This weekend, I spent $5 and saved myself something in the region of $185, maybe more. The five buck-outlay was for Dr Leslie Baumann's book, The Skin Type Solution, which I found lying forlorn as a broken doll in the marked down bin at Stop & Shop.

Dr B's schtick is that not all skin is created equal and that the four basic skin types - dry, oily, sensitive and combination - don't really hack it. She has defined 16 skin types and you have to take a lengthy questionnaire to find out what yours is. Given that the last time I took a skin type quiz, I was deemed to be 56 (thanks Clinique!), I approached this one with trepidation.

I turned out to be burdened with a skin type that is dry, sensitive, pigmented and wrinkled. Whilst I'd hoped for something a little more flattering, I couldn't really argue with this verdict and so I compiled a list of Dr Baumann's recommendations and, credit card at the ready, went online shopping.

The fact that I ended my trip empty handed isn't entirely her fault. Some products, such as Dove Sensitive Essentials Non-Foaming Cleanser have been discontinued. The other cleanser option that Dr B offered was Kiehl's Ultra Moisturizing Cleansing Cream ($14.50). I am not a huge Kiehl's fan at the best of times (boring, retro marketing and indifferent ingredients), but I dutifully peered at the jpeg rendering of the jar, since the only way to find out what's in it is to zoom in on this somwhat eccentric presentation device.

While Dr B's recommendation - "it has aloe vera and a nice texture" - barely convinces, the label on the jar most certainly does not. Aloe vera is the second to last ingredient. Everything that comes before it, with exception of some squalane, is a mixture of the mediocre (propylene glycol) and the unpleasant (propylparaben).

Two of the recommendations were by Elizabeth Arden: Ceramide Advanced Time Complex Capsules and Ceramide Plump Perfect. Neither came with enough information to spur a purchase decision. I'm not going to spend $65 (each) when I am only given 11 ingredients and when, knowing Arden, there are probably another 30 of them. The key thing, of course, is ceramide. There isn't much research data on whether this is anything more than a moisturizing ingredient. However, some studies have also shown it to effectively strengthen the skin’s barrier only when used in conjunction with cholestoral and three fatty acids. OK, but since I haven't been given a full list of ingredients I don't know if this product complies with that.

On the other hand, Paula’s Choice Skin Relief Treatment ($15.95) not only gives you the ingredients, but also tells you what they are supposed to do. Paula's Choice is the brand of the Cosmetic Cop, so this is to be expected. The ingredients are mostly good anti-inflammatories and so this product could be helpful for calming sensitive skin. Still, I just didn't feel compelled to actually buy it.

Skin Effects Advanced Brightening Complex is the in-house brand of the CVS pharmacy chain. Dr B recommends it because it has hydroquinone, kojic acid and retinol. The ingredients list on the CVS website did not include hydroquinone, which is, in my view, a plus since it is linked to cancer and has been banned in Europe. One thing that you can say for this product is that is contains so many preservatives (most of them are known to be irritants) that it will probably remain intact for the curious inspection of future generations of archeologists who find themselves sifting through the rubble of what was once a CVS warehouse.

At just under $22, its hard to quibble too much with Neutrogena's Visibly Firm Eye Cream, especially as the main active is a copper peptide. However, I've read that Neutrogena doesn't have access to the patented GHK copper peptide, which is supposed to be the only one that actually works. Avocado oil is a nice addition. Less convincing is arginine, which doens't have a single study to its name that can prove the skin regeneration effects when topically applied.

All in all a waste of time. Except that these days the very act of not spending money is a worthy pastime in and of itself.

Paula’s Choice Skin Relief Treatment

Water, Butylene Glycol (slip agent/penetration enhancer), Acetylsalicylic Acid (aspirin, a topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic), Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C/antioxidant), Epilobium Angustifolium (Willow Herb) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (anti-irritant), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant/anti-irritant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer/preservative)

Key ingredients in Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Advanced Time Complex Capsules:

Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Squalane, Isostearic Acid, Sphingolipids, Ceramide 6, Retinyl Linoleate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, Borage Seed Oil (Borago Officinalis), Hexadecanolide

Skin Effects Advanced Brightening Complex

Aqua (Water), Propylene Glycol, Cyclomethicone, Dimethiconol, Soybean (Glycine Soja Oil, Ethylhexyl Cocoate, Lactic Acid, Glycerin, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Dimethicone, Glycolipids, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Kojic Acid, Laureth-7, Lecithin, Polyacrylamide, Polyvinylpyrrolidone, Retinol, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite, Parfum (Fragrance), Tetrasodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Green 3 (CI 42053).

Key ingredients in Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Plump Perfect

Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Squalane, Isostearic Acid, Sphingolipids, Ceramide 6, Retinyl Linoleate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, Borage Seed Oil (Borago Officinalis), Hexadecanolide

Neutrogena Visibly Firm Eye Cream

Water, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Cetyl Alcohol, Sodium Behenoyl Lactylate, PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Squalane, Tridecyl Stearate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Cyclohexasiloxane, Avocado Oil Unsaponifiables (persea Gratissima), Copper Tripeptide-1, Arginine, Tocopheryl Acetate, Allantoin, BHT, Bisabolol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Phenoxyethanol.
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