You might think that a skincare company with a name like Mango Madness doesn't take itself seriously. Though it might sound more like a smoothie flavor than a cosmetics company, Mango Madness is dead serious about the potency and efficacy of its products. Founded in 2004 by a licensed esthetician and her husband, the brand emphasizes ingredient quality and anti-aging results, which are kept under close watch by a team of doctors, pharmacists, and estheticians. Over the past few weeks, I have been testing a Mango Madness trio of the Exfoliate Me exfoliating facial cleanser, Refresh Me under eye cream, and Peptide 6 wrinkle cream.

The first thing I noticed when glancing over the ingredients lists of Mango Madness products is that they are short. And we all know that less empty fillers means more potent actives. Next, my eyes were drawn to a huge lineup of anti-aging heavy hitters. Mango Madness skips controversial parabens, artificial fragrances, and estrogenic chemicals in favor of proven active ingredients like peptides, alpha hydroxy acids, and hyaluronic acid.

The wrinkle cream is jam-packed with a whole posse of peptides (short chains of amino acids that send messages to skin cells). Both acetyl glutamyl heptapeptide-1 and pentapeptide-3 inhibit muscle contractions, thus lessening the development of wrinkles due to repeated movement. Pentapeptide-3 is also the main component of CellularSkin RX Relax Plus Vialox, for which Kate waded through the scientific sludge so you don't have to. Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3 (the 3 has been replaced by a 7 in updated nomenclature) is known to suppress the production of excess interleukins, thus preventing undue inflammatory responses and glycation damage. When combined with palmitoyl oligopeptide, it creates matrixyl 3000, a peptide powerhouse that can boost the growth of the connective tissues and increase collagen formation in the skin.

There is a bit of controversy surrounding the neuropeptide acetyl hexapeptide (trade name argireline), known for its muscle-relaxing properties. Because of its Botox-like power to hide expression lines by interfering with muscle nerves, some people fret that it may cause skin to sag. But no evidence supports this concern, and clinical studies performed on argireline have determined that a 10% strength reduces wrinkles by 30% over 30 days. Seeing as it's the first listed active ingredient, argireline is probably present at a much higher concentration in the Peptide 6 cream and, therefore, delivers a higher potency.

Both the Peptide 6 wrinkle cream and the Refresh Me eye cream contain nourishing moisturizers such as jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, squalane (from olives), and hyaluronic acid (a naturally occurring component that plays an important role in tissue hydration, lubrication, and cellular function). The eye cream also benefits from the botanical ingredients arnica montana, which reduces the swelling of veins under the skin, and hydrolized rice bran extract, which brightens the complexion due to antioxidant lipoic acid and circulation-boosting niacin (vitamin B5). Refresh Me's most important active is vitamin K, one of the only ingredients proven to improve dark circles under the eyes (as published in a 2004 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology). Because under-eye circles are linked to poor vascular conditions and vitamin K helps ensure proper blood clotting, regular application of this vitamin stops any seepage or leakage under the skin and allows the tissue to heal itself.

The key to Exfoliate Me's exfoliating power is glycolic, what the chief scientific officer at Avon referred to as the "biggest breakthrough in skincare" in the past couple of decades. The 10% glycolic acid action was actually a bit strong for my unseasoned skin. As is to be expected with any member of the AHA family, the glycolic cleanser stung when it came into contact with the odd blemish and left my nose peeling for days. Alas, this is the price you have to pay for a fresh layer of skin. The rest of the ingredients are natural emollients, including olive oil, vegetable-derived glycerin, and rose hip seed oil, which counteract the drying effects of the glycolic. In fact, Exfoliate Me's formula contains all the same ingredients as CSI Rose Hips Facial Cleanser (highly recommended by Marta), plus a potent dose of AHA.

By keeping its formulas short and sweet, Mango Madness plays it safe where most manufacturers make the mistake of chemical overload. The only areas of concern are phenoxyethanol, the company's preservative of choice in cream products, and the synthetic emollient C 13-14 Isoparaffin, which is derived from petroleum. While phenoxyethanol is accused of shutting down the central nervous system and causing contact dermatitis, C 13-14 Isoparaffin can be contaminated with carcinogenic impurities like 1,4-dioxane. Nonetheless, C 13-14 Isoparaffin has not been shown in human studies to have adverse effects and registers only as a low hazard ingredients on the Cosmetic Database's safety scale. Also, ethylhexylglycerin is generally considered safe but has shown to cause contact dermatitis in two studies.

The experience of using all three products has been a source of pleasure. In spite of a spat of stinging and flaking, the glycolic cleanser has proven that it works, leaving my skin soft and glowing. I have no doubt that negative side effects will abate once I get my skin accustomed to regular use of this "breakthrough" ingredient. And though their jar design leaves them susceptible to contamination from your finger, both the eye and wrinkle cream are genuine thirst quenchers for your skin. The creams sink right in and do not leave one hint of residue or shine. Their effects may only be temporary, but there is no doubt that Refresh Me awakens my eye area and lightens dark shadows, while Peptide 6 deeply moisturizes and smooths out lines.

Considering what you get for what you pay, Mango Madness has some of the best buys on the market. There is little to scare off even the most sensitive-skinned, and a great deal to satisfy the most dedicated anti-aging seekers. Prices range from $26 (for Mango Miracle Day Cream) to $69 (for a 100% Hyaluronic Acid Serum Moisturizer). How often do you see a potent eye cream for under $30, or pure hyaluronic acid, period? It is madness that this line hasn't gotten more recognition.

Related posts:

Five Best glycolic creams

Five Best over the counter anti-wrinkle retinol creams

Kenneth Mark Tighten & Lighten Cream with peptides

Exfoliate Me Exfoliating Facial Cleanser Ingredients: Purified Water, Olive Oil Castile, Glycolic Acid, Vegetable Glycerin, Rose Hip Seed Oil, Essential Oils, Seaweed Extracts, Oil of Kumquat.

Refresh Me Under Eye Cream Active Ingredients: Jojoba Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Squalane, Hyaluronic Acid, Arnica Montana, Vitamin K 1 (phytonadione), Oxido Reductases, Soy Peptide, Hydrolyzed Rice Bran Extract. Other ingredients: Purified Water, Laureth-7, C 13-14 Isoparaffin, Polyacrylamide, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Oil of Kumquat.

Peptide 6 Wrinkle Cream Active Ingredients: Acetyl Hexapeptide (Argireline®), Pentapeptide-3, Tripeptide, Acetyl Glutamyl Heptapeptide-1, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Hyaluronic Acid, Jojoba Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Squalane. Other Ingredients: Purified Water, Jojoba Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Laureth-7, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Polyacrylamide, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.