Monat Skincare: an Overpriced Pyramid with Underwhelming Ingredients
Earlier this year, I was more or less suckered into becoming a Monat MP by an enthusiastic cycling instructor from my home town. I didn’t attempt to sell any products — it felt wrong when she told me I couldn’t tell people the name of the company when I talked about it. But I did use their skincare, and at first it felt very luxurious.
To put it in perspective, I had never put much effort into skincare. I had a brief fling with Dermatologica when I moved to California, but when my skin stopped breaking out I stopped doing much. My skincare then consisted of washing my face with a wet washcloth and using a basic moisturizer. I knew nothing about skincare products.
Going from a basis of zero to what I thought was a full routine made me feel like I had the best skincare around. I raved about it — I was hooked!
But it started with their face wash — after a few weeks of using it, it started making my face turn red. It felt like my skin was on fire. I don’t have particularly sensitive skin — just dry — and was using their line specifically for hydration. Then the same happened with their face cream.
Since I stopped using Monat products, I’ve educated myself on nearly every aspect of skincare. It is a passion now, and I’ve seen it pay off in leaps and bounds. But still, I follow a few people who swear by Monat products. Is it just me having a bad experience, or are the products overpriced and irritating? The proof is in the ingredients.
So let’s do a deep dive on every product. Because if I have anything right now, it’s a lot of time to investigate. And if anyone from Monat wants to know why I’m doing this, it’s because I recently got paid $0.02 writing for Medium. Which is more than I ever made from Monat.
Be Gentle Creamy Cleanser, $45
The first item that irritated my skin, Be Gentle is a foaming cleanser that smells like peaches. It contains certain things I like, such as glycerin, and… the only other one is glycolic acid. Monat’s website doesn’t show the ingredients up-front, and they also don’t show to what concentration the ingredients are involved. Which is why it is jarring for me that a “gentle” skin cleanser could include several types of alcohol, LEMON PEEL OIL (the caps reflect just how irritating this is to sensitive skin), LIME OIL, coconut oil, and straight up FRAGRANCE. Fragrance isn’t extremely damaging in small concentrations in a cleanser, because you don’t keep it on your face. But because of the higher concentration of essential oils (which react with your skin like fragrance), and the fact this isn’t a double cleanse system, it seems as though many of these irritating ingredients would stay on your face. The citrus oils come from their beloved Rejuvenique oil, which I’ve seen all to many people put directly on their face. Please don’t put citrus oil on your face.
Alternatives I’d suggest for those looking to hydrate their skin: start with a cleansing oil, such as DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil. Then go in with Simple’s Micellar Gel Wash. Together, both products will run you under $25, which is significantly less than the Monat cleanser (which is, pardon my French, forty five fucking dollars).
Be Balanced Foamy Cleanser, $45
Monat claims that this fights both acne and aging, which is interesting to start with because they are completely opposite problems. Acne-prone skin ages slower than dry skin, and cleanser can’t fight aging. The main skincare item to fight aging is SPF, but Monat doesn’t offer an SPF product. The ingredients in this product are almost identical to that of Be Gentle, even though they claim to offer different benefits. The difference in ingredients only amounts to the structure of the product — this product foams while the other is just creamy. And in case you were wondering, citrus oil and coconut oil are both terrible for acne — one is irritating while the other is comedogenic (pore-clogging). Once again, this cleanser is $45. Way out of the average price range for even the most high quality facial cleansers.
An alternate? Youth to the People’s Antioxidant Facial Cleanser. People I know with acne swear by it, and you can get a sample size of 2 oz for $10 to test it out.
Berry Refined Scrub, $58
Most of Monat’s products are overpriced, but this is an overpriced product that actually makes me mad. I have never in all my years seen someone charge $60 for a scrub with such basic ingredients.
Let me take a deep breath before diving into these ingredients that totally make it worth $60 (vicious eye roll).
The first ingredient is canola oil! Like for real. I’ve never seen canola oil used on someone’s face, but it is also one of the cheapest oils out there. This scrub contains again, close to identical ingredients to the first two face washes. Physical exfoliants like the cranberry seeds they use are non-water-soluble, often differently sized and jagged, meaning they create micro tears in the skin that lead to further irritation. If you ever do use a physical exfoliant, choose a water soluble one like rice powder. But also, you just don’t need it.
Because of these micro-tears, the high concentration of essential oils and fragrance in this scrub will just irritate the skin even more over time. If you want to spend $60 on a physical exfoliant, go for Tatcha’s Rice Polish. Better yet, don’t use a physical exfoliant at all. Paula’s Choice makes a gel exfoliant that I am legit obsessed with, and at $29 it’s a much more accessible choice than the others.
