I was at a dinner party a couple of nights ago and the inevitable happened. It is a three-stage scenario in which 1) I am asked what I do 2) I explain Truth In Aging 3) Initial polite bemusement gives way to a spirited discussion of skincare (even with the assembled men). But then someone always says “I love xxxx, what do you think of it”. This is the point at which I summon my diplomatic skills (they are not impressive) so that I don’t sound mean-spirited and arrogant. At this dinner, the brand was Clarins (and it was one of the guys who loved it) and it just so happens that I am currently testing Clarins Vital Light Serum. Love is not the word I would use.

Clarins Vital Light Serum ($85) is a serum for age spots and hyperpigmentation and I have been trying for six weeks. I have been using it on the right side of my face where I have a large sun spot and some freckles. For four weeks I was certain that I saw absolutely no difference. I even fancied that one freckle got a bit darker. This morning (six weeks in)? Maybe, perhaps there is a very slight fading. But then maybe not. If ambiguous is the best that Vital Light Serum can do after six weeks, it doesn’t bode all that well.

Still, I will keep going out of curiosity to see if these effects continue and I’ll update this post accordingly. But whatever the outcome, it is unlikely that I would buy a replacement (I was given this sample by Clarins) because I can’t get over the fact that the preservative phenoxyethanol (a possible irritant and neurotoxin) is in a greater quantity than the key active (or any active, for that matter). As if that wasn’t bad enough, so too is sodium polyacrylate, which in tampons is the stuff that causes Toxic Shock Syndrome. Fabulous.

The active is hexylresorcinol, a treatment for hyperpigmentation that works as a tyrosinase inhibitor. An in vivo study conducted on .5% hexylresorcinol in 2007 demonstrated lightening results that were just as effective as 2% hydroquinone over an eight-week period (hence I’ve pledged to myself to keep going for another couple of weeks). If Clarins Vital Light Serum does give any results then it will be down to this, and possibly one as the plant extracts in a (small) handful of botanicals: atractyloides lancea root extract is associated with treating age spots although I couldn’t find any research to back that up.

It is worth mentioning the last ingredient listed, Palmitoyl Dipeptide-5 Diaminohydroxybutyrade. This is one of the peptides that makes up SYN-TACKS, which is supposed to stimulate a broad spectrum of things responsible for youthful skin. Although how effective this one is on its own, I can’t say.

I have recently tried several other dark spot treatments, Hydropeptide’s Even Out and another new one that uses a mosquito repellent as the active ingredient. To no avail. Fading age spots seems to be one of the last frontiers and I am still looking for something that works and is safe. So far, the best I have come up with is a combination of Lumixyl and green LED light.

Ingredients in Clarins Vital Light: Water, Glycerin, Methyl Gluceth-20, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Hexyresorcinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Fragrance, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Atractyloides Lancea Root Extract, Citric Acid, Cochlearia Officinalis Flower/Leaf/Stalk Extract, Spergularia Rubra Extract, Cedrelopsis Grevei Bark Extract, Tiliroside, Sodium Benzonate, Palmitoyl Dipeptide-5 Diaminohydroxybutyrade, Ascorbicacid, CI 14700/RED 4.