I started out in two minds about Sunday Riley’s Bionic Anti-Aging Cream ($225). I loved the luxurious packaging, matched entirely by the feel of the rich moisturizer. But I couldn’t help wondering if there was more style than substance. A month or so later, I find myself reaching for Bionic Anti-Aging Cream more and more and finding that the dry skin on my hands and neck are thirstily drinking it up. I am always being asked if I can recommend a rich moisturizer and now I can, albeit with some reservations.

The key reservation is, of course, the price. Still, if you have the means, are a sucker for packaging (Sunday Riley’s look is Barney’s-worthy chic) and like a cream that is rich and unctuous then Bionic Anti-Aging Cream is worth a flash of your flexible friend.

I have found Bionic to be very hydrating and it leaves my skin looking silky but matte. I even rub it into my finger nails, which are emerging from winter looking a little dry.  Having said that, my other reservation is that I am not yet sure of its anti-aging potency. I will certainly give it more time (I have barely used a quarter of the bottle), but I remain less than completely convinced by Sunday Riley’s secret sauce, NV-5 Ageless Complex.

This is made up of five plant extracts: prickly pear, blue agave, lady’s slipper orchid, cactus, aloe. Of all of these, prickly pear, or cactus pear (opuntia tuna) is the most convincing. Perhaps that’s why it appears twice in the formula’s listing. It is also something you might recognize as cropping up in Skin Nutrition products and it is one of those “better than vitamin C” actives (according to one study). Cactus pear has plenty of antioxidants, such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, reduced glutathione, cysteine, taurine, and flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin.

Unfortunately, some of the other components of NV-5 have less convincing pedigrees. Blue agave, from which tequila is made, doesn’t have much research to back it up and I could find no supporting evidence as to its role in skincare. Lady’s slipper (cypripedium pubescens) has primarily been used as a sedative. Again, I can’t find any information about its role in skincare or anti-aging beyond another cosmetic company saying it was used for its relaxing properties.

Aloe, of course, has lots of good things going for it. It is an effective anti-inflammatory and is ubiquitous in beauty products (it would probably be easier to name ones without it).  Also in fairly widespread use are the actives that come after the silicones, pegs and what not. They are non the worse for that and include antioxidant resveratrol and green tea, plus its most active component, EGCG, as well as Matrixyl (palmitoyl oligopeptide) and copper tripeptide-1 (also in Skin Nutrition). Indeed, there are several other ingredients that are also used in Skin Nutrition, including saccharmyces ferment lysate filtrate. But don’t go thinking that you’ll get them on the cheap. Like Sunday Riley, Skin Nutrition is on the pricey side.

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NV-5 Ageless Complex (prickly pear, blue agave, lady’s slipper orchid, cactus, aloe), yeast extract, urea, sunflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, butylene glycol, glyceryl polymethacrylate, squalane, cyclomethicone, dimethicone, centella asiatica extract, PEG-75 meadowsol, PPG-12/SMDI copolymer, stearic acid, propylene glycol, cetearyl alcohol and ceteareth 20, shea butter, glyceryl polymethacrylate, glyceryl stearate and PEG-100 stearate, saccharmyces ferment lysate filtrate, CoQ10, resveratrol, retinol, EGCG and green tea, xanthan gum, pomegranate extract, steareth-2, palmitoyl oligopeptide, copper tripeptide-1, stearyl glycyrrhetinate, cholesteryl noanoate, cholesteryl oleyl, cholesteryl chloride, butylated hydroxytoluene, methyl paraben, propyl paraben, DMDM hydantoin.