Thanks to Stan I have discovered a new brand from Japan, a country that I firmly believe is at the forefront of good skincare that won't break the bank. Perhaps 15 years of economic decline has prompted Japanese potion makers to be parsimonious - an approach that it seems we'll all have to get used to for a while. The thing about Komenuka Bijin Eye Jell ($50) and, indeed, everything else in the Komenuka range is that it is big on rice bran.

So should we be rice bran believers as well?

Bran is the hard outer layer of a grain. In Japan, rice bran is called nuka and is widely touted as an antioxidant. Let's get under the skin of rice bran and see what that really means. Rice bran contains tocotrienol, which I learned yesterday when reviewing PCA SKIN is a member of the vitamin E family that has way more antioxidant power than the ubiquitous tocopherol, according to a German study.

The second key component is gamma-oryzanol. This is a mixture of sterols and ferulic acid. Sterols are natural plant steroids and it is for this reason that gamma-oryzanol is sometimes taken by athletes, although there seems to be little evidence that it really does boost performance. However, the ferulic acid part provides the antioxidant. Ferluic acid can seek and destroy several different types
of free radical - ‘superoxide’, ‘hydroxyl radical’, and ‘nitric oxide’ - according to a 2002 Japanese study. Gamma-oryzanol is said to be an effective skin whitener.

The other antioxidant in rice bran is beta-sitosterol. This has recently been found to be effective against prostrate cancer. It works by not only reducing the level of free radicals in our cells but also increasing our natural antioxidant enzymes.

However, an international research team led by the University of Aberdeen published a study only a couple of months ago suggests that there are particularly high levels of inorganic arsenic (a toxin and carcinogen) present in rice bran and may outweigh any health benefits. The researchers looked at commercially available rice bran and milled their own. They concluded that the arsenic levels were "inappropriate'.

Dammit, I was just about to make rice bran my new best friend. It should be noted that this is very new research and it is one study that hasn't been replicated. We should probably adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Incidentally, Komenuka's Eye Jell also contains lithospermum root extract. This was used for centuries as a female contraceptive because it estrogen-like compounds that disrupt the female hormonal reproductive system. It is not permitted for use in the USA.

Ingredients in Komenuka Bijin Eye Jell

Water, Rice Bran, Yeast, Aloe, Seaweed, Lemon, Apple Acid, Loquat Leaf, Lithospermum Root, Natural Vitamin E.