7 Beauty Products That Sound Like BS — But Actually Work

We don’t want to be cynical — honestly, we don’t. It’s no way to live. But we can't help but roll our eyes at some of the products that cross our desks. Snail secretions? Acne-reducing pillowcases? Lotion made from foreskin cells?

Turns out, some of the craziest sounding beauty ingredients and treatments (you know, like injecting a neurotoxin called Botox to relax wrinkles?) are actually legit. Here are some wacky ones that may be worth a second look.
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Fading Dark Spots With Mushrooms
Anyone who's ever tried to fade a dark spot knows a thing or two about patience. After months of slathering on lotions and being vigilant about sun protection, the spot starts looking a little lighter — in the magnifying mirror. One reason it takes so long is that, until recently, we only had ingredients that inhibit the production of melanin deep within the skin — rather than tackle the spots you can actually see.

However, Mother Nature is one powerful chemist. Several years ago, biologists found a mushroom that bleached tree bark white. They formulated melanozyme (an enzyme in the mushroom) in Elure Advanced Brightening Lotion and have shown that it breaks down visible pigmentation on the surface of the skin. The derms we know love it: “Elure is a truly innovative formula and a proven spot-fading cream,” says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, MD.

Elure Advanced Brightening Lotion, $125, available at Drugstore.com.
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Softening Wrinkles With Bee Venom...
It sounds absolutely bonkers, but stick with us: Smoothing on the active compound in honey bee venom, called melittin, makes skin think it’s been stung. This ultimately triggers healing and stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.

The venom may also relax muscles (yep, a bit like Botox). Obviously this sounds loony, but a small clinical trial recently showed that it does reduce wrinkles, says Amy Taub, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “Since it is a toxin, it makes sense that bee venom could help relax facial muscles,” says Dr. Taub. However, many derms warn against it, especially if you have sensitive or allergy-prone skin.

Rodial Bee Venom Eye Cream, $140, available at Nordstrom.
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Or Snail Slime
When you know the basic function of snail slime (found in Dr Jart+ Premium Time Returning Serum), it somehow seems less gross: The foot of the snail produces a secretion that quickly repairs any damage it sustains as it slithers over rocks and other rough stuff.

In the lab, this same slime has been tested on skin-cell cultures and shown to increase collagen and elastin production. Any doctor will tell you there’s a big difference between a petri-dish and your face, but regardless, this ingredient has been huge in Korea for years (where many skin trends are born). “There is data to suggest that secretions of snails may have anti-aging properties, but there’s also data showing it can be highly allergenic to some people,” says Dr. Taub. So tread (or slither) carefully.

Dr. Jart+ Premium Time Returning Serum, $54, available at Sephora.
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Or Foreskin Cells
Scientists have been pondering the same question for hundreds —nay, thousands — of years: How do we stop old skin from looking and acting its age? One company found the answer with fibroblast cells harvested from infant foreskin (ahem, the bits left over from circumcision) and bottled them in its TNS Recovery Serum.

Without getting too skin-geeky, these fibroblasts secrete growth factors that play a role in tissue repair. Turns out, the ones from infant skin are like sprightly, turbo-charged versions of the stuff. “This product has been around for about 14 years and it is a proven anti-aging cream that performs extremely well,” says Dr. Taub.

While there has been a lot of controversy surrounding this product, those who've tried it in clinical trials have showed an improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, skin-tone, and texture.

SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complex, $179, available at SkinMedica.
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Fighting Acne With A Pillowcase
This one will resonate with germaphobes: The Skin Laundry SleepCycle Clean Sleep Pillowcase has silver ion technology that reduces the presence of harmful bacteria by 99.9%. (It's also conveniently white, in case you planned on using it in conjunction with your benzoyl peroxide products.)

“This may be helpful for acne-prone individuals or people with recurrent facial infections,” says Dr. Taub, noting that there is also good bacteria on our skin that should be left alone. “That’s why anti-bacterial soap can be bad for your skin," she says.

Skin Laundry SleepCycle Clean Sleep Pillowcase, $30, available at Skin Laundry.
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A Polish That Turns Nails Into Mini-Solar Panels
We dig gel manicures — they’re long-wearing, chip-proof and super shiny. But they're also a pain in the ass to get and remove (plus, improper removal can cause serious damage).

Enter Sally Hansen Miracle Gel. In an effort to mimic the gel look (without the full gel experience), Sally Hansen chemists wanted to avoid the UV and LED lamps at the salon. So, they put something called a photo-initiator in the top coat, which captures regular light around you (daylight or artificial) and converts it into energy. Still with us? This energy then links all the coats together forming that strong, gel-manicure-like finish. And this all happens in about 10 minutes (although it keeps hardening for several hours).

"The photo-initiator actually cures the color and topcoat with daylight, so you will get a shiny, resilient gel coating that is much stronger than your regular polish,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Red Eye, $9.99, available at Ulta.
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Smoothing Skin With This Medieval Torture Device
Parting with a couple hundred bucks for a tiny paint roller covered in surgical-grade, stainless steel needles may sound risky, but the theory behind the Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD System is sound.

The prickly tool makes teeny holes in the top layer of skin, which triggers a healing response and makes skin more receptive to the skincare ingredients you slather on afterward. “The process, called micro-needling, does aid penetration of ingredients,” says Dr. Taub. But she warns that the device needs to be sterile (the teeny holes can also be a good spot for bacteria), and your skin has to be able to tolerate the ingredients that follow.

Rodan + Fields AMP MD System, $200, available at Rodan + Fields.
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