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Do anti-aging creams work?

James M.. Wilmott
Dermatology

Some do and some do not. Because an ingredient has been "shown to improve"  one of the causes of aging in a lab setting does not mean it will work in the final base into which it was incorporated. Look for products that have done clinical studies on the final product. In general, there are two type of anti-aging products. One helps prevent the onset of the signs of aging and one that treats these signs once they have appeared in the skin. Products that contain a "broad spectrum" sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater and also contain a balanced combination of antioxidants to address the multiple reactive oxygen species such as superoxide, hydrogren peroxide and free radicals are your best defense from premature aging. If you look at your inner arm versus your outer arm appearance of the skin you will certainly notice a major difference in the quality of the skin. This benefit can be had no matter what the age of the skin. Further, continual protection can improve the functioning of the skin an help the skin improve other properties as well. 

The second type of anti-aging creams address the signs of aging that are already present including:

  • Loss of skin firmness
  • Reduced skin elasticity
  • Increased skin dryness
  • Pigmentation disorders such as age spots and uneven pigmentation
  • Loss of radiance and an increase in dullness
  • Formation of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Increased fragility to trauma creating bruises and rashes
  • Greater translucency which shows more veins
  • Increased redness due to blood vessel dilation

Most of these are caused by the breakdown of cellular  and extracellular components or a reduction in the rate of key metabolic processes over time. Therefore, there is a need to intervene in these processes to stimulate what is good such as collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production in the dermal layer coupled with strong structural proteins and a strengthened natural lipid barrier function. It is equally important to quiet the processes that are bad such as inflammation, over-stimulation of pigment, and protein crosslinking by sugars, and to inhibit an over-production of enzymes and other agents that breakdown healthy skin compounds. Remember that a good moisturizer can have very beneficial effects on the visual signs of aging if used regularly.

 

Any moisturizer, regardless of ingredients, will improve the skin's appearance for a few hours. To really turn back the clock requires something more advanced, such as injecting the popular ingredients in anti-aging creams beneath the skin. Topically, the only anti-aging ingredient proven to have some effect is retinol, according to a 2008 University of Michigan study. People who use retinol report a significant change in the appearance of brown spots and wrinkles. Also effective, this study says, are carbon dioxide laser treatments and injections of hyaluronic acid, which plumps skin tissue under wrinkles. Treatments aside, two other proven ways to slow the signs of aging are avoiding smoking and wearing sunscreen. Smoking and sun damage advance the skin's loss of collagen, a protein that keeps the skin firm.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.