Beauty Q&A, Product Reviews

BEAUTY Q&A: NERIUM SAFETY REVIEW

Dear Megan,

Is Nerium safe? A lot of my friends use it (and sell it). It looks good, but I’m curious.

– Britney S.


I was first introduced to Nerium about a year ago by a friend. Since I’ve mostly been in China for the past 2 years without Facebook, it’s the first and last time I had heard about it since getting this Beauty Q&A email.

“My (other) friend is selling Nerium. Does it work? The before and afters look good.”

“Nerium? Like.. nerium oleander? The flower that women use to poison their husbands with?”

A little dramatic, I know, and I definitely had watched too much TV, but sure enough.. that’s what Google searches also pulled up. I wasn’t wrong. That is what the beautiful flower has been used for in the past. Just in this case, since so many women across the nation were putting it directly on their skin, I decided to look into it further.

I was first introduced to Nerium about a year ago by a friend. ..It’s the first and last time I had heard about it since getting this Beauty Q&A email. 

Please note before reading: I want to give Nerium and it’s ingredients as fair of a review as possible, and I’ve read and reviewed, and reviewed.. but the evidence against it is pretty damning. I have still done my best to give a fair and balanced review below. You can read for yourself and decide. This post was not written with the intent to say anything negative against those selling or using the product. People use all types of products and methods for anti-aging; that is their perrogative. I have simply been asked to give my opinion and expertise, and this is the best, most fair and balanced review I could provide of the product and it’s ingredients, to let curious readers decide for themselves.

THE SECRET INGREDIENT: NERIUM OLEANDER

The key ingredient in NeriumAD is a plant known as Nerium Oleander. The company took advantage of this ingredient when it was “discovered” by them (let’s be cleared, none of us are discovering plants at this point) to have skin care benefits.

Even if Nerium found a way to extract an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory property from the nerium flower, why would they make the #1 ingredient in their products and the name of their company a well-known poison? A single leaf can kill a child (source) — it’s that poisonous. So my biggest question is: Why?

Why would [Nerium International] make the #1 ingredient in their products and the name of their company a well-known poison?

To be totally (and probably overly) fair, WINK also contains the predecessor of a known poison, ricin, but that doesn’t make WINK poisonous, nor does it make castor oil poisonous. The posion ricin is made from ricinis communis – castor seeds, from which castor oil is made, and castor oil is not harmful at all – so we know that not every plant with a poisonous side is bad for your beauty.

However, the main difference between ricin and oleander is this:

  • Ricin can be made from the waste leftover from processing castor beans (source)
  • All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous to man and animals and serious adverse effects are associated with ingestion, inhalation, and contact of mucus membranes with oleander or oleander extracts.” (FDA letter, here)

In other words, you can make poison out of castor beans if you want to, but every part of the oleander plant is known to be poinsonous, and the FDA has confirmed that. So why choose it as the main ingredient for a product that you will be slathering all over your face and/or body?

CAN NERIUM OLEANDER USED AS A MEDICINE?

Here’s what FDA said in a letter to a pharmaceutical company that wanted to introduce an oleander supplement to the market in 1998 (which you can read in full here):

“FDA has carefully considered the information in your submission, and the agency has significant concerns about the evidence on which you rely to support your conclusion that a dietary supplement containing N. oleander, when used under the conditions recommended or suggested in the labeling of your product, will reasonably be expected to be safe. N oleander is well known to be a poisonous plant. All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous to man and animals and serious adverse effects are associated with ingestion, inhalation, and contact of mucus membranes with oleander or oleander extracts. Adverse effects include, among other things, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cardiovascular symptoms, and peripheral neuritis. The most serious effects that are associated with exposure to oleander result from the cardiotonic actions of the cardiac glycosides in oleander. The main cardiac glycosides are oleandrin, folinerin, digitoxigenin, and oleandringen.”

Nerium oleander is not okay in the FDA’s eyes for a supplement. They also denied Nerium’s parent company the use of the extract in a pharmaceutical product for cancer, citing “potential serious adverse effects” as the reason for denial (sourcesome research on this failed product, called Anvirzel, here). Just like that, all dreams of using nerium oleander extract as a medicine or OTC.. gone.

TOPICAL USE OF NERIUM OLEANDER

Nerium is out of the question for anything medical or psuedo-medical.. what about skincare? Does it have benefits when applied to the skin? Can they really make an extract from nerium oleander that has serious anti-aging skin benefits?

In a previous review, I simply wrote: “Nerium also sponsored a study comparing its plant extract with aloe, the results of which showed Nerium Oleander was a better, more multi-faceted antioxidant (source). Considering that there are many antioxidants more powerful than aloe, this doesn’t really prove much. Also considering the company sponsored the study, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. I would love to see how Nerium AD compares to more powerful antioxidants like green tea and resveratrol.”

This time, I dove into it slightly more, at the request of a reader:

The one study that looks legitimate compares the effects of nerium extract in aloe vs. aloe extract vs. nerium oleander extract in water (study here). So basically: is nerium + aloe, aloe, or nerium alone better? We’re not comparing them against any other potent anti-oxidant or anti-agers, just between each other.

The result? The aloe+nerium extract was shown to have the best anti-oxidant effects, without increasing inflammation.

