Do Anti-aging Creams Work?


First of all, anti-aging creams do not reverse aging-period.  At best, they can only camouflage some of the stigmata of aging.  The question is whether they even do that.  Much money is spent on these products.  Are they worth the money?

All of the ingredients that supposedly combat aging are placed in emollients as a vehicle for delivery to the surface of the skin. By themselves, emollients hold in skin moisture and protect a bit against mechanical trauma.  So that’s good.

Beyond the emollients, let’s look at the ingredients that are offered in the vast array of available products.

  • Acids are added to some topical creams for exfoliation.  Acids can irritate the skin and cause swelling.  The swelling can plump out wrinkles and make the skin appear younger.
  • Collagen is a protein within the dermis (the deep layer of the skin).The collagen content of the skin decreases with age. Collagen is sometimes injected into the skin to enhance volume.  As an ingredient in a skin cream, however, it cannot possibly make it’s way through the epidermis (the shallow skin layer that covers the dermis) to have any effect on the dermis.
  • Hyaluronic acid is a large molecule that is a component of the dermis referred to as “ground substance”.  Aging skin loses ground substance.  As an ingredient in a cream, however, these molecules are incapable of penetrating the epidermis to make it to the dermis (same as collagen).  They can, however, be effectively injected for temporary volume enhancement.
  • Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that interrupts the production of melanin by the melanocytes.  It can diminish the color variegations in sun damaged skin making it appear more youthful.
  • Peptides are small chains of amino acids that are components of proteins.  They also are incapable of penetrating the epidermis to produce any benefit in the dermis.
  • Retinol is a biologically active compound that can penetrate the epidermis and increase the metabolism of the dermis.  This can increase the generation of epidermis and create a volume increase in the dermis which can make the skin look younger.
  • Sunscreen is worthwhile in a topical cream but don’t overpay for it.
  • Vitamin C is an acid that, if concentrated enough, can irritate the skin causing swelling which can blunt shallow wrinkles.

Anti-aging creams, depending on their composition, can camouflage some features of aging.  Creating some swelling in the dermis can plump out shallow wrinkles.  Bleaching agents can provide more color homogeneity.  They do not, however, have any real effect on the aging process.

Inexpensive products work just as well as the expensive ones.  Check to see what active ingredients are in the cream.  Consider working with a skin care specialist to choose the right prescription for your specific skin.


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Article by
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon