When I was given a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) Forever Youth Liberator Serum ($150 for 1oz), I was prepared to take this sugar-based serum with a pinch of salt. This latest miracle anti-aging serum has been “flying off the shelves” of posh department stores in Europe amidst claims that it will give amazing results in just seven days. Bring it on, said I. And nine days later I was prepared to eat crow as the results (smoothing of wrinkles) seemed quite impressive. But is seeing really believing and is YSL's sugar active anything more than sugar coating?

The sugar in question is rhamnose. Derived from a family of tropical plants (called Uña de Gato in South America) that no one in the skincare business has taken much interest in until very recently when some of a big French beauty house got very excited about its anti-aging powers. The story goes that L’Oreal’s chemists, “quite by accident”, used rhamnose at a 5% strength. Avene and Bioderma have used rhamnose in small percentages, but when Vichy (owned by L'Oreal) scientists subjected it at 5% to a series of anti-aging skincare trials, the results were enough to spawn the new Vichy LiftActiv Derm Source line.

L’Oreal, also owns YSL Beaute and Forever Youth and its researchers have been getting under the skin of the actual properties of skin. We all know that the skin has different levels and layers, but only recently have skincare scientists been getting to know the papillary dermis (a superficial part of the dermis made up of finger-like projections that extend towards the epidermis).

The claims made by L’Oreal for rhamnose and the papillary dermis, this fragile layer of cells found directly underneath the dermo-epidermal junction, are enticing. Rhamnose supposedly caused these cells to send messages to all layers of the skin. As a result, new keratinocytes in the epidermis were produced. Papilla, micro-cavities that promote exchanges between the dermis and epidermis, increased in number. Meanwhile fibroblast growth was stimulated.  In other words, rhamnose targets the papillary, but its actions go much beyond it.

I have been testing YSL Forever Youth Liberator on the crow’s feet of my left eye and in just over a week, I’d have to say that the skin looks a lot smoother. The question is whether this is due to rhamnose. It is hard to know and I need to use YSL Forever Youth Liberator for longer before coming to a verdict. However I do wonder if, at this stage, all I am seeing is the results of a thick coating of silicones. The serum is a gloopy gel and it goes spackle-like into my wrinkles and instantly fills them up.  At first glance of the ingredients, I thought that when I got passed my new friend rhamnose, there wasn’t not much to Forever Youth Liberator than an awful lot of silicone. This first impression turned out to be not entirely true or fair.

The daunting-looking hydroxypropyl tetrahydropyrantriol, also goes by the name of Pro-Xylane. L’Oreal certainly has a sweet tooth as this is another sugar. Originally developed by Lancome in 2006, it is a sugar-protein hybrid made from xylose, a sugar found abundantly in beech trees. This ingredient is known to stimulate the production of glycoaminoglycans (GAGs), molecules responsible for defending the skin against water loss.

Unfortunately, that really is about it apart from some sodium hyaluronate and adenosine. The rest of the formula is a fairly awful chemical concoction of the aforementioned silicones, propylene glycol, preservatives such as phenooxyethanol, linalool and one of the unwelcome stalwarts of the L’Oreal laboratory is Hepes (or hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid). You can also find it in Jane Fonda fronted L’Oreal’s Age Perfect and it carries all sorts of warnings against contact with the skin.

For $150 this is rather disappointing and it means I have to be a big believer that L’Oreal and YSL aren’t just sweet-talking me about rhamnose.

Ingredients: Aqua/Water, alcohol denat, glycerin, rhamnose, butylene glycol, hydroxypropyl tetrahydropyrantriol, cyclohexasiloxane, propylene glycol, dimethicone, hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid, phenoxyethanol, sodium hyaluronate, polysilicone-11, caprylyl glycol, ammonium polyacrydimethyltauramide/ammonium, polyacryloydimethyltaurate, adenosine, xanthan gum, peg-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate, disodium edta, polystyrene, peg-60, hydrogenated castor oil, citric acid, chondrus crispus (carrageenan), linalool, alpha-isomethyl ionine, limonene, geraniol, CI 14700/Red 4, CI19140/Yellow 5, parfum (FILB47141/2)