Something that stuck out like a sore thumb to me was that the paper kept referring to the aloe+nerium as “NAE-8®”, because that’s what Nerium International trademarked it under.  Couldn’t they have just made a base of nerium and aloe, and studied it, without naming the trademarked ingredient (trademarks and patents aren’t the same, after all)? Putting the trademarked name in and referring to it as “a novel component of a commercial cosmetic product” makes me wonder why the researchers are really studying this (aka where the research money came from). There is such a thing as bias in research.

I would still like to see how Nerium stacks up against other powerful antioxidants or anti-agers, not just against different versions of itself.

I would still like to see how Nerium stacks up against other powerful antioxidants or anti-agers, not just against different versions of itself.

Otherwise, there is no published, independent, substantiated research proving this plant extract has any special or unique properties for aging skin, uneven skin tone, or large pores. Most of these claims come from one animal study showing oleander’s anti-inflammatory benefit (source).

Doctors aren’t even sure if nerium oleander extract can pass through the skin. If it can, is it poisonous? If it can’t, what’s the point?

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER INGREDIENTS?

Ladies and gentlemen, Nerium’s ingredients:

NAE-8 Proprietary Blend (Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Nerium Oleander Leaf Extract), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Proprietary Protein (Collagen, Elastin, Glycosaminoglycans), Oryza Sativa Bran Oil, Stearic Acid, Cetearyl Glucoside and Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, C14-22 Alcohol and C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate, Ricinus Communis Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Olus Oil, Chondrus Crispus Powder, Sodium Borate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylate, Dimethicone, Sodium PCA, Proprietary Blend (Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin, Glyceryl Caprylate, Phenylpropanol), Parfum, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Tocopherol. 

First of all.. no to the oleander. We’ve beat that to death already though. So I’ll move on, and I will also leave the aloe vera – Prop 65 issue alone.

Applying collagen or elastin directly to the skin doesn’t do anything; it needs to be ingested or injected for skin benefits. Bran oil is very similar to corn oil in composition (full composition breakdown here), and far too high in Omega-6s to do much help to our already overly-Omega-6ed-lives (source).

The ingredient list reads like a typical mositurizer that you could buy at any store. The only thing that could elevate the formulation is the #1 ingredient–which is the biggest cause of controversy for the product, and the most unsubstantiated in terms of anti-aging claims.

I don’t know the exact breakdowns of everything inside and can only take guesses, so I can’t speak intelligently as to whether the stearic acid level is similar to that in human skin (11.2%) to the point whether it could help with penetration, whether the amount of castor oil inside has any skin benefits at the level used, whether the glycerin or different forms of alcohol are potentially harmful or drying to the skin… there’s just not enough information at this point.

The ingredient list reads like a typical mositurizer that you could buy at any store. The only thing that could elevate the formulation is the #1 ingredient–which is the biggest cause of controversy for the product, and the most unsubstantiated in terms of anti-aging claims.

NERIUM REVIEWS: THE BEAUTY COMMUNITY

One of the most respected skincare bloggers, Paula from Paula’s Choice, had this to say (and a lot more, here):

“Lots of you have been asking about Nerium AD’s treatment cream, possibly because you know someone who sells it or perhaps you stumbled across web sites selling it while searching for anti-aging skin care online. However you found out about it, we’re here to tell you to forget about it. Nerium AD Age-Defying Night Cream (formerly labeled as Age Defying Treatment) is not the anti-wrinkle answer. It’s also not the solution for hyperpigmentation, sagging skin, uneven skin tone, or enlarged pores.

Although the product will hydrate and make skin feel smoother and softer, so will countless other skin-care products that don’t have Nerium AD’s price tag or unsupported claims. Also, please know that the collagen and elastin in this product cannot fuse with or shore up these substances in your skin. They simply do not work this way, nor would you want them to (because over time you’d be applying enough collagen and elastin to leave you with lumpy, uneven skin where areas had too much collagen and elastin built).

Bottom line: although this product contains some beneficial ingredients, what makes it unique is also what makes it potentially problematic—and there is no reliable, independent research to support the wonderful things that plant is said to do for skin. If you want the anti-aging benefits of plants, there are many others to choose from that have much better safety and even better, skin-improving profiles.”

I have to agree with Paula on this – and seriously, she’s so smart and reputable. I think she did her best to give a fair, balanced review as well, and even held back a bit.

That being said, she gave it 1/5 stars and the beauty community on her site gave it an average of 3/5 stars for the entire community. So every seems to be generally happy – or at least not unhappy – with the results. There are a lot of 1 star and 5 star reviews.

Truth in Aging, another trusted anti-aging skin blog, feels very similarly (here).

Here’s user-only reviews on DermReviews.com (here).

CONCLUSION: NERIUM SAFETY REVIEW

All I can really say after all this research is that everyone feels very strongly about the topic.

My only advice? “Defy aging” another way.

 

5 Comments

  • I was offered an opportunity to sell this stuff and opted not to

    Reply
    • Yeah.. I think it does work for some people, but only for a limited time. It looks like the NERIUM could be causing inflammation in the skin temporarily decreasing fine lines and wrinkles, but the effects wear off over time. There’s no studies backing this up YET, so I didn’t talk about that hypothesis in the blog. I agree that it’s best to skip this one

      Reply
  • The smell was horrible and my skin did break out in a rash. I used it for 1 week as a trial from a beautiful lady who was selling it. I told her my thoughts, so I am not saying this behind her back.
    I opted out of any future trials of it for the reasons stated above.

    Reply
  • Ꮐreаt post. I’m going through some of these іsѕues as ѡell..

    Reply
  • Thanks in support of sharing such a good piece of writing.

    Reply

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