How Do Anti-Wrinkle Creams Work?
Want a younger, more perfect looking you? Over-the-counter anti-aging creams promise to smooth out that prune face and defy gravity. They claim to “reduce the appearance of wrinkles” give you a “five-minute face lift” and “turn back the clock”.
But here at Reactions, we say, “Show us the science!” Looking past the outer layer of dead skin cells and you find an inner layer of living tissue called the dermis. Here, fibroblast cells are hard at work manufacturing the fibrous proteins, collagen and elastin.
Collagen fibers are like support cables on a bridge, holding up skin to keep it firm and wrinkle free.2 To tell us more, here’s Trina from Ms Beautyphile. Elastin is flexible and stretchy, allowing your skin to stretch and snap back to its original shape.
Remember when your parents told you to stop making funny faces or you would get stuck like that. Well they were wrong, all thanks to elastin. As we age, so do our fibroblasts! They make less collagen and elastin and skin loses structure and flexibility.
We start to notice those fun little lines known as wrinkles. Hey who put those there? Here’s who. Environmental factors like smoking, pollution and the biggie — UV radiation from the sun. These factors damage skin cells like fibroblasts, causing them to wonk-out in ways that produce deeper wrinkles! And a bonus.
.. leathery skin! In response to our desire to reverse time, beauty counters overflow with anti-aging creams based on 4 key ingredients: retinoids, hydroxy acids, vitamins and peptides. Retinoids are advertised as vitamin A, but on the label you will see them retinaldehyde, retinol, and retinyl palmitate.
But the body doesn’t care what form it comes in! All retinoids end up converted to retinoic acid — a form the skin can use. Retinoic acid triggers skin cells to make more collagen, thicken the outer layer, retain moisture and shed old cells.
Oh sure, after a few months you’ll look a bit younger, but no one’s going to put you on the cover of Teen Vogue! Effects are modest and stronger retinoids cause irritation, so some people abandon treatment before retinoids deliver any results.
Pfft. quitters. The thought of applying acids on skin might make you think you will look like this. “You can call me Joker.” But mild hydroxy acids aren’t actually that harsh. In anti-aging creams they loosen up the intercellular glue holding dead skin cells together, allowing the shedding and revealing of new skin underneath.
Alpha hydroxy acids are popular for dry skin because hydroxyl groups attract water and keep skin hydrated. Beta hydroxy acids are popular with the oily types, as their love for lipids can break down sebum.
Results are minor, but immediate. The bad news: some hydroxy acids make skin more sensitive to sun AND more effective hydroxy acids have smaller molecules that can cause aggravation. This has people looking to Poly Hydroxy Acids as a less irritating replacement.
Vitamins C and E aren’t just food supplements. Cosmetic companies think they’re also for your face! The same chemical process that causes apple slices to turn brown also happens to skin. Oxygen used by the body can create unstable atoms called free radicals.
These steal electrons and damage DNA, cell membranes and proteins like… collagen. This damages the chemical structure of skin in a process called oxidative stress Antioxidants like vitamin C & E take one for the team, binding with free radicals and sacrificing themselves before damage is done.
However it doesn’t always work well in practice. Antioxidants are unstable when exposed to light and air and it’s a pain converting them to a form that gets through skin.Though antioxidants prevent future damage, they won’t help with those wrinkles you already have.
Collagen is created and broken down as part of the process of skin renewal. When breakdown is greater than production, we start to sag. Some products add short chains of amino acids, called peptides that product makers claim replicate part of the larger collagen protein.
These supposedly trick the body into believing it broke down too much collagen, cueing the fibroblasts to make more. But it’s not clear if these claims are legit. Now, not all peptides in these skin treatments are based on collagen.
Some mimic snake venom to paralyze the muscles involved in wrinkle formation. There is a lot of excitement about their potential— though you might not be able to express your excitement– if your muscles can’t move.
Peptides have shown promise in the petri dish, but their effectiveness in a product is still up for debate. So, can anti-aging creams make 40 the new 20? Probably not. Scientific evidence says these ingredients will have a modest effect at best.
But not all cosmetic companies feel the need to prove their products deliver on the promises they make, so the truth is a bit harder to get to. Fact is 80% of visible facial aging is caused by the sun.
So the best anti-aging product of all may just be this. What’s the most outrageous anti-aging claim that you have come across? Tell us all about it in the comments below. And be quick about it–after all, you aren’t getting any younger.
We want to shout out Trina’s channel Ms Beautyphile. She explores the science behind everything beauty. Check out her site. She’s awesome and we love her and we think you will too. Be sure to thumbs up and subscribe on the way out, and hey.
Thanks for watching!