When I received a sample of Circ Cell’s REM Masque Serum Set I was wowed by the seductive black and red box, impressed by the ingredients and intrigued by the idea of mixing a powder and a serum with every use. Then the Capricorn in me balked at the price – $280 – and I wondered whether Circ Cell was going to live up to its promise – an audacious pledge that I would see “dramatic results” in three days.

Given the price point and the promise, I decided to give Circ Cell a run for its money on my neck, where patches of sun damaged skin are red and rough. Since I was putting Circ Cell’s REM Masque Serum Set through its paces, I obediently followed the instructions to use it at night.

Circ Cell claims it “optimizes natural nighttime restorative cycles.” I don’t know whether it really does do this, but it is true that the skin, like other organs, has a circadian clock. There is evidence that points to skin cells following a circadian rhythm: the cells divide consistently in order to make up for dead ones.

The REM set is a jar of powder, or “dust” in Circ Cell parlance and a bottle of serum and the idea is to take a scoop (provided) of the dust and mix it with five pumps of the serum. The dust dissolves immediately and the resulting cream smooths over the skin easily and is readily absorbed.

Although the serum’s pump, which is not airless, doesn’t work well and I usually end up unscrewing the top and tipping it into my hand, I rather enjoy the ritual of mixing it with the dust. The results were not dramatic after three days, but to my cynical eye they were pretty good and after a month of use, my neck looks and feels much better.

A key active in the dust is tourmaline. The crystals warm as they are rubbed onto skin, becoming positively charged on one end and negatively charged on the other – thus they are supposed to increase the absorption of other ingredients, as well as stimulating the circulation. Amethyst is the dominant ingredient, but I can’t find much about it other than it does the negative/positive ion thing as well.

In any case, there are plenty of useful ingredients. Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane is a skin brightener that is a derivative of turmeric. Pycnogenol is extract of pine bark and a powerful antioxidant. Sodium-R-Lipoate is claimed to be a more bioavailable form of R-Lipoic acid. There’s even stem cells from lilac leaf.

The serum has a ton of ingredients and, with the exception of a couple of silicones, they all pay their way. There’s even a peptide that I haven’t come across before - cyclopeptide-5. Made by Merck, this is a ring-shapped molecule that triggers cell regeneration and “inhibits decomposition” (source). There are some pretty cutting-edge things alongside it including dimethylmethoxy chromanol, otherwise known as the free-radical scavenger Lipochroman-6 and treprenone (Renovage), an active that is associated with stabilizing the telomeres and, thereby, cell longevity. I should also give a shout out to oligopeptide-68 – this is said to inhibit tyrosinase activity, inhibit melanin synthesis, and decrease the proteins involved in the pigmentation process. The maker of the peptide says that it mimics a growth factor, the TGF-ß.

The serum is about half way through and so seems to last about two months. The dust  looks as if it will go on for ages. So when the serum runs out, I would only need to replace it for $140. And I might just do that. Although it will be tempting to see if the dust works its magic when mixed with another of my favorite serums.

Ingredients in dust: Amethyst, Tourmaline, Hydrolyzed Silk, Pycnogenol, Sodium-R-Lipoate, Niacinamide, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Syringa Vulgaris (Lilac) Leaf Cell Culture Extract, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Yeast Extract, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract, Sucrose Dilaurate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Maltodextrin, Mannitol Liquid

Ingredients in serum: Water (Aqua), Chitosan Succinamide, Propanediol, Plumeria Acutifolia Flower Extract, Citrullus Vulgaris (Watermelon) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Dimethylmethoxy Chromanol, Ectoin, Cyclopeptide-5, Oligopeptide-68, Dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline, Teprenone, Copaifera Officinalis (Balsam Copaiba) Resin, Carapa Guianensis (Andiroba) Seed Oil, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Pulp Oil, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Tocotrienols, Tocopherol, Magnesium Aspartate, Zinc Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Sodium PCA, Betaine, Sorbitol, Glycine, Alanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Arginine, Lysine, Glutamic Acid, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Lecithin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Whey Protein, Sodium Oleate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Menthyl Lactate, Vanillyl Butyl ether, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Ethanol, Phenoxyethanol