On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times wrote about potions and lotions with price tags so shocking that they will instantly deepen your frown lines as your eyebrows shoot in the air to accompany your “what the...” exclamation. There’s a part of most of us that secretly knows that if money were no object, we’d be tempted to see how something with an $800 price tag really works. Well, we’ve looked at many of the LA Times’ pricey picks, analyzed what’s in them and have proven alternatives.

At the top of the list is Heaven’s Bee Venom Mask ($560). This is a limited edition (only 500 have been made) “Gold” version of the face mask loved by Royals Camilla and Kate. As many of you know, here at Truth In Aging, we found the source and supplier of Heaven’s bee venom mask. Now Nelson Honey in New Zealand sends us its original Royal Nectar Mask with Bee Venom (near identical and, arguably, slightly better than Heaven’s) and we have it in the TIA shop at a savings of almost $500.

Having pocketed that savings, you could almost afford Carita Diamond Cream ($600). Although why you would want to have anything to do with this is beyond me. The formula is almost shockingly bad (it's so awful, I have published it below). To begin with it relies on silicones and light diffusers such as polydodecanamideaminium triazadiphenylethenesulfonate (which is basically nylon) to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, not the wrinkles themselves. To be fair, it does have Tinosorb (a stable sunscreen ingredient) and, of course, there’s some diamond powder lurking with honey and sodium hyaluronate. I suspect that the botanicals – which include orchid and sequoia – were chosen for the exotic factor. There’s some decent ingredients (ferulic acid and tourmaline and such) but barely justifying $60 let alone $600.

By far the best ingredients in Carita Diamond Cream – two peptides – are way down the end along with every nasty preservative known to man. So you’ll be pleased to know that tripeptide-10 Citrulline and tripeptide-1 (which with soy and wheat proteins becomes Aldenine, a collagen 111 booster) can both be found in much better formulated and priced potions. My personal choices would be Skin Nutrition’s Dynamic Wrinkle Reducer ($135 in the shop), Osmotics Cellular Longevity Serum ($85 in the shop), La Vie Celeste’s Day/Night Cream ($65 in the shop) and Hydropeptide Power Lift ($80).

You won’t be surprised to see on the LA Times roster La Mer with its mysterious “Miracle Broth,” a recipe as closely held as that for Coca Cola. All we are ever told is that it is a scientist-devised concoction of seaweed and minerals that have been fermented for three months. The fermentation process had better be good because there is nothing remarkable about the ingredients. Seaweed extract anyone. The most impressive ingredients in La Mer are an array of soluble minerals including copper, potassium, calcium, zinc and magnesium. You’ll find most of these in Nutra Lift’s Maximum C with Growth Factors, whose price point is a dizzying $34 in the shop. And if it’s marine actives that you hanker, then look no further than LiftLab with its range (between $95 and $140) of potent (yes, they do work) serums with a really interesting ingredient from fish plasma.

The LA Times also singled out – for obvious reasons – RéVive Peau at $1,500. I wrote about RéVive Peau’s $1,500 vials in an earlier post. The main attractions are two growth factors. And, as I mentioned at the time, these can be found in the E’shee range (which with a serum at $179 that I can make last three or four months is beginning to look quite reasonable). There’s also ReLuma Skin Illuminating Serum ($145-$220 in the shop) and AQ Active Serum ($149 in the shop), which are both packed with growth factors.

The main difference between these LA Times picks and mine is not just prices, but the amount of marketing effort and dollars that are spent justifying the huge difference in them. On the other hand, these showy brands do get to hire some marketing geniuses. My personal favorites are those that work for RéVive Peau, who have been known to come up with lines like “RéVive continues to push the envelope further from the scalpel to the test tube.” Worth every cent.

Ingredients in Carita Diamond Cream: Water (aqua), glycerin, cyclopentasiloxane, cetyl Ethylhexanoate, squalane, dimethicone, polydodecanamideaminium Triazadiphenylethenesulfonate, cyclohexasiloxane, peg-10 Dimethicone, ascorbyl Glucoside, disteardimonium Hectorite, propylene Glycol, methylene Bis-benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol, hydrolyzed Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, salix Alba (willow) Leaf Extract, sequoia Sempervirens Leaf Cell Extract, nymphaea Caerulea Leaf Cell Extract, sequoiadendron Gigantua Bud Extract, cycnoches Cooperi (orchid) Extract, peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, tourmaline, butylene Glycol, dimethicone Crosspolymer, potassium Hydroxide, tocopheryl Acetate,acacia Senegal Gum,salicylic Acid,lecithin, pentylene Glycol,decyl Glucoside,polyvinylalcohol Crosspolymer, silanetriol Trehalose Ether, mica, hydrolyzed Soy Protein, glyceryl Acrylate/acrylic Acid Copolymer, hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey, diamond Powder, sodium Hyaluronate, sodium Metabisulfite, phenyl Trimethicone, hydroxyethylcellulose, carbomer, ferulic Acid, pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, laurdimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, ethylhexylglycerin, xanthan Gum, atelocollagen, hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, chitosan, polysorbate 20, dextrin, cyclodextrin, caprylyl Glycol,peg-35 Castor Oil, sphingolipids, tocopherol, tripeptide-10 Citrulline, tripeptide-1, fragrance (parfum), limonene, linalool, benzyl Salicylate,hexyl Cinnamal,butylphenyl Methylpropional,citral, titanium Dioxide (ci 77891),carmine (ci75470), phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin, methylparaben, bht, ethylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben