THE SKIN CARE ARENA
by Madeleine Arena, B.S., M.B.A.*
There are many products on the market that claim to lift and firm the skin, even when it’s crepey. Claims such as, “face-lift in a jar”, are almost always misleading. While some of these firming creams do have value for skin, for the most part, their promises go beyond the scope of what’s possible from any skin-care product.
In reality, no firming or tightening products will give you results that are remotely similar to what you get from any medical procedures including fillers, lasers, or cosmetic surgery. It’s important to know the truth about firming creams. They’re expensive, the results are temporary; and who wants to waste money?
Skin Firming Facts
- Elastin is the fiber that allows the skin to “bounce” back into place. The skin begins to sag when the elastin fibers are damaged. Combine this sagging with sun damage and the skin becomes like crepe paper.
- Elastin production in the skin diminishes as we age. It produces less and less until it makes almost none at all.
- Sun damage and the natural aging process degrades elastin fibers. Even with medical procedures, it is almost impossible for adult skin to make more elastin.
- Most firming creams don’t contain ingredients that can firm or tighten (lift) skin.
- Skin-care products containing collagen or elastin cannot help rebuild or reinforce these structures in your skin. The molecular size of both collagen and elastin are too large to penetrate the skin’s surface. So the collagen and elastin in these products cannot fuse with the collagen and elastin in your skin.
- Some products on the market claim that the collagen and elastin they contain are “micronized”. That means that the molecules are small enough to be absorbed into the skin. However, even if they are nano-sized, these ingredients still will not merge with the collagen and elastin in your skin.
- For the most part, products claiming to tighten crepey skin contain ingredients called film-forming agents. These film forming ingredients actually form a film on the skin that can make the skin “feel” tighter. The effect is temporary. The sagging skin will not be noticeably lifted.
Strategies to Firm and Tighten Skin
1. While collagen doesn’t help crepey skin bounce back, it does help support skin structure so that sagging is less apparent. The idea then is to build more collagen. To do this, use skin care products that contain potent antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients.
2. Daily sun protection with an SPF 30 sun protection product is critical. Sun damage destroys elastin and collagen fibers. Remember your face doesn’t stop at your chin so apply sunscreen to your neck as well as to your face.
3. Exfoliating daily with either a salicylic acid (BHA) or glycolic acid (AHA) product has been proven to help improve skin texture. In addition to smoothing skin, research has also proven that these ingredients build more collagen and, may also help firm the skin. There’s no need to use both; one or the other is fine. However, alternating them also is an effective strategy.
4. Topically applied Vitamin A, also called retinol, can help improve the shape of the elastin. Research has shown that it builds more collagen, and may also help build elastin. Applying prescription retinoids such as Renova, or a retinol product every night can help a lot.
5. Medical interventions such as lasers and other light therapies such as Fraxel or Ulthera have demonstrated remarkable skin-firming results. They have also improved crepey skin.
6. It’s time to consider cosmetic surgery when you’ve tried everything, and you’re not getting the results you want. There is a variety of face-lift procedures that can make a dramatic difference without making you looked “pulled too tight.” It’s essential to combine these procedures with an effective skin-care routine to maximize your end results.
Be cautious of “miracle” products. Skin care products that seem “too good to be true” probably are. Research products before you buy them. Before making a skin care product purchase, research the product and its ingredients. If there are ingredients that are unfamiliar, look them up to find out how they work.
Sources: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, September 2012, pages 1036–1040; Birth Defects Research, September 2012, pages 248–257; International Journal of Cosmetic Science, April 2012, pages 132–139, and February 2011, pages 62–69; Biomacromolecules, February 2012, pages 379–386; Journal of Cosmetic Science, March 2010, pages 125–132; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2009, pages 56–62; Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, volume 20, 2006, page 980; and Experimental Dermatology, volume 11, 2002, page 398.
* Madeleine Arena is a cosmetic chemist who develops private label skin and hair care products for the trade. Madeleine can be reached through her website – www.tscsource.com
Use the form below to send questions to Madeleine.