A commercial for L'Oreal's Age Perfect Pro Calcium cream popped up during the Oscars last night. Bored by the approaching inevitability of a Daniel Day Lewis win, I pondered whether calcium can be delivered topically. It turns out it can. However, this doesn't mean that I would use this cream.

First the calcium part. We all know that bones are made of calcium and that it is also essential to healthy skin. In the late 90s, the National Cancer Research Institute published research that linked calcium with the regulation of cell turnover. Other studies show that people with high calcium content experience less premature aging. So a calcium cream is beginning to sound like a good idea, especially as topically applied calcium gluconate gel is used for burn victims.

There are two calciums in L'Oreal's Age Perfect Pro Calcium. One is called hydroxyapatate. It is used in the injectable filler marketed under the name of Radiance. I couldn't find any evidence of topical use and effectiveness though. The other is calcium pantethine sulfonate, which is commonly used as a skin whitener.

Pro Calcium suffers from ingredient overload - a grand total of 50 - most of which don't serve much purpose beyond thickening and stabilizing. There is some squalane and collagen and a couple of sunscreens. The main problem is that this product is not for the sensitive: it contains two preservatives, DMDM hydantoin and idopropynyl butylcarbamate, that are well-known irritants. Plus there is benzyl benzoate (mostly used as an insect killer) that should be avoided by anyone with a perfume allergy.