retinol and Vitamin C Serum
The FaceTheory Retinol and Vitamin C Serum is the brand’s best selling serum. It is formulated with retinol ester (2%), vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid to target many different skin concerns, including fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, acne scars, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. The serum also contains a dill extract to regenerate elastin and combat signs of aging, while licorice extracts calms stressed or sensitive skin while balancing oily or congested complexions.

Porebright Serum
FaceTheory Porebright Serum is a lightweight serum formulated with 10% niacinamide and azelaic acid to even out skin tone and reduce pigmentation, redness, and facial photoageing. Azelaic acid is derived from wheat, rye and barley. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties help to reduce clogged pores, acne, and hyperpigmentation. Niacinamide offers many benefits to the skin, which we’ll discuss in the next section. 

Ocuwake Eye Cream
This FaceTheory eye cream contains antioxidants like vitamin C and ferulic acid, calming ingredients like licorice and chamomile, hexylresorcinol to lighten skin and make eyes appear brighter, and Meiview to strengthen and firm the eye contour while protecting skin’s elasticity.

BHA Exfoliating Serum
The FaceTheory BHA Exfoliating Serum is a leave-on liquid exfoliator that contains 5% BHAs – 2% salicylic acid and now with 3% carnitine – to target acne, dead cells, wrinkles and fine lines while hydrating and nourishing skin. We’ll talk more about the benefits of using BHAs in the next section. 

Clarifying Cleanser
The FaceTheory Clarifying Cleanser is the brand’s best selling cleanser that is specially formulated for oily and congested skin and doubles as a glycolic face peel. The formula includes several different types of acids (glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid) at a low pH to exfoliate the skin and clarify oily, congested, blemish-prone skin.

What Are The Key Ingredients in FaceTheory Skin Care Products?

FaceTheory uses a retinol ester in their products called retinyl palmitate (retinol combined with palmitic acid). The skin has naturally occurring enzymes that can convert retinyl palmitate to its active form (retinoic acid). First, retinyl palmitate is converted to retinaldehyde. Then, the metabolism of retinaldehyde to retinoic acid occurs only by keratinocytes at a pertinent stage of differentiation, leading to a more controlled delivery of retinoic acid and weaker retinoid associated adverse effects as compared to other retinoids. 

Retinoic acid can help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. Retinoic acid interacts with the retinoic acid (RAR) and retinoid X receptors (RXR) located in the nucleus of the cell. These nuclear receptors increase the production of procollagen and function to block the release of inflammatory mediators. Finally, retinol functions as an antioxidant and helps the skin combat free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

Another key ingredient you’ll find in several of the FaceTheory skin care products, including the BHA Exfoliating Serum and the Clarifying Cleanser, is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a lipid soluble beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that easily enters the pores, exfoliates the pore lining, and loosens clogged oil and dirt. It also has the ability to dissolve keratin, the protein that acts as a “glue” to keep dead skin cells together in the stratum corneum. This is effective because dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin, leaving it looking dull and also possibly clogging pores.

Carnitine is another BHA that is used in FaceTheory skin care products, including the BHA Exfoliating Serum. In the human body, carnitine plays an important role in metabolism. Specifically, carnitine transports long-chain fatty acids into mitochondria to be oxidized for energy production, according to Healthline. In regards to skin care, carnitine has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it also has the ability to enhance skin hydration and help control sebum production.

You’ll also find glycolic acid in several FaceTheory skin care products, including the Clarifying Cleanser. Glycolic acid exfoliates the skin by targeting corneocytes (dead skin cells that make up the top layers of skin) in a process called corneocyte desquamation. By enhancing their breakdown and increasing the separation of skin cells, the rate of cell turnover is increased, leading to smoother, brighter skin. In addition, glycolic acid is able to penetrate deep into the skin due to its small molecular size and stimulate the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is a structural protein naturally produced by the body that is responsible for keeping skin strong and firm. By stimulating new collagen synthesis, glycolic acid may be able to help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

The final key ingredient we’d like to discuss is niacinamide, the amide form of vitamin B3, which you’ll find in the FaceTheory Porebright Serum. Niacinamide is a precursor to the coenzymes NADH and NADPH. These coenzymes play an important role in cellular metabolism, which means they provide skin cells with the energy needed to function properly. A publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling.

