ZO Skin Health Review: 10 Most Popular Zo Skin Health Products



If you haven’t heard of ZO Skin Health, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of its founder, world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi.

Dr. Obagi is also the creator of his namesake line of products — Obagi skincare — which are available everywhere from TheDermStore.com to Walmart. He left that brand in 2006 and launched a new skincare company in 2007 called ZO Skin Health.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

ZO Skin Health believes the only way to achieve skin health is through the power of science. We share this belief here at The Derm Review, which is why we’ve evaluated the ZO Skin Health product formulations through a scientific lens.

Below we’ll discuss the research that supports (or doesn’t support) the ingredients that you’ll find in these products. We’ll also share ZO Skin Health reviews so that you can get an idea of what customers really think of these products.

Is ZO Skin Health Worth The Money?

A common question about this brand is if the products are worth the cost. ZO Skin Health products are expensive, for example, the Zo Skin Brightalive is $130.

In our opinion, ZO Skin Health products aren’t worth the money, simply because there are other skincare brands that offer similar products that are less expensive.

One brand is Carrot & Stick, a clean skincare brand that perfectly balances the gentle nurturing of plants with the powerful results of innovative science.

Carrot & Stick intro bundles deliver great value for money because you can bundle 3 full-size products worth up to $240 for $88.

What Are The Top 10 Most Popular ZO Skin Health Products?

From correcting sun damage and hyperpigmentation to preventing signs of aging, ZO Skin Health has a solution for your skincare needs. Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 most popular ZO Skin Health products.


ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish

Skin looking a little dull? If so, adding in a product that exfoliates (aka removes dead skin cells) can help to revive dull, tired skin. ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish uses magnesium oxide crystals to exfoliate dead skin cells in order to promote a clear, smooth, and even toned complexion.

Another physical exfoliant in this formula is sodium bicarbonate — aka baking soda. While baking soda is abrasive and will exfoliate the skin, the majority of skincare experts consider it to be too harsh.

Plus, baking soda has a high pH of 9, which is typically too alkaline for the skin to tolerate since the skin’s normal pH is about 4.5 to 5. This alkaline pH can lead to disruption of the skin barrier, causing redness, dryness, breakouts, and signs of sensitivity.

Another problem: the brand highlights vitamin C as a key ingredient in ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish, but the pH of a product should ideally be less than 3.5 for vitamin C to penetrate the skin. Thus, using a high concentration of baking soda with a pH of 9 in a formula that contains vitamin C just doesn’t make sense.

And, finally, we can’t ignore the inclusion of fragrance in the ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish, which may lead to skin sensitivity.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish uses magnesium oxide crystals and baking soda to exfoliate the skin, but the alkaline pH of baking soda may lead to disruption of the skin barrier.


ZO Skin Health Oil Control Pads

These are alcohol-based acne “treatment” pads that are claimed to remove oil, normalize pore size, and help smooth the skin’s surface. And these pads likely will provide these effects, but only because of the high concentration of alcohol in the formula.

The problem with alcohol-based products is that, at first, they seem like they’re benefitting the skin. Initially, alcohol reduces excess oil, makes pores appear smaller, and tightens skin.

However, the immediate de-greasing effects of alcohol-based products can actually stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, causing the skin to look even more shiny and oily than it was before. This may even lead to an increase in acne breakouts.

Another major problem with using high concentrations of denatured alcohol is that this ingredient is well known to cause skin dryness, irritation, and even disruption of the skin barrier.

According to a publication in the journal BBA Biomembranes alcohol disrupts the lipids that make up the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin).

While alcohol may provide short-term benefits, it’s not doing your skin any good in the long run.

ZO Skin Health Oil Control Pads do contain a few beneficial ingredients, such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid, but we don’t think the benefits of these ingredients outweigh the risks of applying so much alcohol to your skin.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Oil Control Pads are alcohol-based pads that reduce excess oil, make pores appear smaller, and tighten skin, but may not be the best in the long run.


ZO Skin Health Daily Power Defense

The Daily Power Defense serum is referred to as an “antioxidant serum”, however, the formula doesn’t include many antioxidants, just retinol and a low concentration of vitamin E. In our opinion, it would be better to refer to this as a retinol serum, but we digress.

Fortunately, retinol is an excellent skincare ingredient. It increases cell turnover, functions as an antioxidant, and stimulates collagen production, thereby reducing signs of aging.

