Aphelia has two definitions: it is either the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet at which it is furthest from the sun, or a genus of insects, moths in particular. Aphelia Cosmetology’s catch phrase is The Origin of Beauty. Moths or the dark side of the planet?

I have been using Aphelia’s Luminance 11+7 Whitening and Lightening Crème ($69) for a mere 3 weeks and I can already report that it is an effective tool in the beauty box. It is diminishing the effects of the sun and fading the moth-like brown spots.

Luminance is a thin crème with a light, pleasant, clean fragrance. Its main purpose is to fade discolorations, scars and hyperpigmentation, but it also contains some moisturizing ingredients. I didn’t find it moisturizing enough on its own, but it isn’t drying or stiff. It absorbs nicely and doesn't peel when other serums or creams are applied on top.

I've been using it twice a day, as the first step after washing. After only two days I noticed pigmentation breaking up and a definite glow emerging. I had been using this for four days when I went to visit a friend who is six years older than I am. The tile setter who was presenting her with a quote asked if I were her daughter!

The worst brown patch is a large freckle on my right hand. I tried to take before and after photos, but it’s really difficult to take a photo of your own hand and they aren’t useful. The dullness and pigmentation issues on my face are relatively minor, so this was the real test.

I had saved the comparison card from Clinique’s dark spot product and was able to use that for reference. When I started it, it matched at EB8. Today it matches at EB6.

I was especially impressed with this significant result since the expiration date on my box is Dec. 6... 2011*. A year out of date and still working. I wonder what a fresh bottle could do?

Aphelia’s products are based on traditional Oriental philosophy of herbal healing. The herbs chosen are meant to have many naturally occurring peptides and proteins. They are micronized – crushed to nano particles – in order to facilitate penetration.

The 11 in the name Luminance 11+7 signifies the 11 plant and herb extracts in the formulation. There are 9 ingredients labeled extracts; if you add the rose gallaca oil and the fish collagen, there's the 11. I'm not sure what the 7 stands for because there are more than 7 other ingredients.

Brightening and lightening are credited to the noni fruit extract, a source of vitamin C, and chrysanthemum.

Poria cocos extract is the second ingredient following water. This is a popular ingredient in Chinese medicine and is derived from mushrooms. There is minimal research around it, but what little there is suggests that it is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. As a medicine, it is mostly used as a sedative and diuretic. I read that there is belief it may be useful in cancer treatments because it has some anti-tumor and anti-leukemia properties.

Which is good, because the formula also contains two parabens and PEG-100 stearate. This would be my only gripe about this product. The website claims that the philosophy is to use only herbal extracts and no harmful synthetic ingredients.

I suppose it could be argued that these ingredients are not necessarily harmful, particularly in the small, diluted amounts they are used. PEG-100 stearate is only a low to moderate irritant. Methylparaben is described as a potential endocrine disrupter, but only if used in large quantities.  It is also categorized as a low threat. But the other paraben, propylparaben, is flagged red on each of the three data bases I checked. It has a moderate to high warning.

Propylparaben is the second to last ingredient, so I’m not put off by it. I’m sure this stuff is manufactured in great vats and the amount of preservative is small. It just seems disingenuous to make great claims to being clean and natural, but use an ingredient that’s been researched and outed as potentially harmful.

*Editor’s note: A representative for Aphelia offers this clarification: “The product we sent you is not out of date. The date on the bottom is the date [that the product was manufactured], so expiration is three years unopened from that date or six months after opening.”

Ingredients: Aqua, Poria Cocos Extract, Morinda Citrifolia Fruit Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Morus Alba Fruit Extract, Isononyl Isononanoate, Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flower Extract, Lycium Barbarum Fruit Extract, Polygonatum Sibiricum Rhizome Ferment Extract, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Butylene Glycol, Aloe Barbadensis Extract, Glucosyl Ceramide, Ceteareth-12,  Rosa Gallica Flower Oil , Stearic Acid, Polysorbate 80, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract , Collagen (Fish) , Titanium Dioxide, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Yeast Ferment Extract , Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Methylparaben, Allantoin, Propylparaben, Tetrasodium EDTA