You may have seen ads recently for AmiLean Slimming Lotion ($69.99) with 2% aminophylline, the secret weapon against cellulite and fat touted by television’s Dr. Oz. Now, I for one, was surprised to see this. Why would Dr. Oz be recommending aminophylline, a substance generally regarded as potentially harmful and dangerous enough to be restricted in Canada?

Dr. Oz doesn’t specifically endorse AmiLean, but he does describe cream with aminophylline as “cutting-edge” and reassuringly adds that it is “also used in many inhalable asthma drugs.” Dr. Oz suggests that your aminophylline cream can be supercharged with 75 mg of vitamin C each day.

Aminophylline is typically prescribed as an oral drug for respiratory conditions such as asthma. It is also used to treat cellulite because of its ability to break down fat cells into fatty acids. As well as AmiLean, you can find this cellulite-busting chemical in Sovage Tummy Flattening Gel.

But how safe is it? Not very, according to the Canadian health authorities. Health Canada's Cosmetics Program has published an extensive Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, which outlines prohibited and restricted ingredients in cosmetics. About 80 products sold in the U.S. contain banned substances on this list. Aminophylline is on that list.

Aminophylline is a mixture of theophylline and ethylenediamine. The latter component, ethylenediamine, is an amine (derivative of ammonia). Like all amines, ethylenediamine is a skin irritant. Plus it “readily reacts with moisture in humid air to produce a corrosive, toxic and irritating mist, to which even short exposures can cause serious damage to health” (source).

It should be said that a 2006 study claimed that a cream with aminophylline was “a safe and effective method for cosmetic local fat reduction from the waist.” However, since many people experience allergic reactions to ethylenediamine and aminophylline is no-go with our neighboring health experts, I’ll be giving Dr. Oz’s secret cellulite weapon a miss. For the time being at least, I’ll stick with Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Age Repair Body Lift.

See our article on ingredients banned in Europe and Canada that are nonetheless on sale in the US.