Plus, this serum tackles lines and wrinkles with another powerful anti-aging ingredient — Matrixyl 3000. In case you aren’t familiar with this ingredient, it’s the trademarked peptide that’s made up of two matrikines (palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7).

Matrikines are peptides that regulate cell activities through cell signaling. The two matrikines in Matrixyl 3000 work synergistically to restore and maintain the skin’s youthful appearance by signaling to cells to produce more collagen.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few fragrant essential oils in this ZO Skin Health serum, which may lead to skin sensitivity.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Daily Power Defense serum combines retinol and peptides into one formula, but the inclusion of fragrant essential oils in the formula gives us pause.


ZO Skin Health Growth Factor Serum

ZO Skin Health Growth Factor Serum is a lightweight serum that includes high concentrations of several different humectants and silicones, which both help to disguise signs of aging — humectants attract moisture which plumps the skin, and silicones form a thin film that blurs the appearance of line and wrinkles. But these effects are temporary and will disappear once you wash off the product.

The rest of the formula includes a few interesting ingredients, such as ​​​​Buddleja Davidii Meristem Cell Culture.

Plus, the formula includes two growth factors — a ​​fermented red ginseng extract and disodium acetyl glucosamine phosphate — which both help to restore hydration, elasticity, and firmness.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Growth Factor Serum is a lightweight serum that consists of humectants, silicones and growth factors.


ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Cleanser

This gel cleanser helps to gently exfoliate skin thanks to jojoba esters. Jojoba esters are round, biodegradable beads that help to remove dead skin cells.

Like most cleansers, the formula includes surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate and cocamidopropyl betaine. Surfactants contain one end that is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and one end that is lipophilic (attracted to oil). This allows surfactants to attract and suspend oils, dirt, and other impurities that have accumulated on the skin and wash them away.

ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Cleanser also includes salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps to exfoliate skin while unclogging pores.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Cleanser combines jojoba esters with surfactants and salicylic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, remove excess oil, and unclog pores.


ZO Skin Health Vitamin C Self Activating

This ZO Skin Health Vitamin C serum combines 10% ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) with tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (a stable vitamin C derivative).

Regardless of what form of vitamin C is used in the formula, all vitamin C derivatives are converted to ascorbic acid after being absorbed into the skin. Ascorbic acid is a potent antioxidant that protects skin from free radicals while also helping to fade dark spots and promote a brighter complexion.

The serum also includes vitamin E, which is great because the antioxidant activity of vitamin E can actually become more powerful when combined with vitamin C. For this reason, vitamins C and E are referred to as “network antioxidants”.

A publication in the journal Dermatologic Therapy explains, “becausevitamin C regenerates oxidized vitamin E, the combination in a cosmeceutical formulation is synergistic — particularly in UV protection.”

Lastly, there are several silicones in this formula that contribute to its silky texture, as well as the emollient squalane to help soften and moisturize skin.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Vitamin C Self Activating Serum combines two forms of vitamin C with vitamin E and hydrating ingredients, resulting in a serum that brightens, hydrates, and firms skin.


ZO Skin Health Retinol Skin Brightener

Another retinol product by ZO Skin Health is the Retinol Skin Brightener, a silky serum that’s formulated to assist in brightening and evening skin tone.

The formula includes 1% retinol, which is moderate strength, so this product may not be suitable for newbie retinol users. But if you’re ready for this strength, get ready to reap the benefits because there’s a lot!

According to a publication in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, retinol can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and unclog pores.

ZO Skin Health Retinol Skin Brightener also includes antioxidant vitamins C and E, glutathione, soy isoflavones, and n-acetyl glucosamine. All of these ingredients help to prevent the appearance of new age spots and uneven color.

Bottom Line: A moderate strength retinol serum that assists in brightening and evening skin tone.


ZO Skin Health Complexion Renewal Pads

Similar to the ZO Skin Health Oil Control Pads, the Complexion Renewal Pads are alcohol-based facial pads.

Like we mentioned above, there are some benefits to using alcohol-based products. They initially help to remove excess oil and tighten skin. Alcohol also helps other ingredients to penetrate the skin better.