Where are FaceTheory Skin Care Products Sold?

FaceTheory skin care products are sold on the brand’s website.

What is The FaceTheory Return Policy?

The FaceTheory return policy states, “We’re so confident in our products that we give you 365 days to try them out. If you wish to get a refund on your products please contact [email protected] and we’ll process a refund for you. Our returns policy is different from a sampling service. We can only accept product returns once per product in 365 days and we reserve the right to say that our products may not be suitable for your skin and decline any further purchases from you.”

Is FaceTheory Cruelty Free?

FaceTheory is cruelty free and the products are officially Leaping Bunny Certified. Leaping Bunny Certification means FaceTheory skin care products are free of animal testing at every stage of product development.

FaceTheory Reviews

FaceTheory reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive, with most products receiving four and five star ratings. The product with the most reviews is the FaceTheory Clarifying Cleanser, which has earned an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars after more than 4,600 customer reviews. 

Positive reviews for the Clarifying Cleanser confirm that it helps to keep the skin clean, clear, and hydrated. For example, one review says, “It’s crazy. I thought the reviews were excessive, but no. I’ve only been using it for 3 days and it has a pimple on the neck that I haven’t removed in 3 weeks that has completely dried out and that has gotten very small. Otherwise I can only write good things about it so far. It doesn’t hurt and the skin is very smooth and soft and less greasy. I have to say, however, that I only get blackheads occasionally and rarely have pimples (like now on my neck). However, it has improved my skin so far.”

There aren’t many negative reviews for the FaceTheory Clarifying Cleanser, but those that we did read were from customers who experienced negative reactions after using this product. Some experienced redness and irritation, while others experienced acne breakouts. For example, one review says, “I have been using the cleanser for almost 3 weeks and it has caused me to have one of the worst breakouts that I have had in years. I tried to stick with the product to see if it was just my skin adjusting to new ingredients but my breakouts are just getting worse. Obviously I’m really upset by this. It’s a shame that smaller tester size pots can’t be purchased to test on the skin before buying the bigger pot. I would still recommend trying this because looking at the reviews it seems I am a rare case but I thought I would share my personal experience.”

What Are Some Alternatives to FaceTheory Skin Care?

Overall, we think that FaceTheory skin care products are formulated well, and we especially like that the brand includes high concentrations of active ingredients in their products. However, we noticed that the brand uses the retinol ester (retinyl palmitate) in all of their retinol products. Like we explained above, retinyl palmitate must go through two conversion steps in order to become its active form (retinoic acid). This means that it is not as effective as pure retinol. Sure, it causes less irritation than pure retinol. But did you know there’s another retinol alternative that can provide the same anti-aging benefits as retinol without irritation? It’s called hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR), and you’ll find it in Formulyst’s Double Defence Serum. 

We like that the Double Defence Serum contains HPR because it does not need to be converted to retinoic acid to work. Rather, it binds directly to the retinoid receptors of the skin cells. HPR provides the same benefits of retinol, but without the irritation. Thus, this ingredient will help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. Formulyst’s Double Defence Serum is also packed with many other beneficial ingredients, including caffeine, squalane, alpha-arbutin, an innovative vitamin C derivative, and more. Overall, the Double Defence Serum can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes, leaving you with youthful-looking skin that’s visually smoother, firmer and more even.

1. Healthline “L-Carnitine: Benefits, Side Effects, Sources and Dosage”
2. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Feb; 3(2): 22–41




The philosophy of Formulyst is long-term and effective skincare, rather than covering up any imperfections. The comprehensive line of products tackles everything from wrinkles to dark spots and dry skin. While some brands rely on unnecessary fillers and scents, Formulyst focuses on ingredients that help create results, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Many of the Formulyst’s products harness the power of plant and citrus extracts as well as gold-standard workhorses such as retinol. Read More

Advanced Dermatology

The Advanced Dermatology skin care regimen addresses the most pressing aging concerns. It can be used by men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. This award-winning system can help diminish wrinkle appearance, reduce dark spots and hyperpigmentation, fade away redness, even out skin tone and improve the appearance of eye bags and dark circles. Some of the standout products in this line include the Super Youth Serum, Complete Age Defense and Anti-Wrinkle Firming Night Treatment. Read More

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