I recently came across a skin care range called YBF (Your Best Face). I took a look at YBF Control ($160 in the TIA shop), since it is billed as ideal for someone whose skin has seen better days or indulged in too much sun worship and that just about seemed to sum me up.

YBF Control has some really interesting ingredients, some of which  have cropped up in recent posts and are genuinely exciting. One of those is spin trap (phenyl butyl nitrone). PBN can seek out electrons, or free radicals, that are spinning out of control and rectify them before they can do any damage. There have been numerous studies, including one in 1996, that demonstrate PBN's efficacy as an anti-ager.

The base of YBF Control is reverse osmosis water. Reverse osmosis is a process that uses a membrane to purify or desalinate water. There are also some of Truth In Aging's favorite anti-oxidants: matrixyl 3000 and idebenone (a powerful form of CoQ10). Plus vitamins C and E and sodium hyaluranate.

I was initially disappointed to see two potential irritants: dimethyl isosorbide (DMI) and triethanolamine. If this potion had been made by one of cosmetic's big boys, I would almost certainly have left it there. But YBF seemed to me to be an independent producer genuinely trying to make something good. Furthermore, I might be in danger of needing some perspective before degenerating into a paranoid paraben hater. So, I asked YBF's founder Darrell Owens for his take.

He explained to me that early forms of DMI contained high levels of trace compounds that were known irritants. He uses a "next generation" form that is super-refined with nearly zero trace elements. Some of DMI's reported irritant capability stems from it being improperly paired with ingredients that while beneficial, also have a history of being irritants.

"For example, traditional vitamin C is quite commonly not tolerated by individuals with sensitive skin and if paired with an absorption enhancer like DMI, there is a greater likelihood there will be irritation and/or negative reaction," Darrell said. "The form of vitamin C we pair with DMI in our products is one that is of the highest tolerance, with an extremely low sensitivity track record compared to ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and especially ascorbic acid."

On the use of triethanolamine (or TEA), he said YBF uses it in very small quantities. Plus it allows him to eliminate other ingredients which show a greater likelihood of negative results. In YBF formulas, TEA is a key ingredient that triggers the product to become a gel-cream and, without it, they would have to use more waxes and other fillers.

Darrell was really generous with his time and knowledge and I have learned two lessons. In addition to getting some new background on ingredients, I have a better understanding of how a good potion maker needs to be pragmatic.