But are these benefits worth disrupting the skin barrier, which can lead to issues like dryness, breakouts, and sensitivity? In our opinion, no, which is why we don’t recommend ZO Skin Health Complexion Renewal Pads.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Complexion Renewal Pads are alcohol-based pads that will remove excess oil and tighten the skin in the short term, but may lead to disruption of the skin barrier when used long term.


ZO Skin Health Wrinkle + Texture Repair

This is another ZO Skin Health retinol serum, which includes pure retinol at a concentration of 0.5 percent.

Like we mentioned with the other ZO Skin Health retinol products, this ingredient is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and unclog pores.

The serum also includes the brand’s trademarked ZCORE complex, which consists of a biomimetic tetrapeptide and sweet yellow clover. Together, these ingredients are said to support the anchoring fibrils for dermal-epidermal junction integrity.

Another proprietary ingredient is ZPRO, which supports skin’s natural replenishment of hyaluronic acid.

Note: This is another ZO Skin Health product that includes fragrance.

Bottom Line: ZO Skin Health Wrinkle + Texture Repair is an anti-aging serum that combines 0.5% retinol with the brand’s proprietary ingredients ZPRO and ZCORE complex.


ZO Skin Health Firming Serum

Sodium DNA, an ingredient that supports fibroblast activity, is one of the key ingredients in the ZO Skin Health Firming Serum. There are also antioxidants in this formula to protect skin from environmental free radical damage.

And then there’s retinyl palmitate, an ingredient composed of palmitic acid and retinol. After being absorbed into the skin, it’s converted to retinol and should provide anti-aging benefits.

Make sure to use SPF with any retinol or retinoid product as FDA studies indicate that retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may increase sensitivity to the sun. 

There are also fragrance ingredients in this ZO Skin Health serum, which may lead to skin sensitivity.

Bottom Line: Simple, easy serum.

What Are The Key Ingredients in ZO Skin Health Products?

As you probably noticed from our product descriptions above, the brand doesn’t use just one key ingredient in its skincare collection. 

Rather, each ZO Skin Health product contains different key ingredients in different concentrations.

The brand combines evidence-based ingredients, such as vitamins C and E, retinol, glycerin, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid, with their proprietary ingredients like ZPRO, ZCORE complex, and more.

Unfortunately, this brand also tends to use ingredients that may cause irritation to some skin types, such as denatured alcohol and fragrance.

ZO Skin Health Reviews

ZO Skin Health reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive but almost too positive. It seems as though the brand may only display the 5-star ZO Skin Health reviews.

After looking through countless pages of ZO Skin Health reviews, we could not find even one review that was less than 5 stars. Keeping that in mind, we’ll still share a few ZO Skin Health reviews for you to consider.

The brand’s most popular product — ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish — has received many raving 5 star reviews. The reviews mention that it exfoliates the skin well without being too harsh.

For example, one review says, “Exfoliating Polish is my all-time favorite exfoliator. Most products are either too harsh or too soft. This one feels just right. It’s gritty enough that I get a good exfoliation, but not harsh enough that it tears my skin. I always recommend this product to my patients. It’s great for all skin types.”

And the ZO Skin Health Vitamin C Serum has plenty of reviews that confirm that this serum can improve skin tone, texture, and brightness.

For example, a 5-star review says, “This is the most effective vitamin C serum I’ve used. My old pigmentation from acne started to clear within one week of use. Highly recommend this product.”

Our Verdict


  • Formulas combine evidenced-based ingredients (retinol, vitamin C, AHAs, etc.) with proprietary ingredients
  • Many positive ZO Skin Health reviews


  • High price point (e.g. ZO Skin Health Firming Serum is $235 USD for 1.6 fl oz)
  • Some products contain very high concentrations of denatured alcohol

What Are Some Alternatives to ZO Skin Health Products?

If you’re looking for skincare products to address the signs of aging, we recommend Carrot & Stick. Carrot & Stick maximizes the use of powerful ingredients and minimizes the use of superficial ones, resulting in advanced skincare solutions that help promote healthy, more youthful-looking skin.


