Many creams and lotions sold in departmental stores and on the internet promise to reduce wrinkles and prevent or reverse damage caused by the sun in a few weeks’ time. But the most important question is do these creams really work? Dr Jaishree Sharadexplains that it often depends on the specific ingredients and how long you use them. Because these over-the-counter (non-prescription) wrinkle creams aren’t classified as drugs, they’re not required to undergo scientific research to prove their effectiveness. They are tested for safety and not effectiveness.
So, are these creams a gimmick? Well, the benefits of using these products are usually only modest at best. It is important to note that some naturally-occurring products and their extracts do help in collagen and elastin production which helps in reducing wrinkles.
What all anti-ageing creams do is really hydrate the skin and plump up the surface resulting in a radiant, soft tone and texture. Dry, dehydrated skin looks darker and fine lines appear due to the dryness. Hence, if you moisturise well, the skin will certainly glow. Most of the time, a moisturiser and a sunscreen are all one needs. Anti-ageing creams may help those who need extra boosters due to their profession or lifestyle such as sun exposure, smoking, and stress.
Common ingredients in anti-wrinkle creams
The effectiveness of anti-wrinkle creams depends in part on the active ingredient or ingredients. Here are some common ingredients that may result in slight to modest improvement in the appearance of wrinkles.
Retinol: Retinol is a vitamin A compound, the first antioxidant to be widely used in non-prescription wrinkle creams. Antioxidants are substances that neutralise free radicals — unstable oxygen molecules that break down skin cells and cause wrinkles.
Vitamin C: Another potent antioxidant, vitamin C may help protect skin from sun damage. Before and between uses, wrinkle creams containing vitamin C must be stored in a way that protects them from air and sunlight.
Coenzyme Q10: This ingredient may help reduce fine wrinkles around the eyes and protect the skin from sun damage.
Tea extracts: Green, black and oolong tea contain compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea extracts are the ones most commonly found in wrinkle creams.
Grape seed extract: In addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, grape seed extract also promotes wound healing.
Niacinamide: A potent antioxidant, this substance is related to vitamin B-3 (niacin). It helps reduce water loss in the skin and may improve skin elasticity.
Epidermal growth factor: Stimulates cell renewal and collagen production in the skin, and strengthens elasticity and structure. In various researches, epidermal growth factor has shown to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. It also has healing (wounds and burns) and anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin.
Hydroxy acids: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids or other chemical peels help to dissolve the intracellular ‘glue’ that holds dead cells together on the skin. The use of this type of product on a daily basis gradually enhances the exfoliation of the epidermis. This exposes newer skin cells and can help improve appearance. AHAs may irritate some skin, causing redness and flaking.
Argireline (also known as acetyl hexapeptide-3): This peptide relaxes facial muscles to prevent wrinkles and fine lines from forming.
Sunscreens provide a high level of UVA protection against the effects of UVA radiation such as wrinkles.
Traditional moisturisers or sunscreens which are applied properly may provide many of the same benefits as some anti-ageing creams.
Consider these points when judging the merits of anti-ageing creams:
Cost: Cost has no relationship to effectiveness. A wrinkle cream that’s more costly may not be more effective than a less costly product.
Lower doses: Non-prescription wrinkle creams contain lower concentrations of active ingredients than prescription creams. So results, if any, are limited and usually short-lived.
Multiplicity of ingredients: There is no data to suggest that adding two or three of the ingredients above together will be more effective than just one of them.
Daily use: You’ll likely need to use the wrinkle cream once or twice a day for many weeks before noticing any improvements. And once you discontinue using the product, your skin is likely to return to its original appearance.
Side-effects: Some products may cause skin irritation, rashes, burning or redness. Be sure to read and follow the product instructions to limit possible side-effects.
Individual differences: Just because your friend swears by a product doesn’t mean it will work for you. People have different skin types. No one product works the same for everyone.
An anti-wrinkle cream may lessen the appearance of your wrinkles, depending on how often you use it, the type and amount of active ingredient in the wrinkle cream, and the extent of the wrinkles you want to treat. A dermatologist can help you create a personalised skincare plan by assessing your skin type, evaluating your skin’s condition and recommending products likely to be effective. If you’re looking for more dramatic results, a dermatologist can recommend medical treatments for wrinkles, including prescription creams, botulinum toxin (Botox) injections or skin-resurfacing techniques.