A few months ago I finished my bottle of Gena LikePumice. I'm a menacing zealot about foot maintenance between pedicures, but before purchasing a new bottle I remembered that some time back I was sent a tube of Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body, which the PR person told me was an especially great for feet. Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel is a gel that comes in a regular tube, giving it a major advantage over the Gena mousse. and it's less awkward to use. I was impressed with the amount of "dead skin" that seemed to have melt away as soon as I started massaging my feet. But eventually I started to ask some important questions. Beginning with how in the world do my well-pedicured, lotioned, and regularly filed feet still produce this amount of ick? Also, what ingredient is causing all this exfoliating action, since the product boasts "no acids, scrubs or enzymes"?
Google is our dear dear friend. Searching the ingredient list of Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body has revealed (no pun intended. Well, maybe) two things. First, that the content of this $45/5 oz (150ml) tube was similar to a the very popular Japanese Cure Natural Aqua Gel (abot $28/250ml). Here are the ingredients of both:
Cure Natural Aqua Gel
Water, glycerin, acrylates/C10-30, alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, dicocodimonium, chloride, steartrimonium bromide, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, gingko biloba extract, rosmarinus officinalis/rosemary leaf extract, butylene glycol.
Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body
Water (Aqua), Citrus Aurantium, Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Water*, Glycerin, Acrylates / C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Steartrimonium Bromide, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Oligopeptide-68, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sodium Oleate, Dicocodimonium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Butylene Glycol, Isopropyl Alcohol
Not identical by any means, but the major difference I see is that Aqua Revel contains a significant amount of citrus oils which are actually a major skin irritant (ask IFRA) for those who are sensitive to it. The Japanese formula seems simpler, hence gentler. But what causes the massive exfoliation? That was the second revelation: I found this Beauty Brains article claiming that Cure is more similar in formula to a hair conditioner, and that the "peeling" we experience is actually the product balling up as the water evaporates and the acrylates polymer separates.
I don't believe everything I read on the internet (a good practice for beauty bloggers and presidential candidates alike), so I've spent half a a day looking up each mystery ingredient of Aqua Reveal on several sources. Here's what I've got (we already know that none of the various leaf extracts is an exfoliant):
Water (Aqua), Citrus Aurantium (that's bitter orange, also known in perfumery as bigarade), Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Water, Glycerin, Acrylates / C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (Film-Forming/Holding Agents), Steartrimonium Bromide (an emulsifier, rinsing agent), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Oligopeptide-68 (Peptide that induces significant skin lightening shown to have a higher activity than Arbutin and vitamin C. WHAT?), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate ( Licorice root extract, an Ammonium Salt extract that helps to form gels and stabilize emulsions. It is also used to soothe skin irritations and to regulate the pH levels), Hydrogenated Lecithin (an emollient cell-communicating Ingredient), Sodium Oleate (a fatty acid), Dicocodimonium Chloride (an ammonium salt, emulsifier and conditioner for hair), Disodium EDTA (preservative, stabilizer, counteracts the adverse effects of hard water ), Butylene Glycol (solvent, helps other products dissolve in water as a viscosity-decreasing agent that thins creams and gels so they're easier to use, and as a conditioning agent), Isopropyl Alcohol (the most basic stuff, antiseptic).
Basically, I've been rubbing a hair conditioner meticulously into my feet.
But what about Gena products? Are they more of the same thing? It was almost impossible to find the ingredient list of LikePumice (which in itself is aggravating), but I have both that as well as the list for another Gena product, that latter was also sent by PR, Gena Sloughing Lotion Pedi-Care With Peppermint Oil.
Butane (gas, that's what creates the mousse effect), Water, Alcohol Denant (yes, the drying stuff), Polyvinyl Alcohol (a thickener, used as a surfactant for the formation of polymer encapsulated nanobeads. HA GOTCHA!), Papaya Fruit Extract (anti-irritant and soothing), Nettle Extract (used to treat gout and in flavouring of Gouda cheese.Seriously), PPG-8-Ceteth-20 (an emulsifier), Propylene Glycol (a humectant), Glycerin, Fragrance, Benzyl Benzoate (a component of Balsam of Peru, a repellant of ticks and mosquitoes, a cure for human scabies, and a good solvent, which is probably why it's here.), Butylphenyl Methylpropional (aka Lilial, a fragrance material that's considered a serious skin irritant), Hexyl Cinnamal (another fragrance molecule that imitates jasmine scent and is considered an allergen), Linalool (a common fragrance ingredient in shampoo and household products, an insect repellent and a good stress relief for your rodents).
Gena Sloughing Lotion
Water, Paraffin (mineral oil), Stearic Acid (a fatty acid, commonly used in cleansers), Cetyl Alcohol (a fatty alcohol commonly used in creams and lotions as an emollient, emulsifier or thickening agent) , Glyceryl Stearate (a lubricant and an emulsifier), Aloe Leaf Juice, Menthol, Peppermint Oil, Limonene (a citrus-smelling chemical used as a solvent in cleaning products) , Linalool (see above), Triethanolamine (a pH balancer since it's a strong base. Melts makeup and earwax), Silica, Methylparaben (a preservative ), Propylparaben (ditto. Also an anti-fungal).
Other then a headache, what we get here is a strong feeling of being duped. Perfume people reading this must be rolling their eyes so far back they can see their amygdala, since so many of the ingredients listed here are either banned or heavily restricted for use in perfume because of their skin-irritation potential, where it's a tiny amount of the product and you only spray a little, while these are products you rub lavishly into your skin.
I, personally, am not sensitive to any of the stuff above, so all got was the false effect of melting skin created by the various thickeners and surfactants, and a well-lotioned and conditioned skin that gave me the feeling I was, indeed, doing something special for my feet.
Bottom Line: Use a good foot file and an effective foot lotion (that does contain acids or enzymes).
Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body ($45) is available at Bloomingdale's, SpaceNK, and Birchbox. It was sent for my consideration by PR, as was Gena Sloughing Lotion. I bought the LikePumice thing myself, and have never tried Cure Natural Aqua Gel, the Japanese wonder. That has to count for something.
Image: Brigitte Bardot in Come Dance With Me, 1959