Skin Revitalizing Essence, $45
This is probably the only product that I don’t hate, and it smells amazing — with the same peachy scent as the gentle cleanser. I don’t like that an essence would contain citric acid and fragrance, but it has a good balance of helpful ingredients. I wouldn’t tell someone this would harm their skin — especially compared to the rest of their products. But simply put, essences aren’t really necessary for your skincare routine. They took off with the infamous 10-step Korean Beauty routine, but they don’t do much. If you’re already using a chemical exfoliant and a moisturizer, you don’t need an essence. If you’re looking for that extra treatment, just spend $5 on a Mario Badescu facial spray.
C. Radiance Illuminating Serum, $95
If you’re thinking, “there’s no way they’re actually charging $95 for a Vitamin C serum”, then think again. They will and they do. Like all their other products it seems, this serum contains citric acid, several essential oils, alcohol, and fragrance. You should never have fragrance in any capacity in a serum — over time, leaving fragrance in your skin can cause an allergic reaction, as well as a potential fragrance allergy. This includes some good ingredients: glycerin, niacinamide, squalane, and hyaluronic acid. But these aren’t necessarily expensive ingredients, and it leaves me wondering how they could think such a price tag is adequate.
For alternates, nearly every serum worth its salt has glycerin and hyaluronic acid — so let’s focus on niacinamide and squalane. The Ordinary offers an amazing Niacinamide solution for just $6, and Biossance specializes in Squalane — they have a treatment that’s a bit pricey ($65), but that guarantees the Squalane is sourced from plant-based sources, not unethical animal practices.
Rewind Age Control Nectar, $120
Monat, do you really think you’re La Prarie here? Obviously you aren’t, or your products could be sold in stores.
Coming as absolutely zero shock to me, this “nectar” offers nothing that every other Monat product doesn’t. What I’m seeing is just slight alterations of the basic ingredients: water, fruit extracts, glycerin, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, citric acid, and fragrance. While glycolic acid can, in an exfoliant, increase cell turnover, these ingredients are not worth the price tag and they aren’t unique to age fighting, either. It you’d like an effective anti-aging moisturizer, choose Paula’s Choice Intensive Repair Cream ($33). But better yet, acknowledge that 95% of premature aging is caused by sun damage and put on SPF every day!
Eye Smooth, $75
Eye creams are unnecessary, and don’t offer anything you can’t get from just applying your moisturizers and serum. Proof? These ingredients don’t differ much from anything else I’ve read from Monat.
At least this one is fragrance free. But truly, if you want the cooling experience of an undereye cream, I do love using Keihl’s Eye De-Puffer. I keep it in the fridge to make it extra refreshing.
30 Second Miracle, $90
This is the item I’m most excited to drag! Because it is just so simple.
I’ve seen dozens of Monat huns wave around the “miracle” results of this cream, and I was always puzzled. Obviously, no one can remove wrinkles in an instant unless they use injectables.
But what makes fine lines and large pores disappear?
Silicon. It is the second ingredient in this cream, and you’ll also find it in several makeup primers such as Benefit’s Pore-Fessional. For skincare, I love Glossier’s Bubble Wrap, just $26 and one of my favorite products. Bubble Wrap has actual beneficial ingredients, including rich concentrations of hyaluronic acid, squalane, a peptide complex, and avocado oil.
There are no active anti-aging agents in Monat’s 30-Second Miracle.
Be Balanced Lightweight Moisturizer, $68
This moisturizer falls into the “it’s not gonna kill you but it’s not worth the money” category. Marketed as part of their anti-acne line, the concentration of fruit oils is less than ideal. But it’s not evil — it just won’t give you nearly $70 worth of benefits if you’re prone to breakouts (and you can get more for your money elsewhere).
Those with combination or oily skin should instead reach for an oil-free hydrator like Paula’s Choice’s Clear line. Similarly to the positives of Be Balanced, this moisturizer has ceramides. But it’s actually backed by research studies, and it’s only $29.
Be Gentle Nourishing Moisturizer, $68
I know that the combination of essential oils, citric acid, alcohol, and fragrance can be irritating, because they were irritating to me.
It doesn’t make sense that they use lemon peel extract on sensitive skin — lemon juice will make my skin turn red and scratchy, just like this moisturizer did over time. If your skin’s like mine and you’re looking for a sensitive skin hydrator, I recommend The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors — just $7 at Sephora.
Night Haven, $80
The last product of our lineup has me wanting to pull my hair out — and thanks to my abandonment of Monat I still have hair to pull. This product is worth maybe $10. It has virtually the same ingredients as every other moisturizer here but costs more for some reason. And the “age control” it offers is just hydration. The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors, mentioned in the above product comparison, has all the ingredients Night Haven boasts but none of the irritants or fragrances. You don’t need this product, but clearly that one can go further.
What this all should tell you, if anything, is that you shouldn’t buy skincare from Monat. Any independent consultant for Monat might try to sway you, say that you are supporting a “local business” is missing the fact that Monat is a massive corporation, less worthy of your money than anything in Sephora or Target.
Monat promises empowerment, but only 5% of its consultants make any money at all. Which means the majority of the company’s income is from signing on people who make nothing. And that’s not something I’d support, even if the products were great-quality.
Luckily for all of us, they’re not!