Do Anti Ageing Products Really Work?
Take a look around any department store or pharmacy – or even supermarket shelves – these days and you’ll be bombarded by a host of creams, lotions and gels, all promising to be the best anti ageing treatment on the market.
A recent survey showed that one in three women over the age of 30 in the UK now uses an anti ageing product and erasing wrinkles seems to be the top of many women’s list of priorities.
In fact, the UK population spent £652 million on anti ageing products in 2002 alone - but do these anti ageing products really work or are we all just being deluded by marketing hype?
Types of Anti-Ageing ProductsThe range of over-the-counter anti ageing products can be overwhelming but they fall into the following broad categories:
Anti-wrinkle creams – these make various claims although they are usually only effective on fine wrinkles and not the deep ones. They usually contain Retinoic Acid, a derivative of Vitamin A, which research does show as having some effect on wrinkles, by increasing the turnover rate of skin cells. Therefore old cells are shed more quickly and replaced by fresh, new ones, with the overall effect of smoother skin. Many anti-wrinkle creams also contain Vitamin E, and various other natural extracts from fruits (e.g. mild glycolic acids) which again help to exfoliate the top layer and reveal a new layer of smoother complexion.
Intensive Night Repair Creams – night creams are intended to nourish and repair the skin while we sleep and so are usually richer than day creams, with higher concentrations of moisturisers like stearyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. Certain types are intended to provide intensive anti-ageing treatment and these might contain collagen, a protein produced by skin cells which help maintain its firmness and elasticity (a decrease in collagen directly contributes to wrinkling), as well as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) which act as a mild peel on the top layer of dull skin cells and also stimulates further collagen production.
Eye creams and gels – these tend to be mainly hydrating, as the skin under the eye is very thin and sensitive and can easily become dehydrated and dry. By hydrating the skin in this area, these creams and gels give it a smoother appearance and help to even out mild wrinkles. Some more intensive eye creams and gels may also contain vitamin A, C and E derivatives and some collagen as well, although there is no proof that this contributes much to any anti-ageing effect.
Serums – these are very concentrated solutions containing active chemicals and so should be used very sparingly. Often, just 4-5 drops are enough to use on the whole face. They usually contain similar “miracle” substances to those in anti-wrinkle creams, such as retinoids and glycolic acids and vitamin antioxidants and they do produce some visible skin tightening effects following a long period of regular use.
Sunscreen – this should probably the first and only product on this list, sunscreen is unfortunately often overlooked by women searching for a miracle anti ageing treatment when it is the single more anti ageing product on the market, both for preventing, limiting and reversing skin damage. There is no other more important external factor responsible for skin ageing than sunlight so the regular use of high SPF sunscreens can play a bigger role in turning back the clock than any other anti-ageing product you use.
The ConclusionWhile these products should work in theory, based on the active ingredients they contain, in reality, their effectiveness can be minimal. A survey found that only a few women reported any noticeable improvement - most women noticed very little difference in the look and feel of their skin, other than a moisturising effect.
Certainly some products do work to some degree and research does back up the potency of some of these active ingredients but remember, at the low concentrations most are use within the creams, there is unlikely to be much effect. In fact, some ingredients such as Retinoids, can actually by harmful in high doses or if used for too long a period so it is difficult to get them in the concentrations needed to have an anti ageing effect.
At the end of the day, anti ageing products tend to only work on the earliest and mildest signs of ageing. They may prevent and erase fine lines but they will not be able to turn back the clock and make you look 20 if you are 50.
Furthermore, all dermatologists agree that lifestyle has the greatest impact on your rate of ageing, therefore rather than look for miracle creams, it is best to eat a balanced, healthy diet, stay out of the sun and use sunscreen, don’t smoke and keep away from smoky places and exercise regularly. Boring…but effective!