When I read in Vanity Fair that Obagi is Alicia Keys' skincare brand of choice, I was more than a little surprised. Obagi's anti-aging phisophy is pretty simple: peel, peel and then peel again. Ms Keys seems too young to be paint-stripping, so I thought I should take another look at Obagi in case I had missed something.

I started, entirely randomly, with Nu-Derm Exfoderm Forte by Obagi ($58). This is basically glycolic acid and parabens in a plastic bottle. Alright, that's a bit of an oversimplification. There is kalaya oil, which is actually emu oil. This fat from a large flightless bird is very easily absorbed into the skin because it is close to human fat. Saponins are also useful because they encourage lymphatic drainage. I am less keen ontriethanolamine (TEA), which serves as a pH balancer in cosmetics. It is an irritant at moderate doses and a two-year study on mice associated it with skin cancer.

I really hope Alicia isn't using Nu-Derm Clear ($81). The main ingredient is hydroquinone, which comes at a hefty 4% concentration. It has vitamins E and A, saponins and lactic acid. Most of the rest of the ingredients are best avoided. Studies have shown high doses of hydroquinone to frequently cause ochronosis (a bluish black pigmentation of skin tissue), particularly in dark skinned people. It is also linked with cancer and is banned in several countries.

My third Obagi Nu-Derm pick was the toner. To be fair, this is pretty inoccuous. Although I think that this is little more than your mother's toner with its base of witch hazel and aloe.

Ingredients in Nu-Derm Exfoderm Forte by Obagi

Purified Water, Glycolic Acid, Emulsifying Wax, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Lactic Acid, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Kalaya Oil, Stearic Acid, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Saponins.

Ingredients in Nu-Derm Clear

4% Hydroquinone, Purified water, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Asorbic Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite, Lactic Acid, Saponins, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, BHT, Propylparaben and Butylparaben

Ingredients in Nu-Derm Toner

Purified water, aloe barbadensis gel, witch hazel distillate, potassium alum, sodium PCA panthenol. DMDM hydantion, polysorbate 80, allantoin, sage extract, calendula officinalis extract, saponis, fragrance, FD&C blue #1