If my memory serves me correctly, it was a reader who asked us to look at a brand called Aphelia. Made in Taiwan, I had never heard of it. But I am curious to learn more about skincare from Asia and Aphelia’s approach, based on ingredients that are front and center of Chinese medicine was as good as a fortune cookie for whetting my curiosity. With Aphelia’s Luscious Hand Cream ($90) I was not disappointed, although I recommend it with a couple of reservations.

My first observation when I looked at Luscious (whose full moniker is Luscious Crème de la Crème) was that Aphelia had not formulated for the paraben-phobic American market. Here was every paraben known to man. The top ingredients won’t win any friends with things like propylene glycol, and I was also disappointed to find that the first non-chemical in the list, astragalus gummifer, is no more than a natural thickener. But if you can get past that, there are some terrific botanicals here. The good outweighs the bad and as a hand cream, and Luscious performs extremely well.

A word about the performance. This is not an instant gratification potion. There are no silicones or other ingredients to fool you into thinking that your skin is suddenly all plump and soft. So, for the first few days, not much seemed to be happening. Indeed it was only after a week or so, that I began to think Luscious was doing any good. But then it seemed to kick in and I have found that my hands look smoother and plumper by the day. My knees love Luscious too.

Not being an aficionado of Chinese medicine, I found that I had to look up almost all of the many botanical extracts in the ingredients list. Many are impressive, or at least intriguing.

Dioscorea villosa is wild yam. Its fame is based on its steroid-like saponins, which can be chemically converted to progesterone contraceptives; and cortisone. Some of wild yam’s benefits may, or may not, be due to estrogen – there is disagreement as to whether estrogen is present. At any rate, a Japanese study concluded that wild yam supplements (due to the diosgenin content) resulted in the “restoration of keratinocyte proliferation in aged skin.” And it may be useful against sun spots – a 2007 study concluded that diosgenin inhibits melanogenesis and “may be an effective inhibitor of hyperpigmentation.”

There’s also Madonna lily. This is an antioxidant according to studies, and I have found it filed in patent applications as a skin whitener. Another potential lightener is dogwood fruit as its many components include malic acid, tartaric acid and a proto-vitamin A (source).

Most of the other extracts seem to be antioxidants such as Dalmatian chrysanthemum (tanacetum cinearifolium), an anti-inflammatory and cancer fighter, and rehmannia, which may activate antioxidant enzymes, at least according to studies on mice. While, research has found antioxidants in schizandra sphenanthera, known as the “five flavor berry.”

One extract that I did recognize is superfruit Goji. A study done in China in 1991 demonstrated that its phytochemicals helped to prevent the oxidation of DNA and helped to restore damaged DNA (source).

While Aphelia’s formulations don’t make concessions to purists, these botanicals certainly seem to have a good effect on my skin and I will continue to use this as my go-to hand cream. Having recently read Ann’s positive review of Aphelia’s Luminance 117 lightening cream, I conclude that this brand is one to watch.

Ingredients: Aqua, pentairythrtyl tetraisostearate/tetracaprate, polyglyceryl-3 stearate, propylene glycol, glyceryl stearate, isoamyl laurate, ceteareth-12, cetearyl alcohol,  cera alba, astragalus gummifer root extract, tanacetum cinearifolium flower extract, dioscorea villosa root extract, lilium candidum flower extract, lyceum barbarium fruit extract, rehmannia glutionsa root extract, alisma plantage aquatica extract,  cornus officianalis fruit extract, poria croccos extract, uriope spicata extract, paeonia suffruiticosa branch/flower/leaf extract, panax ginseng root extract, schizandra sphenanthera fruit extract, xanthan gum, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, panthenol, propylparaben, tetrasodium EDTA, tocopheryl acetate