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Creme de la creams; And the good news is that you don't have to pay a fortune to keep your skin in shape.

BY the time most women reach their twenties, they've discovered a face cream that works for them and given it pride of place in the bathroom cabinet.

It's a vital part of any woman's arsenal against ageing. After all, laughter lines and wrinkles can creep in even before the last adolescent spots have gone.

Pregnancy and too much sunshine can change the look of your skin forever, and the bags and shadows from late nights, alcohol, and smoking can no longer be smoothed away by sleep.

So what does a girl do?

Do you spend a fortune testing out the billion and one products on the market? Do you grab every free face cream sample you can find?

Or do you take the plunge and go for a facelift and collagen implants?

If that last thought has sent you running to the mirror, fear not.

The authors of a book called Feel Fabulous Forever have tested 89 face creams on a panel of 1060 women - and the results are dramatic.

Out of all the creams on trial, seven were praised for improving the look and feel of the skin. (See Table 1 )

Co-author Josephine Fairley says each tester was asked to try different creams on each side of her face.

She said: "We were astounded. After about four weeks we got letters begging us to let them use their preferred cream on both sides because the difference was so obvious. The testers were worried they'd end up looking lop-sided."

Josephine and co-author Sarah Stacey asked suppliers to put their products into unmarked jars so that the women wouldn't be swayed by brand names. Some, including Clarins, refused citing "logistical problems". The testers were then divided into panels of 10 and asked to use their usual cream on one side of their face and the mystery cream on the other, until the jar was finished.

It took up to three months to complete the testing, but results were noticeable after just three weeks in some cases.

The products tested started at pounds 3 and went up to pounds 300. Some were highly processed, while others were full of natural ingredients.

Others contained skin-brightening AHAs (alpha-hydroxy or fruit acids) to create a glowing complexion.

Some of the creams were criticised for causing blotchiness, irritation and tingling. Some testers even objected to the smell of the creams.

The women then awarded each cream marks out of 10, with the top seven scoring an average of eight or more.

Sarah Stacey said: "This is proof that there really are products that reverse some of the damage from sunlight, pollution and ageing."

One of the most common questions about cosmetics is if price matches performance. And the answer is not necessarily.

The winning cream prices ranged from pounds 39.50 for 30ml of Nina Ricci Time Defense Extract, to pounds 8.50 for 40g of Neal's Yard Remedies Frankincense Nourishing Cream.

Sarah added: "From personal experience and testing, I believe some products really work. But lifestyle is vital. Creams work only while you use them, and where you use them."

Simple lifestyle changes, like drinking lots of water, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of fresh air, will benefit both your complexion and your sense of well-being.

Dermatologist Professor Nicholas Lowe and Polly Sellar, co-authors of Skin Secrets - the Medical Facts versus the Beauty Fiction, carried out a different type of test on high street creams.

They looked at 13 creams which contained the same active ingredients that skin specialists use, including Vitamin A, antioxidants, alpha hydroxy acids and sun filters.

They narrowed them down to a top five of Nivea Visage Anti-Wrinkle Q10, Vichy Lumiactiv (pounds 11), Plenitude Revitalift, Oil of Ulay Daily Renewal Cream and Neutrogena Moisture Day Lotion SPF15 (See Table 2).

Professor Lowe is quick to point out that good skincare is less a matter of what you use than what you do - and what you do depends on your own particular skin type and how it behaves.

He says there are four crucial steps:

Determine your skin type.

Keep your face scrupulously clean.

Keep your skin adequately moisturised.

Protect your skin from the sun.

He added: "The cosmetic companies want to sell you as much as possible. But there's a problem in that - it is better for your skin to reduce the amount of products you put on it."

Other golden rules include not smoking, and avoiding sun lamps and sunbeds.

Lowe said: "You don't have to spend a lot of money to look after your skin - you just need to be knowledgeable about it."

Skin Secrets - The Medical facts versus the Beauty Fiction, by Professor Nicholas Lowe and Polly Sellar, pounds 14.99, published by Collins and Brown. Feel Fabulous Forever by Josephine Fairley and Sarah Stacey, pounds 19.99, published by Kyle Cathie Limited.

TABLE 1 BLIND-TESTED MIRACLE CREAMS

ESTEE LAUDER ADVANCED NIGHT REPAIR (pounds 29.50 for 30ml, Debenhams)

Repairs at night and protects by day, with a very high dose of antioxidant ingredients. Has a cola nut extract and anti-inflammatory ingredients "to cut environmental irritation and long-term damage".

Testers said: "Loved how my face looked fresher."

"I'm more ironed on my face and throat."

"Didn't make a difference to deeper lines but smaller ones were improved."

SCORE: 8.4 out of 10

NINA RICCI TIME DEFENSE EXTRACT (pounds 39.50, 30ml, Debenhams)

Meant to have a firming, toning and oxygenating action, making skin smoother and more luminous, so it's targeted at skins that are dry, grey or wrinkled.

