I'll be the first to admit that I can be somewhat cynical on occasion. I am constantly second-guessing the motives of celebrity figures, and immediately wrote-off Jessica Simpson's recent weight gain as a publicity stunt (seriously, why wear those jeans unless you are begging for attention?). It was with this attitude that I approached Kenneth Mark MD Antioxidant Cream with Astaxanthin ($120), assuming that it was a clever con by some "medical personality" to siphon off the disposable incomes of the super-rich. Now, I feel the need to apologize to Dr. Mark for my preemptive snub.

Just because Dr. Mark practices in some of the swankiest area codes in the country (Aspen, East Hampton, South Hampton, and Manhattan) doesn't mean that he caters to a gullible clientele who buy into baseless claims, or that he isn't a fine dermatologist and capable of developing worthy skincare products. The Antioxidant Cream, part of the Signature Facial of the Ritz Carlton Club in Aspen, is one such product. Besides the astaxanthin touted on its label, its formula is full of anti-aging and skin-nourishing ingredients that deserve to be spared any cynicism.

Since astaxanthin is Dr. Mark's star ingredient, we'll start there. Astaxanthin is a naturally-occuring antioxidant that has demonstrated potential to inhibit UV-induced collagen breakdown, free-radical photodamage, and melanin synthesis. According to Dr. Mark's studies, astaxanthin can decrease collagen breakdown by up to 25% and melanin production by up to 40%. There is a wealth of new clinical evidence that astaxanthin is far more powerful than most popular antioxidants. As a red cartenoid pigment found in aquatic creatures, astaxanthin is likely responsible for the cream's pinkish hue. But this "fishy" relationship fortunately does not transfer to the fragrance of the cream, which is completely innocuous.

In addition to astaxanthin, there are plenty of other proven antioxidants, including white tea, green tea, algae, bilberry, lemon, and orange extracts. These naturally nourishing elements are known to revitalize dull, aging skin by smoothing the skin's texture and improving blotchiness. They are also essential to boosting the immune function of skin cells and defending them against sun damage. When used in combination, these antioxidants act as a powerhouse of protection for skin.

At number three on the ingredients list, vitamin E  is present in one of the highest concentrations I've ever seen. Aside from its free radical-fighting activity, vitamin E is known to have important anti-aging benefits, such as in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also protects the epidermis layer of the skin from early stages of UV light damage and regulates vitamin A levels in the body, directly impacting healthy skin. Unfortunately, instead of the alcohol form of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), this cream contains the acetate form, which does not penetrate the skin's surface as well and supplies fewer antioxidant benefits.

I like the cream's substantial serving of sweet almond oil, a noble emollient extracted from the dried kernels of the almond tree. A very nourishing and protecting oil, it absorbs into the skin easily and doesn't leave a greasy feeling. In addition to jojoba seed oil and sodium hyaluronate, there are also a number of commonplace moisturizing agents, including butylene glycol caprylic/capric triglyceride, glycerin, and dimethicone. But don't expect this cream to do wonders for dry skin. I found that it wasn't sufficient to hydrate my winter-worn, prone-to-flakes face, and I've been layering an extra coat of lotion on top (not a bad idea for daytime since there is no SPF).

Beyond multiple forms of vitamin C and a bit of vitamin A, the formula charges from one anti-aging source to the next. Key to the production of healthy fibroblasts, superoxide dismutase is a particularly forward-thinking and uncommon inclusion, just like astaxanthin. It is an enzyme that repairs cells and reduces the damage done to them by superoxide, the most common free radical in the body. Superoxide dismutase moonlights as the antioxidant complex eukarion 134, which I first came across in this night cream. Another antioxidant associated with anti-aging benefits is alpha lipoic acid, a fatty acid found in skin cells that protects them from wrinkle-inducing environmental damage. For a bonus pick-me-up, the cream contains a large dose of caffeine, which is an antioxidant, firming, and sun-blocking agent all in one.

My skin certainly looks and feels healthier thanks to Dr. Mark's Antioxidant Cream, and my former misgivings have been completely overturned. There's a reason this cream advertises "antioxidant" on the label. To all the skeptics, like me, who are innately suspicious of the claims of certain unfamiliar cosmetics, you might want to give them a chance. Who knows, you might just stumble upon a fountain of youth flowing with antioxidants.

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Ingredients:

Aqua (Purified Water), Butylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Prunus Amigdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Caffeine, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Astaxanthin, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Superoxide Dismutase, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Beta Glucan, Acetyl Hexapeptide-3, Algae Extract, Palmitic Acid, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Vacinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Acer Saccharinum (Sugar) Extract, Citrus Medica Limunum (Lemon), Fruit Extract, Saccharomyces Zinc Ferment, Saccharomyces Copper Ferment, Saccharomyces Magnesium Ferment, Saccharomyces Iron Ferment, Saccharomyces Silicon Ferment, Sodium PCA, Sodium Hylauronate, Thea Sinesis (Green Tea) Extract, Camellia Sinesis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea.