If you've been listening to the radio recently, you may well have been assaulted by ads for a miracle cream for dark under eye circles called Hydrolyze and you may even have been tempted to go for the so-called 30-day free trial. With more than a whiff of a scam about it, we just had to know more. What is Hydrolyze anyway? Is it likely to work? Who is behind it? And what's with the 'free trial'? The answers threw up some surprises including Russian dolls, the KGB and Yul Brinner.

For a start, the free trial looks a lot like the dodgy set up used by the OOKISA hair thickening system. The idea is that you give Hydrolyze your credit card details to cover a nominal shipping cost. You then have 30 days to return the two jars of eye cream or you will be charged $69.95 every 30 days thereafter. One thing I will say is that the terms and conditions are much more prominent than is the case for OOKISA and Hydrolyze sensibly requires you to check a box to accept them before checking out. To reach this stage, however, you will have submitted your email address; I had received an email saying "Marta, come back and get your Hydrolyze order for just $1" before I'd finished writing this post.

Of course, the ingredients list for Hydrolyze is nowhere to be found on the website. What we are told is that the active ingredient is Haloxyl. In fact, Haloxyl is made up of hydroxysuccinimide, chrysin, palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3 (these peptides are Matrixyl 3000) and it can also be found in my favorite eye cream, Correct by Your Best Face (a product that, incidentally, cleared by my hairdresser's dark circles). Haloxyl does seem plausible since the two color degradation elements in hemaglobin are bilrubin and iron. Chrysin, from passionflower, stimulates the enzyme that clears out bilrubin while hydroxysuccinimide makes the iron soluble so that it can be eliminated.

After some foraging, I found what I think is the full ingredients list (although the order looks a bit weird and includes the formula for another product by the same company called Hydroxatone Complex). Again, rather like OOKISA, the scammy used car salesmanship obscures what, on the face of it, is not at all bad. In fact, with the peptides and various antioxidants such as green tea, pomegranate and  grape, it looks pretty good. A useful addition is hydrocotyl, which is gotu kola. According to research done by The University of Maryland Medical Center, some studies indicate that triterpenoids found in gotu kola strengthen the skin, boost antioxidants in wounds, and increase blood supply to the area.

Try to find out who owns Hydrolyze and you come across a complex structure of companies within companies, like corporate Russian dolls. Hydrolyze is owned by Hydroxatone LLC, which in turn is owned by a company called Belleza Products LLC. The company also makes Bellaplex (another product with a colorful ownership history). Bellaplex says names Urban Nutrition LLC as its owner. UN also makes PetChews, anti-aging supplments for your kitty or pooch.

Urban Nutrition's website says the company was was established in March of 2001 "to create a web presence for the highly sought after original products formulated and patented by world-renowned Scientist, Physicist and Medical Doctor, Hans A. Nieper, of Hannover, Germany".

Hilariously, it goes on to say: "Dr. Nieper's former patients include Princess Caroline of Monaco, John Wayne, Yul Brynner, Anthony Quinn, Russian & German party leaders and many other worldwide dignitaries. He consulted with former President Ronald Regan, and he has been contracted to consult for the KGB and NASA many times".

Dr Nieper died in 1998 and, if the stories about him are true, was clearly barking mad. He treated cancer patients by removing them from physical locations that he deemed harmful and called "geopathagenic zones". His writings covered subjects such as the "shielding theory of gravity" and the potential for harnessing useful energy from space, which he referred to as the "tachyon field".

Hydrolyze is fronted by a doctor called Michael Fiorillo, who appears to be registered in Pearl River, New Jersey. Compared to Dr Nieper, he is disappointingly boring.


Haloxyl: Water, Glycerin, Steareth-20, Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3.

Hydroxatone Complex™: Water (Aqua), Soy Lecithin Phospholipids (Phospholipon 80), Matrixyl™ 3000 (Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Aqua, Carbomer, Polysorbate-20, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3. Hyaluronic Acid, Argirelene (Aceyl hexpeptide-3), Pomegrante (Punica Granatum) extract, Green tea (camellia sinensis) extract, Grape Seed (Vitis Vinifera) extract, Pine Bark (Pinus sylvestris) extract, DMDM hydantoin, lodopropynl Butylcarbomate), Cyclomethicone, Octyl Isononanote, Urea,

Base: Water, Extract of Punica Granatum, Camelia Senesis, Grape Seed, Pine Bark, Soy Lecithin Phospholipids, Phenyltrimethicone, Cetyl Dimethicone CoPolyol, Dimethicone CoPolyol, Hydrocotyl Extract, Coneflower Extract, Cetyl Esters, Tocopheryl Acetate, Asorbyl Palmitate, Ubiquinone (CoEnzyme Q10), Retinyl almitate, Methylparaben, Popylparaben, Imidazolidinyl Urea.