The 'new and improved' formula for Nutra-Lift's Dark Spot Fade Gel ($22 for 2oz) looks as if it might do its job of zapping age-spots. However, it uses some powerful - and controversial - ingredients. This product is not for the timid.

The key active in Nutra-Lift's Dark Spot Fade Gel is hydroquinone. This is a standard age spot ingredient that has become somewhat discredited. Hydroquinone may, or may not, cause cancer. The FDA thinks it might and proposed a ban in 2006. On the other hand, there are studies that counter this view and regard it as safe. Whatever, hydroquinone is certainly a powerful irritant that can burn those of sensitive skin (which would be me). For these reasons, manufacturers of age spot creams are increasingly looking for hydroquinone alternatives.

In addition to glycolic acid, the other active for hyperpigmentation in Dark Spot Fade Gel is Vitamin C. This may also cause some mild irritation and dryness. Then there another melatonin inhibitor, kojic acid. This comes from a fungi. It has a high incidence of allergic reactions, so approach with caution. It is unstable and can turn a cream yellow after a while.

Bearberry extract, on the other hand, is a stable, plant-based skin lightener that helps retard excessive melanin production without irritation. It is actually an arbutin, demonstrated by studies in Japan to be more effective than kojic acid. Like other bleaches, bearberry extract inhibits the production of tyrosinase (the precursor to pigment). However, it also degrades existing pigment.

Sodium metabisulfite may be irritating for those that are sensitive to sulfates. It is rather more lethal for fish because it becomes toxic on contact with water and there are numerous studies of its effects on marine life. The preservative tetrasodium EDTA may also be irritating.

To counteract all of this, Nutra-Lift has thoughtfully included two soothers: aloe vera and allantoin.

Ingredients in Nutra-Lift Dark Spot Fade Gel

Organic aloe vera gel, glycolic acid, hydroxyethycellulose, Hydroquinone, glycerin, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate ( vitamin C), kojic acid, bearberry extract, DMAE biartrate, salicylic acid, sodium metabisulfite, tetrasodium EDTA, allantoin.

Active Ingredients: 2 % Hydroquinone, 5 % Glycolic acid