Just as an artist sometimes paints over a used canvas or a chef reworks a tested recipe, cosmetic formulation can be an ongoing process. When the first crack at a formula turns out to be less than satisfactory, smart manufacturers go back to the drawing board to replace unnecessary chemicals with effective actives or incorporate new technologies. John Masters Organics, which you might recognize as a haircare brand, seems to be one such company. Its new line of skincare products is powered by up-to-the-minute advances in active natural ingredients and sustainable technologies (with a focus on how raw materials are harvested and biodegradability).

Although the leap from skin to hair has worked for some brands (ie. Jan Marini's pioneering hair growth products), I didn't know of too many that had perfected this transition in the other direction. John Masters Organics has managed to apply the same careful attention concentrated on developing wholly organic hair products to the skincare field. Its newly reformulated skincare line (which launched in Whole Foods last month) holds a number of global certifications for adhering to organic and ethical standards, including USDA, EcoCert, NOP, QAI, and CCOF.

Over the past few weeks, I have been testing both the Firming Eye Gel ($30) and the Mandarin Maximum Moisture ($48). I've never really enjoyed the feel of an eye gel, so I'll skip over that and go right to my favorite. The Mandarin Maximum Moisture is a miracle in a very slim bottle. I regret that I didn't use it more sparingly, because my supply has dwindled down to my last squirt in only three-weeks time. This is, I believe, my only complaint- $48 is a steep price to pay for 1 oz. that doesn't stretch very far.

Though the consistency is lightweight, the cream actually hydrates your skin, satisfying even the deepest thirst. It has a refreshingly fruity aroma, perhaps from the Japanese satsuma mandarin extract, which is said to brighten skin and reduce pigmentation from age spots. Though I haven't seen dramatic changes in areas afflicted with hyperpigmentation, my skin definitely looks more luminescent and healthy. The moisturizer sinks into my skin on contact and reveals immediate hydrating, softening, and rejuvenating effects.

Mandarin Maximum's initial formula, which is still listed on Amazon, suffered from a few undesirables, one of which was sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (a potential formaldehyde donor). The new and improved version has done away with any questionable additives and ensured maximum (like its name) purity. Starting with aloe vera juice, the ingredients bound from one natural emollient to the next. Shea butter is generally a safe bet for softening and skin-conditioning, and it doesn't get any better than sodium hyaluronate for intense moisture. As natural alternatives to petro-based and synthetic emulsifiers, Mandarin Maximum uses olive-based emollients, which deeply penetrate to help skin retain moisture without clogging pores.

Other notable inclusions are xylitylglucoside, a wheat-derived humectant, which dramatically increases water content of skin, and glycoproteins, derived from potato, which stimulate cell growth and renewal for long-term reversal of environmental damage. Then there's a whole slew of botanical extracts, from citrus peel, Linden flower, and Elder flower to St. John's Wort, ylang-ylang, and rosemary. Mandarin Maximum stays fresh and effective with the help of Aspen bark extract, a new all-natural, EcoCert-approved preservative which has the added benefit of leaving skin silky and smooth.

Because of its power to intensely refresh and nourish, this moisturizer is meant for dry and mature skin, particularly for areas exposed to the sun. John Masters Organics claims that 71% of users experience a significant reduction of age spots after six weeks of use; unfortunately, I couldn't make it past the three-week mark. Regardless of what some people might say, size does matter, especially in today's economy. I only wish John Masters Organics would modify its diminutive 1 oz. as it did the ingredients in the original formula, because Mandarin Maximum is one of the nicest moisturizers I have ever tried, and I would buy it in bulk.

Ingredients:

Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice,* helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil,* cetearyl olivate, sorbitan olivate, cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl glucoside, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glycerin,* reticulata blanco var. unshiu (citrus unshiu) peel extract, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter,* sodium hyaluronate, xylitylglucoside, anhydroxylitol, xylitol, tilia cordata (linden) flower extract,* sambucus nigra (elder) flower extract,* hypericum perforatum (st. john's wort) extract,* aniba roseodora (rosewood) wood extract, tilia cordata (linden) blossom oil, cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil,* bisabolol, xanthan gum, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract,* populus tremuloides (aspen) bark extract.