You would hope that, at a certain age, every woman comes to embrace the body and shape that nature endowed. Nonetheless, bust size is one of those bodily realities that often leaves women discontented and insecure. Breast implants remain one of the most popular cosmetic procedures, and breast augmentation surgery has risen about 480% in the past ten years. For those unable to stomach the cost and risk associated with breast surgery, there are products like Talika Bust Serum, a well-rounded treatment promising lift, volume, and firmness. Who doesn't want fuller, firmer, perkier breasts?

Although I am perfectly satisfied with the set God gave me, I must admit that I wouldn't mind waking up to find miraculously enhanced cleavage after applying a serum for a few weeks. So when I was offered a complimentary bottle of the Bust Serum to try out, I took a closer look. Talika's clinical studies report that 89% of women saw an increase of 2 to 4 centimeters in 6 weeks. That's a full cup size. I couldn't find an  ingredients listing on Talika's website, but the web retailer bebeautiful.com included a list in the product details that, despite some typos, appeared to feature valuable actives. Would they add up to a boost in bust volume?

Unfortunately, Talika's formula is much more complicated than the diluted version clouding up cyberspace. In fact, the real ingredients list is more than twice as long, and all that extra space is ascribed to nasty additives. Even though some respectable emollients lead the pack (namely rose hip oil, raspberry fruit oil, glycerin, and sodium hyaluronate), they mix with the wrong crowd. Following a couple of humdrum fillers, a posse of cosmetic bullies puts your bust skin- and the rest of your body- in danger. Petroleum-derived propylene glycol is suspected of all manners of trouble, from reproductive toxicity to irritation, and there is no doubt that it can enhance the penetration of other ingredients (not a good thing in the case of this formula).

Next up is a large quantity of phenoxyethanol, shown in studies to trigger allergies, genetic mutation, and testicular atrophy. It's harrowing to wonder at what might result from repeatedly rubbing high doses of phenoxyethanol into the breasts. Sodium polyacrylate may have earned FDA approval and a "Generally Recognized as Safe" classification, but it is also "expected to be toxic or harmful" to the organ system when contaminated with methacrylic acid, acrylic acid, or 2-ethylhexyl acrylate. Aside from the moderately unsafe preservatives sodium benzoate and ethylhexylglycerin, Talika's Bust Serum packs in- not one, not two, but FIVE- parabens. If you're at all familiar with parabens' correlation to estrogenic activity and breast cancer, you'll want to keep these puppies as far away from your chest area as possible.

Potentially irritating and hazardous chemicals aside, can Talika's serum do the trick? I cannot honestly say from a first-hand standpoint, seeing as my bust has been scared off this formula for good. The key active components are extracts that have supposedly been used for centuries by women in Indian and African traditions:  mukul bark and kigelia africana (used in Pevonia's neck serum). Though information about mukul bark is lacking, there is some evidence that kigelia africana, rich in flavonoids and saponins, improves skin elasticity. Whether it can counter gravity and prevent breast skin from sagging is doubtful. Additional bust-boosting powers are attributed to oat extract, hyaluronic acid, and raspberry seed oil- all components that are certainly nourishing, but hardly capable of visible lifting. Tacked at the very end are the two peptides that make up the anti-aging powerhouse Matrixyl 3000. But at such a paltry concentration, can we really expect these peptides to effectively increase the production of collagen in the skin?

And what sort of background does Talika have in boosting the bosoms? None, actually. A beauty brand built on targeted treatments, Talika also manufactures the Lipocils eyelash growth product that appeared in our 2008 roundup. The company conveniently displays clinical results from a French laboratory for each of its eyelash, eyebrow, and nail products. Formulating treatments to safely and effectively enhance the bust is hardly Talika's area of expertise. Members of the itty bitty titty committee might want to seek out a buxom-promising miracle elsewhere.

The full ingredients:

Aqua (Water), Butylene Glycol, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Rubus Idaeus Seed Oil (Raspberry), Glycerin, Sorbitan Isostearate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Propylene Glycol, Kigelia Africana Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Capric/Caprylic Triglycerides, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Benzyl Alcohol, Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Squalane, Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (Oat), Aesculus Hippocastanum Extract (Horse Chestnut), Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Menthyl Lactate, Parfum (Fragrance), Polysorbate 60, Commiphora Mukul Resin Extract, Dehydroacetic Acid, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Blue 1 (CI 42090), Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide 7

A drastically different list than the one on bebeautiful.com:

Aqua, Butylene Glycol Rosa Canina Fruit oil, Rubus Dieas Raspberry seed oil, Glycerin, Sorbitan Isostearate, Sodium Hyalluronate, Propylene Glycol, Kigelia Africana, Phenoxyethanol Sodium, Polyacrylate, Caprylic, Hydroxyethl, Copolymer, Benzyl Alcohol, Squalene Avena Sativa, Oat Chestnut Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7