Testers said: "We were asked to use it on one side only but after five weeks, when my pores were closing and fine lines vanishing, I just had to use it all over."

"My skin was soft and plumped up."

"Fine lines on my top lip have gone."

SCORE: 8.4 out of 10

GUERLAIN ANTI-AGE 12M TIME RESPONSIVE CARE SPF8 (For dry skin) (pounds 29.50, 30ml, Debenhams)

Aimed at twentysomething plus to retard signs of ageing. Features caffeine, ceramides, vitamin A palmitate and a fruit enzyme.

Testers said: "There was a definite reduction in lines around my eyes."

"It smelled divine, and had a luxurious texture."

"Is it a coincidence that I've got three men interested in me?"

SCORE: 8 out of 10

VICHY LUMIACTIV (pounds 14, 50ml, Boots)

Created to protect the skin from damage - with UVA/UVB filters and antioxidants - and to rejuvenate with fruit extracts.

Testers said: "My skin felt softer after 24 hours." "I'm totally hooked and would like to use it all over my body."

"Fine lines have reduced."

SCORE: 8 out of 10

CLARINS EXTRA FIRMING NIGHT CREAM (pounds 37, 50ml, Boots)

The top-scoring cream, but the testers may have been influenced by Clarins' reputation. Available for all skin types. It includes essential oils of ylang-ylang and cedarwood. Hypo-allergenic.

Testers said: "My skin was velvety to touch."

"My husband commented on how young I'm looking."

SCORE: 8.5 out of 10

NEAL'S YARD FRANKINCENSE NOURISHING CREAM (pounds 8.50, 40gm From Willow Trading, 0141 357 3915)

A natural, essential-oil based cream containing wheatgerm, jojoba, almond and apricot kernel plus frankincense and myrrh, renowned for their regenerating and moisturising properties.

Testers said: "My skin looked colourless and grey until I tried this."

"After two weeks I felt able to go without foundation - something I've never been able to do before."

SCORE: 8.2 out of 10

DECLEOR CONCENTRE STIMULANT (pounds 38.65, 15ml, Frasers)

An aromatherapy-based oil featuring cinnamon, clove, geranium, thyme and essential oils in a jojoba/wheatgerm base, to improve firmness and elasticity.

Testers said: "I found the warmed oil very soothing and gentle."

"I have received more compliments than I have in years - especially from men!"

SCORE: 8 out of 10

TABLE 2 LOWDOWN ON LOWE'S CHOICE

PLENITUDE REVITALIFT (pounds 9 for 50ml, Boots)

Professor Lowe said: "It contains retinyl palmitate to increase cell turnover, antioxidants and UVA and B sunscreens - ingredients that dermatologists believe helps the skin look younger. It has no SPF value, so you should use a known SPF 15-20."

NIVEA VISAGE ANTI-WRINKLE Q10 (pounds 5.49 for 50ml, Boots)

Professor Lowe said: "Q10 was considered to be one of the most potent antioxidants so far identified at last year's European Academy of Dermatology meeting."

OIL OF ULAY DAILY RENEWAL CREAM (pounds 9.99 for 50ml, Boots)

Professor Lowe said: "This has an SPF15, so it can prevent wrinkles. It also contains a beta hydroxy acid which can help keep acne-prone skin clear of the oil and dead skin cells that contribute to spots. This formula should also capable of smoothing normal to dry skins."

NEUTROGENA MOISTURE DAY LOTION SPF 15 (pounds 7.50 for 75ml, Boots)

Contains high factor sunscreens and moisturisers. Neutrogena is highly

respected by dermatologists.

VICHY LUMIACTIV (Price, Table 1 above)

Professor Lowe said: "It has efficient sunscreens to absorb UVA and B sunscreens, and a variety of free-radical scavengers. It gives good daily protection."

GLOSSARY

RETINOIDS

Any Vitamin A derivative, including isotretinoin used to treat acne, all trans-retinoic acid (or tretinoin, Retin-A, Retinova, Renova) prescribed for acne and smoothing wrinkles to retinyl palmitate, retinol or retinol aldehyde for modest wrinkle smoothing.

ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS

Organic chemicals which include glycolic, lactic, citric, pyruvic, malic and tartaric acids. Often called fruit acids because of their origins, they are now synthesised for cosmetic use. They can help clear spots, smooth rough and dry skin, and brighten it if it has dulled with age.

BETA HYDROXY ACIDS

The only BHA in use in modern cosmetic dermatology is salicylic acid. Originally extracted from willow bark (the source of aspirin). It helps spotty complexions by unblocking pores.

ASCORBATES

Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, was first proposed as an anti-ageing treatment to inhibit age-related and cancerous changes caused by free radicals.

As vitamin C also aids collagen production, it was then used to boost a sagging skin surface.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Murphy, Rachel
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 17, 1999
Words:1652
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