Aphelia Merlin 10+5 Anti Line Wrinkle Antioxidant Treatment 1.0 fl oz
Reviewed by Shirley

I was generously given a bottle of Aphelia Merlin 10+5 Anti Line Wrinkle Antioxidant Treatment ($69) by TIA. Aphelia is an Australian cosmetics company that utilizes ingredients derived from traditional Chinese medicine (or TCM, to those familiar with alternative health therapies). The company is founded by a Dr. Johnny Lai, who sought to apply the “miraculous potential of Chinese medicine” to anti-aging skincare. Merlin contains ten extracts of Chinese herbs.

According to Aphelia’s website, Merlin is “Dr Lai’s innovative anti-aging herbal science in skincare to fight signs of aging with 10 exclusively formulated extracts for a powerful effective wrinkle cream.” It is actually a creamy serum, the bottle itself says serum. The bottle is similar to those of department store brands, and the serum has the same perfume-y scent of department store brands. I haven’t used a department store skincare product for ten years, so it was a bit of a throwback experience. Senses aside, the serum also contains methyparaben and propylparaben, which were two reasons why I left department store brands in the first place. I haven’t knowingly used any products with parabens for about a decade. But in this case, I overlooked the parabens and plowed forward in the name of science.

The science, such as it is, didn’t have much of an effect on me. Merlin left my skin feeling soft and smooth, and caused no irritation or breakouts. However, it didn’t do any magic, as its name suggests it might. My skin is in decent shape for a 52-year-old, and Merlin didn’t change its condition in any direction. It was pleasant enough for the senses, but not enough to justify the parabens.

Empirical evidence aside, the company’s website did not inspire any confidence in its products. The copy is full of grammatical and typographical mistakes, and reeks of Chinese snake oil: “The most proficient herbal delivery system of natural extracts ever!” “Our Esteemed Founder Dr. Lai” had a “profound personal encounter with the miraculous potential of Chinese medicine,” but it’s not clear how the Esteemed Founder earned his title of “doctor.”

Secondly, TCM’s approach to health is to balance the body’s energy channels. It works constitutionally. I am ethnic Chinese and grew up with herbs, acupuncture, reflexology, tui-na (a type of Chinese body adjustment, if you will), gua-sha, etc. My friends in East and Southeast Asia (where I lived for several years) drink tonics and eat herbs, but none of them put herbs on their faces. I am cognizant that skincare ingredients enter the body – which was why I switched to natural skincare a decade ago – but I don’t believe the Chinese herbs can penetrate to a therapeutic degree. The Aphelia website itself touts “Asian medicines focus on creating an influence on the body the redirects energy towards harmonious balance and wellness; detoxifying and purifying the body and soul using natural medicaments.” That is well and true (ignoring the language and punctuation errors), but it doesn’t sync with the function of a skin serum.

So I’ll stick with Western skincare for the time being. I’ve found some excellent ones through TIA.

Ingredients: Aqua, Isononyl Isononanoate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-Yuen, Seed Extract, Poria Cocos Extract, Butylene Glycol, Whey Protein, Placental Protein, Elastin, Lavandula Augustifolia(Lavender) Oil, Polysorbate 80, Alisma Orientale Tuber Extract, Angelica Dahurica Extract, Atractyloides Macrocephala Root/Stalk Powder, Ligusticum Chuanxiong Extract, Paeonia Lactiflora Root Extract, Ceteareth-12, Peg-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cinnamomum Cassia Extract, Panax Ginseng Root, Mineral Oil, Stearic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra(Licorice) Rhizome/Root Extract, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate