My mother-in-law arrived from Paris last week with a tube of ROC Retin-Ox Intensive Wrinkle Moiturizer SPF 15. It was recently voted the best anti-aging cream in a 2008 consumer survey conducted by a French magazine that is rather like the US's Consumer Reports. ROC Retin-Ox is not yet available in the US and I was looking forward to an opportunity to be ahead of the pack. Until, that is, I looked at what was in it.

This is a retin (vitamin A ) cream. Although ROC doesn't tell us the concentration, its website claims there is a sufficient dollop to ensure this potion really works and they conducted a study of 30 people over 12 weeks to prove it (there was, apparently, a 35% reduction in crows feet wrinkles). The retin, which is essentially an exfoliator is sensibly combined with a (chemical) sunscreen combo. The trouble is that one of them is ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, which can cause free radicals to interfere with cellular signaling, leading to mutations or cell death and it may be implicated in cardiovascular disease. It also causes allergic reactions, according to a study published in Contact Dermatology. Its partner in crime seems much better. Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane is also known as avobenzone. It is permitted in Europe.

There are a few PEGs - polyethelene glycol, which can irritate broken skin. And I'm not terribly keen on sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate, a surfactant that is widely used in car wash products and is a skin irritant and environmental polluter.

Most of the rest of the ingredients are thickeners, emollients, silicones and the substance (listed here as PTFE) that is used to coat non-stick cookware. There are the usual suspects in the preservative department. A couple of things are harmless, but probably pointless. Copper gluconate doesn't perform very well when sent into the ring against placebos and magnesium aspartate is thought to be a non-essential amino acid.

I suppose we should be grateful for some squalane, linseed (fatty) acid and vitamin C, but with apologies to my mother-in-law, I wouldn't touch this with a baguette.

Ingredients in ROC Retin-Ox

Aqua, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Glycerin, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, PEG-8,
Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearyl Heptanoate,
Polyethylene, PTFE, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate,
Retinol, Panthenol, Bisabolol, Magnesium Aspartate, Copper Gluconate,
Zinc Gluconate, Linseed Acid, PEG-8 Laurate, Sodium
Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Squalane, Stearyl Alcohol, Stearyl Caprylate,
Myristyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetyl
Alcohol, Acrylates Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylates/Sodium
Acryloyldimethyl taurate Copolymer, Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 60,
Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Ascorbic Acid, BHA, BHT,
Tocopheryl Acetate, Chlorphenesin, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben,
Propylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum