My neck and decollete have been the focus of recent attention - mine, I should hasten to add. After much research, I have been up to my neck in potions and lotions that will make the V-neck sweater zone clear and firm. Favorites so far are April Rain Night Rainew (although it isn't specifically intended as a neck cream, I find it too heavy for my face and ideal for thicker hide below the chin), Perricone MD Firming Neck Therapy and Dermaxime Rejuvenating Day Cream. I have had such success that I've literally taken to wearing v-necks and I've had one compliment on smooth breast bone. Now I am embarking on a test of Biolement's appropriately named V-neck Smoothing Cream ($59).

I feel as if I am putting a lot of faith into alpha arbutin, a key ingredient for addressing hyperpigmentation. It works by blocking epidermal melanin biosynthesis by inhibiting tyrosine and dopa. A skin lightening study on 80 Chinese descent women demonstrated that an emulsion containing 1% alpha-arbutin resulted in a faster and more pronounced skin lightening effect after 1 month when compared with other commonly used single components at 1 % use levels. The next best ingredient to perform in the test was kojic acid, followed by hydroquinone. It is good to hear that alpha arbutin outperforms the controversial hydroquinone that is no longer sold over the counter as it is carcinogenic.

The other key ingredient is the well-known anti-ager, acetyl hexapeptide-8 (also called Argireline). This is a neuropeptide that works by inhibiting the muscles that cause expression wrinkles. I can see how this might work for, say, crows feet that are the result of squinting. On the other hand, I can't really see how it gets into action with neck muscles.

Bioelements V-neck Smoothing Cream also has a bouquet of essential oils - although some of them may do more than provide nice aromas. Petitgrain oil helps counteract oily skin and blemishes - so, perhaps it will deal with that enemy of the plunging neckline, chest breakouts. Similarly, clary sage oil balances sebum production.

On the other hand, there is no scientific proof of the benefits of orange oil, which is used to treat athelete's foot and can, according to the National Institutes of Health, increase the risk of sunburn. All in all, I'm not really convinced about the role of essential oils (as opposed to plant extracts) in skincare.

Water, acetyl hexapeptide-8, caprylic/capric triglyceride, stearic acid, sweet almond oil, PEG-100 stearate, alpha arbutin, sodium hyaluronate, grape seed oil, orange oil, bitter orange oil, lime oil, lavender oil, citrus aurantium (petitgrain) oil, rosemary oil, coriander oil, clary sage oil, neroli oil, bergamot oil, grapefruit oil, d-limonene, cetyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, capryl glycol stearate, glycerin, carbomer, disodium EDTA, tromethamine.