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The use of face creams is probably the most popular approach to combat the signs of aging. Despite the manufacturers' claims, the scientific evidences supporting their efficiency are limited.

Visible signs of aging don’t make anyone happy. The search for the “fountain of youth” is a thousand years old exploit that delivered innumerable remedies for preventing and slowing down the inevitable age-related changes.

The use of facial creams is one of such approaches that have been explored and patronized by the public from early human history. They were used by women even in Ancient Rome. Archaeologists have unearthed the samples of facial creams from that era that contain some animal fat, tin, and starch.

Nowadays, development and production of facial creams is a huge and thriving market. But do they serve their purpose?

What are the wrinkles?

Folds, ridges or creases in the skin are normally associated with aging. Their formation is promoted by too much UV exposure, smoking, poor hydration and habitual facial expression. Damage due to too much sunlight exposure, called photo-damage, hastens the aging process and also results in hyper-pigmentation and roughness. At the cellular level, damage can be seen through deterioration of collagen network, evident in skin laxity, and the decrease in the amount of elastic tissue.

New treatments galore

New skin treatments come to the market almost every year (such as new creams containing liposomes, oligopeptides, retinol, to name just few).

Creams with novel, sometimes quite exotic components are constantly developed. Dermatologists are continuously challenged by queries of those seeking professional help on the use of creams and lotions geared to fight signs of aging and sun exposure damage. Many brands claim to meet this purpose. However, the studies that support these claims are usually performed on small scales and often lack proper scientific planning and organization.

To assess the creams efficiency, the following questions need to be answered:

Do any face creams really remove wrinkles?

If yes, what are the major active chemical ingredients that are important for this effect?

Anti-wrinkle creams serve their purpose but only with the right amount of the right ingredients. Not many commercial products, however, have the right active compounds in the right quantities. A number of substances were shown to be effective at least to some degree.

One of the most recent scientific studies has shown that a chemical known as matrixyl which is integrated in some anti-wrinkle creams can double the collagen production in the skin. This is an important finding: the decline of collagen production is one of the major factors behind the loss of skin elasticity.

The Chief Scientist at Olay, Dr Sian Morris also confirmed the consistency of the effects of matrixyl. The compound decreases the presence of fine lines and increases skin firmness giving the individual a more youthful look.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Kafi R et al. (2007) Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Arch Dermatol 143, 606-12
  • Leon H. Kircik MD (September 2012). Histologic Improvement in Photodamage After 12 Months of Treatment With Tretinoin Emollient Cream (0.02 %). Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. Volume 11, Issue 9, pages 1036-1040
  • Ho ET, Trookman NS et al. (January 2012) A randomized, double-blind, controlled comparative trial of the anti-aging properties of non-prescription tri-retinol 1.1% vs. prescription tretinoin 0.025%. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 64-69.
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