Over-the-counter Products Offer Limited Benefit
Many of the anti-wrinkle creams and lotions you find at your drugstore or even at your high-end department store aren’t likely to do much to reduce the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles. That’s because they don’t contain the kinds and/or the amounts of active ingredients that can truly have an effect on sagging skin.
Some of these products can, however, help remove dead cells from your skin — cells that can “trap” make-up, making your skin look more wrinkled than it actually is. (Many women notice that when they wear make-up, their wrinkles appear magnified.) So by removing those cells, the creams and lotions may help your skin look slightly smoother. But that’s not the same as reducing the wrinkles.
Retinoids: Ingredients that Work
The only ingredients recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as having potential to reduce wrinkling are derivatives of vitamin A known as retinoids. The most commonly used retinoid is tretinoin. Developed initially as a treatment for acne, tretinoin was soon discovered to also help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It does this by inhibiting the enzymes that break down collagen and elastin in the skin.
Tretinoin is the active ingredient in such brand-name products as Retin-A, Renova, and Avita. All are available only by a physician’s prescription.
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Medical Skin Care Products
In addition to retinoids, there are some other products, available only through physicians (but not requiring a prescription), with active ingredients strong enough to penetrate the skin and perhaps change its physiology in ways that leave the skin looking less lined and wrinkled. For example, physician-offered ex-foliating products made with alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) (the same fruit and milk acids used in mild chemical peels) contain a higher percentage of active ingredients than those sold over-the-counter.
Ask your physician about these medical skin care products (moisturizers, toners, ex-foliants, antioxidants, and sunscreens). He or she will advise you on which ones are safest and most effective for your skin type and condition. Remember: Not all products are suitable for everybody.