Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anti-Wrinkles: What’s in Your Skin Cream?

What’s your strategy for choosing anti-wrinkle skin creams? How do you pick one from the ever-growing arsenal of anti-aging creams and lotions? My skin care strategy has always been to just keep trying new products. I do this not because I expect to find a cream with benefits, but because I don’t think it matters which product I use; the results are always the same—elusive. But what if there was a list of ingredients that might really, truly help to reduce wrinkles? And what if this list was complied by independent, highly-respected researchers (instead of scientists paid by skin care companies)?

Recently, I came across a list of topical agents that could provide “slight to modest improvement in the appearance of wrinkles,” according to Mayo Clinic researchers. Apparently, no over-the-counter (nonprescription) ingredient is going to provide a “facelift in a bottle.” Sorry, ladies. But if you apply enough of certain key ingredients continuously, you may actually see some improvement.

Mayo Clinic researchers offer the following list of potential useful topical agents.
  • Retinol. This vitamin-A derivative was the first antioxidant to be widely used in nonprescription wrinkle creams. Retinol should not be confused with tretinoin, which the vitamin-A derivative available only by prescription (marketed as Retin-A, Avita, or Renova). Retinol is less potent than Retin-A.
  • Hydroxyl acids. Alpha hydroxy acids ((glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids) , beta hydroxy acids and poly hydroxy acids are derived from fruits with high sugar content. They exfoliate the skin. Not surprisingly, these acids make you more susceptible to sunburns.
  • Coenzyme Q10. This nutrient “helps regulate energy production in cells.” It may also reduce fine lines around the eyes.
  • Copper peptides. These peptides promote collagen production and may help the action of antioxidants.
  • Kinetin. This plant growth factor may “improve the appearance” of wrinkles and uneven pigmentation. Though it’s unclear how it works, the Mayo Clinic researchers suspect it may reduce wrinkles by promoting moisture retention and enhancing collagen production. It may also work as a potent antioxidant.
  • Green tea extracts. Green, black and oolong tea have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

After reading the Mayo Clinic article, I thought: Now that I have a list, maybe I can make an informed skin cream decision, instead of making my selection based on the eenie-meenie-miney-moe approach. I decided to test this idea on the products I already had at home. Here’s what I found.
  • StriVectin($135 for 5 oz). Recently, I was given a sample tube. According the ingredients’ label, this cream includes Tetrapeptide-21, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7. The promotion material says that the peptide levels are 4 times what they’d been in the past. I happen to liked this product. It has Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, which seems to wake up my skin a little.
  • Korres Wild Rose 24-hour moisturizer ($32.50 for 1.5 oz). A Sephora sales clerk sold me this product, saying it was all natural—no parabens, artifical dyes, or petro-chemicals. I have to admit it smells gorgeous and goes on nicely. But none of its ingredients are the Mayo Clinic list. What's a girl to think?
  • Regenerist Micro-sculpting Cream($23.67 for 1.7 oz). Consumer Reports ranks Olay’s Regenerist products #1 among wrinkle fighting products. Its ingredients include citric acid, green tea leaf extract, and palmitoyl pentapeptide-4. By the way, I saw this same, exact product available on for $13.89.
  • Olay Anti-Wrinkle Enriched UV Lotion for Mature Skin SPF 15 (13.99 for 4 oz). Since the Regenerist cream doesn’t have a SPF, I apply this lotion with my foundation. (I’ve got a dermatologist in the family who’s always yelling at me to wear sunscreen.) I’m glad to have the SPF, but it doesn’t have any of the must-have anti-wrinkle agents in its formula.
My best friend who lived in London for years tried to get me to buy Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect Day Cream SPF 15 ($19.99 for 1.69 oz) (Boots is a great pharmacy chain in England.) Now that I’ve looked at the label, I may take her advise. The cream contains C18-36 acid glycol ester, Citric acid, Palmitoyl oligopeptide, and Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. It also has sunscreen.

So what did I learn from this little exercise? Well, I learned that you can find some of the ingredients that are currently believed to offer anti-wrinkle benefits in reasonably priced drug store and online products. However, there is no way to know if the amounts used in these products are enough to provide the potential benefits. I also learned that reading labels isn’t easy. (No, wait—I already knew that.) It’s quite possible that some of the other promising ingredients are on the labels of the products I looked at, but under names I didn’t recognize because, quite frankly, I’m not exactly an expert on Coenzyme Q10 or Kinetin. So while I’ll probably look for peptides, green tea extract, and hydroxyl acids on skin cream labels in the future, I don’t know if my wrinkles will benefit from this new knowledge.

By the by, you may want to take a peek at the rest of the Mayo Clinic article, which gives tips on buying an anti-wrinkle cream and how to maximize your wrinkle fighting efforts. I found two things interesting. First, the cost of a skin cream doesn’t determine its effectiveness. However, drugstore products may contain lower amounts of the useful agents, and therefore, require regularly use indefinitely to maintain benefits. That doesn't really bother me. When it comes to moisturizing my poor dry skin, I figure I'm in it for the long haul.