ZO Skin Health products are priced at a mid to high range, for example, the ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish costs $67 USD for 2.3 oz, while the Daily Power Defense Serum costs $150 for 1.7 fl oz.
ZO Skin Health products are only available through the brand’s Physician Online Store and ZO Authorized Physicians.
The ZO Skin Health return policy states, “If you are not 100% satisfied, a 30-day money-back guarantee is offered on all ZO products purchased from www.zoskinhealth.com. Please make sure the product is returned within 30 days of the order date on the packing slip to ensure a refund (excludes shipping and handling charges).”
Yes, ZO Skin Health is cruelty free.
ZO Skin Health may offer some products that are suitable for vegans, but this is not a 100% vegan brand.

As we mentioned above, Dr. Zein Obagi founded Obagi skin care — a line that includes professional, medical-grade products — back in 1988.

The main difference between these two lines is that ZO Skin Health products include more innovative ingredients, such as ZPRO and ZCORE complex, whereas the Obagi skin care products contain evidence-based (yet standard) ingredients, such as hydroquinone, vitamin C, retinol, AHAs, etc.

If you want the full breakdown of the Obagi collection, read our full review of the 10 best Obagi skin care products

Clin Interv Aging. 2006 Dec; 1(4): 327–348.
BBA Biomembranes, May 2012, pages 1410-1419

JDD March 2019 Vol 18 Issue 3, 290
Women’s Voices for the Earth “Unpacking The Fragrance Industry” 2018



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Zo Skin Health Growth Factor Serum Review

The Zo Skin Health Growth Factor Serum was designed to serve as an all-in-one, hydrating gel that specifically targets wrinkles and fine lines. Unlike most serums, this product comes as a gel-like formula, blurring the lines between serum and moisturizer. Additionally the ingredients behind this formula are loaded with humectants and other hydrators to plump sagging skin and reduce moisture loss, both of which can make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. But the real star of the show with this product is the abundance of anti-aging fighting ingredients. These include dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate and buddleja stem cell, as well as unique complexes like Zo Skin’s ZPRO technology. Some of these ingredients help to target wrinkles and fine lines that have already become visible, while others work to prevent new or worsening fine lines from becoming visible in the future. With all this in mind, we would recommend this product for those of you who are looking for a gentle and super hydrating anti-aging treatment.


Zo Skin Health Daily Power Defense Review

The Zo Skin Health Daily Power Defense Serum was designed to serve as a multi-purpose, active ingredient rich serum to improve the skin from several different angles. Loaded with antioxidants, ceramides, peptides, retinol and more, this product aims to tackle some of the most difficult aspects of skincare including skin damage, premature aging and moisture loss. Zo Skin Health is the latest brainchild from Dr. Obagi, the founder of cult classic skincare brand, Obagi Medical. This new venture utilizes the best and most well researched active ingredients to produce noticeable improvements to the skin with consistent use. For example, using the Zo Skin Health Daily Power Defense Serum consistently can help to prevent environmental damage caused by UV rays, pollution and stress, while also reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and even acne, thanks to the retinol that is present within this formula.


Zo Skin Health Exfoliating Polish Review

For a polish scrub that can be used weekly, we’d recommend trying out a dedicated product like the Zo Skin Health Exfoliating Polish. This product was designed to serve as a powerful facial scrub that helps to clear away dead skin cells as well as any additional debri that has accumulated on the surface of the skin. But what makes this exfoliating polish different from other physical exfoliants on the market? One of the key distinctions between the Zo Skin Health Exfoliating Polish and others on the market is the use of magnesium crystals as the main exfoliating agent. These crystals help to remove the dead skin cells while also preventing the formation of clogged pores due to excess buildup. With that said however, magnesium crystals can also be potentially irritating since these particles due have uneven edges which can cause microtears on the skin. In order to avoid this, we recommend applying very light pressure to the skin as you rub it into the skin and being sure to be gentle when applying and removing the scrub.

  • Louise Original review: Jul 27, 2021. Reply

    Followed the ‘protocol’ to the letter for 6 months. The only difference I saw was the huge £800 dent to my finances.
    It made my melasma worse and when I tried to work the ‘practitioner’ or whatever name she gave herself, she told me I should put these products aside for some months whilst we consult with a doctor and spend another £260 on more products. To which I said goodbye 👋.
    My advice… see a clinical dermatologist, not beauticians that are cashing in on huge commissions pushing these products worse than a second hand car salesman.

  • Fran Original review: Feb 04, 2021. Reply

    I saw an estetician for rosaecea. The products are not working. At first it seemed like they were then my face flared up. Going to go the course until we meet again. Sometimes this happens before it gets better?

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