February 12th, 2010
Are anti aging creams all they're cracked up to be?
Science has come a long way in recent years, and anti-aging formulas are only getting better, says Lizzie Malone
We live in a world where wrinkles, once a sign of wisdom and experience, encourage disrespect, where laughter lines ironically cause untold misery and where Botox injections are as common as vaccinations. Our world is fascinated by youth, and the billion-dollar cosmetics industry is more than happy to take advantage of that fact.
But can anti-aging creams do any good? Skeptics would have us believe that so-called “miracle products” are little more than clever marketing. However, with so much money being poured into developing new and innovative anti-aging formulas, and as consumers become increasingly demanding, there is mounting evidence that these creams may have some benefits after all.
But first, what is aging? Dr. Stephen Chow from regional aesthetic specialist DrHB CLINIC tells us that there are two types of aging—Intrinsic and Extrinsic. “Intrinsic (internal) aging is caused by the genes we inherit. It is a natural aging process that normally begins in adulthood. This is unavoidable and any prevention or treatment can only slow down but not completely stop the process.” Collagen production slows, and elastin, the substance that enables skin to snap back into place, has a bit less spring leading to a saggy appearance. In addition, our pigment containing cells decrease, resulting in thinner and more translucent skin, while the loss of body fat underneath the skin means that the skin looks less plump and smooth. As if this wasn’t enough, dead skin cells do not shed as quickly and turnover of new skin cells may decrease slightly leaving a worn, dull and dry appearance. Extrinsic aging by contrast is when “a number of extrinsic, or external, environmental factors often act together with the normal aging process to prematurely age our skin. They are largely preventable but most premature aging is caused by sun exposure (photo-aging).” This manifests itself in age spots, leathery and loose skin, fine wrinkles and a blotchy complexion.
However, creams may be—as they say—hope in a jar. While a miracle cure for the natural aging process may be several years away, many cosmetics companies have developed special anti-aging lines, emphasizing the medical science behind them. These products can offer fresher, brighter and plumper skin, which result in an effective—albeit temporary—appearance of youth. Dr. Thomas Chris Tam from aesthetic clinic Dr Image explains that the ingredients in anti-aging creams can “counter the effects of or reduce the amount of free radicals which damage the skin, leading to premature wrinkle formation.”
In their quest for eternal youth, scientists working for beauty companies often combine old and new beauty anti-aging remedies for double the benefits. One such product is Chantecaille’s Nano Gold Energizing Cream, which combines futuristic nanotechology and gold for younger-looking skin. Sure, it might sound hokey, but gold has long been recognized for its beautifying and rejuvenating properties. Today, many spas from India to America offer gold leaf facials, as the metal has been proven to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and detoxifying properties. According to Dr. Tam, “gold has been used in the past as an anti-inflammatory agent for eczema and psoriasis. Any inflammation in the skin contributes to wrinkle formation and uneven pigmentation of the skin.” But what about the “nano” bit? Dr. Tam explains: “The smaller the molecule size (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) the better the penetrating ability of the active ingredient. In the past, skin care products relied upon ‘transporters’ such as retin A—which can irritate the skin during application—to allow the main ingredient to penetrate deeper in the dermis.” In this particular cream, nanoparticles of gold, bound with silk peptides, penetrate deep into the pores to stimulate cell regeneration and the production of collagen, resulting in visibly firmer and healthier skin.
Another popular product is själ skincare’s Cela Intuitif. Winner ofInStyle Magazine’s “best beauty buys,” this light cellular renewal cream targets extrinsic aging through the use of algae, or seaweed extract. Rich in antioxidants, this “intelligent algae” is a very good natural moisturizer and has the ability to combat inflammation and soothes irritated skin. According to Dr. Tam, “algae binds water to the skin and helps to plump and hydrate. It also has high-level antioxidants to repair and protect the skin from further sun damage.”
So yes, the beauty industry has been hard at work developing genuinely effective anti-aging remedies, so don’t write them off just yet—so long as you have realistic expectations of what the creams can achieve. They’re not going to transform your look overnight, but they’ll certainly improve your skin quality, and perhaps even your confidence in the process.
Lotions and potions are mostly hype, and you’re better off simply staying out of the sun, says Joanna Allen
We so want to believe in anti-aging creams. In today’s work-hard, play-hard society, stress, a poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle can all contribute to a less-than-perfect complexion. If there was a cream that we could slap on to make all that evidence of those late nights melt away, believe us, we’d be first in line.
One thing’s for sure: There’s a lot of money to be made in selling the promise of youth. According to Worldhealth.net, the anti-aging product market is expected to reach US$291.9 billion by 2015. And with competition for consumers so fierce, no wonder manufacturers are making increasingly outlandish claims as to the strength of their products.
But by the very fact that such creams count as a cosmetic rather than a pharmaceutical product, their efficacy can already be called into question. Although the price and packaging may look convincing, nonprescription creams by definition have a lower concentration of active ingredients. In the BBC article “Here Comes the Science” by Nicola Cook, the writer argues against the effectiveness of anti-aging creams. “If they prove a product really can heal damaged skin, it could be classified as a medicine. That would mean they require years of expensive tests before getting a license.”
Even if anti-aging creams are effective, many contain strong ingredients that could make your skin worse, particularly if you’re sensitive. Remember to check the small print for any side effects such as rashes and pore clogging. More worryingly, certain anti-aging ingredients have riskier health implications. Retinol, an ingredient often found in anti-aging products, has found to improve skin appearance thanks to its antioxidant properties derived from Vitamin A animal products such as fish oils and liver. However, Retinol should be avoided if you are pregnant or trying to conceive because excessive doses of the product could lead to possible birth defects. It also makes your skin exceedingly sensitive to the sun and calls for extra SPF skin protection during and after use.
And if you’re hoping that those regular facials will keep those crow’s feet away, don’t bet on it, says A3 medical Anti-Aging Center. Its experts warn that although facial massage increases blood and nutrient circulation, it won’t help to smooth out wrinkles. “Face massage under heavy compression may even lead to laxity of the skin, leading to even more wrinkles,” the center adds.
So what’s the alternative? Prevention, as they say, is the best cure. Radha at Central’s Om Day Spa suggests wearing a minimum SPF 30 moisturizer and starting a weekly face mask routine to keep your skin soothed and blemish-free. Try going for chemical-free or organic recipes—thousands of which are available online. Dr. Stephen Chow of Dr HB Clinic recommends regular mild exfoliation to keep the skin smooth and glowing. “I myself use a face wash containing glycolic acid,” he says.
Sleep and hydration are also vital to keeping your skin looking young. Eight hours’ sleep and eight glasses of fluid (water, juice and soup) should be enough to keep you looking perky, reckons Radha. Sleep will also stop you from rubbing and damaging the thin skin surrounding the eyes. If you’re finding it hard to nod off, resist caffeine and cease exercising before bed.
Smoking is another major factor for skin aging, and is just as damaging to the skin as the sun’s UV rays. Specifically, it destroys vitamin C, loosening the elastic tissues in your skin. Alcohol too, deteriorates skin firmness. The red flush is visual evidence of the blood vessels expanding under your skin, causing spots and itchiness, and ultimately damaging the skin.
The final word in the fight against aging is to take a holistic view toward wrinkle prevention. “Improving your skin from the inside-out by adopting a healthier lifestyle will help you to target the skin actively,” says Chow, “rather than dealing with one single skin problem.” Otherwise, just embrace the lines of emotion and experience that life’s given you. After all, George Orwell once said that everyone deserves the face they’ve got at 50.