Acids. They’re a staple of a serious skincare routine, thanks to their research-demonstrated effectiveness for smoothing skin texture, unclogging pores, and reducing dark spots and fine lines. And they run the gamut from budget to high-end (though price definitely doesn’t always correlate to potency), from gentle to melt-your-face-off-if-you-aren’t-careful intense.
At first glance, Farmacy Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum sounds like it might fall on the intense end of the spectrum. The word “resurfacing” is a strong one, and the product contains “a 14% AHA/BHA/gentle flower acids blend” to exfoliate skin. Generally, I consider anything above 8 percent quite strong for AHA products—definitely too strong to use on a daily basis. Additionally, according to my pH testing strips, the pH of Honeymoon Glow is low, between 3 and 4. That’s pretty optimal for AHA effectiveness. So I went into this product testing with some trepidation.
Farmacy Honeymoon Glow: The Basics
Fourteen percent acids at approximately pH 3.5 puts this product almost in the peel category for me. I actually put off testing this for quite a while. Overexfoliation is no fun and takes some time to repair, so to minimize the risk, I cut all acids out of my routine for over a week before using Honeymoon Glow for the first time.
Ingredients: Water, lactic acid, propanediol, jojoba esters, glycolic acid, potassium hydroxide, salix alba (willow) bark extract, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) oleosomes, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, hibiscus sabdariffa flower extract, citric acid, honey extract, echinacea purpurea root extract, propolis extract, royal jelly extract, hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, curcuma longa (turmeric) root extract, argania spinosa kernel oil, zingiber officinale (ginger) root extract, amaranthus caudatus seed oil, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, vaccinum myrtillus fruit/leaf extract, saccharum officinarum (sugarcane) extract, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) fruit extract, citrus limon (lemon) fruit extract, acer saccharum (sugar maple) extract, melia azadirachta leaf extract, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, melia azadirachta flower extract, salvia hispanica seed oil, cetearyl alcohol, glycerin, arachidyl alcohol, sclerotium gum, coco glucoside, polyacrylate crosspolymer-6, behenyl alcohol, arachidyl glucoside, sodium benzoate, tocopherol, potassium sorbate, corallina officinalis extract, polyglyceryl-10 stearate, gluconolactone, 1,2-hexanediol, ocimum basilicum (basil) flower/leaf extract, ocimum sanctum leaf extract, T-butyl alcohol, glucose, calcium gluconate, citral
I’ve bolded the exfoliating acids in the ingredients list above so we can talk about the acid content in the Farmacy Honeymoon Glow. Fourteen percent doesn’t tell the full story here, and it may turn off some of you who are less accustomed to exfoliating acids or whose skin is less tolerant of them.
Breaking Down the Acid Content
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a skincare writer is to look closely at ingredients marketed in a “blend” or “complex,” especially if a product’s active ingredients concentration is expressed by giving the percentage of that blend. So I reached out to Farmacy directly to ask if they could provide more details on the contents of the AHA/BHA/flower acid blend: I wanted to understand the overall potency of the product better.
The brand’s answer definitely shed more light on the product (and impressed me, because not all brands are so accommodating when asked about the exact contents of their products). According to @farmacybeauty, Honeymoon Glow contains “10% AHA blend of lactic, glycolic, and fruit acids, 1% BHA (natural salicylic acid from willow bark), and 3% flower acids blend (hibiscus flower extract).”
Extracts are compounds that do sometimes contain exfoliating elements, but the exfoliating elements are not the whole composition of the extract. Willow bark extract is often marketed as a natural BHA alternative; sugar cane, sugar maple, citrus, and hibiscus extracts are often marketed in the same way, but for AHAs. But willow bark extract is not the same thing as salicylic acid, and sugar cane, sugar maple, citrus, and hibiscus extracts are not any particular AHA. The acids can be derived from these ingredients, but these ingredients are not the acids.
Further complicating matters is the fact that extract composition isn’t standardized across the industry the way salicylic, glycolic, lactic, mandelic, or any other lab-derived or synthetic ingredient is. Willow bark extract from Supplier A may be far more concentrated than willow bark extract from Supplier B due to different extraction methods or even willow cultivation and bark harvesting practices, but on the consumer side, we have no insight. All we see is “willow bark extract” on the ingredients list.
For this reason, I’m striking out all the extracts from my evaluation of Honeymoon Glow’s potency as a chemical exfoliant. The ingredients Farmacy uses may have some exfoliating properties, but it’s impossible to quantify how much. (They most likely contribute secondary benefits, however, so they aren’t without value—I just don’t count them as acids.)
What’s left once you take the extracts out of the equation? Looking at the ingredients list, just lactic acid and glycolic acid. Technically, the gluconolactone at the bottom of the ingredients list is a PHA chemical exfoliant, but it’s so low down that its concentration is presumably negligible, especially given the fact that the larger molecular size of PHAs prevents them from penetrating and exfoliating as deeply as AHAs can.
If Honeymoon Glow contains 10 percent of a blend of lactic, glycolic, and fruit acids, then it must contain less than 10 percent of lactic and glycolic acid combined. Meanwhile, salicylic acid doesn’t appear anywhere on the ingredients list, only willow bark extract. So rather than thinking of this as a 14 percent acids product, we can think of it as a less than 10 percent AHA product. That changes things quite a bit. At less than 10 percent, it’s mild enough for me to use a few times a week.
Honeymoon Glow Performance
Farmacy Honeymoon Glow is a thin, lightweight serum with an emulsion consistency and no particular scent. It applies smoothly, sinks in well, and delivers a nice immediate hydrating and softening effect, possibly helped along by the honey, propolis, and royal jelly extracts in the formula.
And, contrary to my initial worries, it exfoliates very gently. Gently enough that I can use it on my neck and chest, where I generally never use actives due to them leaving my skin in those areas itchy, tight, and irritated. I’ve been using Honeymoon Glow three to four times a week for a couple of months now without any problems there, a very good sign for thinner or more sensitive skin.
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Honeymoon Glow does exfoliate. Regular use leaves my skin smooth and silky and helps keep my pores clear of congestion, and my occasional use of the Fresh Sugar Face Polish (which I love for getting a fully flawless canvas for makeup on special occasions) has never pushed my skin over the edge into overexfoliation territory. As a bonus, Honeymoon Glow layers well under the other layers of skincare in my routine, making it easy to fit in during evening skincare.
As a final note, I will point out that everyone’s skin is different. I found Honeymoon Glow much gentler than expected and very suitable for frequent use. Other users I’ve talked to have had different experiences. If your skin is unused to chemical exfoliation or exfoliation in general, you may find the initial improvement in skin texture much more dramatic: Honeymoon Glow has legions of fans who swear by its ability to rapidly and noticeably resurface and brighten their skin. If your skin is on the sensitive side, meanwhile, it may feel more potent to you than it did to me. The acidic pH itself can cause a (harmless) tingling sensation for some people.
The popularity of Farmacy Honeymoon Glow does suggest it works well for a variety of people. If you decide to try it, treat it as you would any new product. Introduce new items to your routine one at a time, give each one at least a week before adding anything else, and, most importantly, pay close attention to how it makes your skin feel. If it’s a good fit for your skin, I think you’ll love it!