Tom Ford is a man to admire. His turnaround of Gucci was spectacular and his first foray into film earned him an Oscar nomination. His recent move into the beauty business seems to have less of a golden touch, at least as far as I can see from Tom Ford Illuminating Protective Primer SPF 12 ($70).

With the line, Tom Ford Skin Treatments, he is going for “luxury” and “performance”. The primer, though, doesn’t really have much of either, which is disappointing considering the price tag. And the more I look at it, the choice of some of the ingredients seems downright eccentric.

Although at first glance there appears to be a ton of botanical extracts, I’m not at all sure what some of them are doing there. For example, dipteryx odorata seeds are native to south America and called tonka beans. Used as a perfume and vanilla substitute until it was banned for use in food by the FDA as it can cause liver damage (source). Recently scientists have isolated cancer chemopreventative components, but I’m still not sure what it is doing in a skincare product.

Then there is sapindus mukurossi, which might make more sense in a shampoo. The dried fruit shells are actually being sold as a laundry detergent called Eco Nuts as they foam when agitated.

I was amused to see noni fruit, which gets such good PR that whoever is behind it could probably get me my own TV show. Noni is attributed with all sorts of powers, despite the fact that it is 76% carbohydrate and smells so disgusting that most cultures relegate it to famine food.  A couple of other botanicals are there for their perfume, including patchouli (perhaps fashionista Ford included it for its ironic retro factor) and then there’s vetiver and Canadian willowbark, which are antibacterials.

I am basically underwhelmed by the best of Tom Ford’s primer and not at all impressed by the rest. There are two chemical sunscreens, the unstable octinoxate and homosalate, which the EWG says is a weak hormone disrupter. Then there’s PEG-4 diheptanoate, given by the EWG a 3-6 hazard rating, as it is mildly toxic and not safe for use on injured or damaged skin. Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2 is substitute for lanolin. A major component of this ingredient is adipic acid, a mild skin irritant and toxin.

Tom Ford’s brand deserves a better formulator.

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, Homosalate 5.0%. Water/Aqua/Eau, PEG-4 Diheptanoate, Glycerin, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Phenyl Trimethicone, Polyethylene, Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Epilobium Angustifolium Extract, Dipteryx Odorata Seed Extract, Sapindus Mukurossi Fruit Extract, Morinda Citrifolia Fruit Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Amyris Balsamifera Bark Oil, Vetiveria Zizanoides Root Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Lecithin, Caffeine, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Propylene Glycol Laurate, Squalane, Sorbitan Stearate, PEG-40 Stearate, Hydroxyethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Butylene Glycol, Dicetyl Phosphate, Ceteth-10 Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 60, Propylene Glycol Stearate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sorbitan Laurate, Potassium Sorbate, Polysorbate 20, Citric Acid, Tin Oxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T- Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Linalool, Cetearyl Alcohol.