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Do creams get rid of wrinkles?; SUPER YOUNG: TO LOOK YOUTHFUL YOUR SKIN HAS TO BE FRESH AND WRINKLE- FREE . . . VICCI BENTLEY FINDS OUT IF ANTI-AGEING CREAMS LIVE UP TO THEIR CLAIMS.

YOUTH

Anti-wrinkle preparations that promise to stop the clock are the cosmetics industry's firmest earners. Last year nearly pounds 6 million was spent in Britain on so-called age-preventing creams and treatments. But are they any more effective than basic moisturisers? Dermatologists agree that what your skin needs most are just two basic anti-ageing ingredients.

WATER helps maintain the skin's 60% moisture reservoir that keeps it plump and youthfully translucent.

SUNSCREENS protect against environmental damage. Other high-tech ingredients may offer a short-term fix, but can they live up to long-term scrutiny? Here's our Superyouth guide to the anti-ageing products . . .

SMOOTHERS

Exfoliating has to be the buzzword of Nineties skincare. Young skin naturally self-exfoliates by shedding its dead surface cells every 28 days or so. But older skin is less efficient and dead cells hang around on the surface for longer. Sloughing them off helps skin stay fresher and encourages new cell turnover.

These days, fruit or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) do the job that Buff-Puff used to, by dissolving the glue-like substance that sticks surface cells together so that they lift off easily when you cleanse. AHAs help prevent blocked pores, blackheads and ingrowing beard hairs in men.

Some experts believe these low-key "peels" are so efficient at boosting cell turnover that they stimulate deep-down production of collagen and elastin, which keep skin springy and wrinkle-free. But very acidic AHAs may cause allergic reactions.

Latest formulas "buffer" them so they're nearer the skin's own acidity and less likely to cause irritation. Tests also suggest that salicylic acid, a gentler beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), is safer for sensitive skins.

Dr David Fenton, consultant dermatologist at St John's Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas' Hospital, says: "AHAs have a peeling effect that can subtly improve the look of the surface skin. But I certainly wouldn't call them anti-ageing."

He says that even low concentrations can irritate sensitive skin, but the damage isn't permanent. If your skin stings, reddens, itches or flakes excessively, stop using the cream.

Products to try: Almay Time-Off Revitalizer Daily Solution (pounds 15.95), Ultima II Oil Free Hydrator for Normal to Oily Skin (pounds 16), MD Formulations Sensitive Skin Facial Cream (pounds 22, call 01268 723232 for stockists). Oil of Ulay Daily Renewal Cream (pounds 8.99).

FIRMERS

A facelift in a jar? We wish! Yet beauty firms claim their ingredients can store up the proteins that keep skin firm. Elastin is a synthesised version of the skin's own stretch and snap-back factor. As we age, elastin production slows and skin becomes less springy. In creams, enzymes block elastin-destruction and switch

production back to full par, so the claims go. But is it the right stuff? Dr Nick Lowe, dermatologist and senior lecturer at University College Hospital, London, says: "There's no point in increasing elastin unless you can prove it works properly."

Sun damage actually increases elastin in the skin's upper layers but the fibres are clumped, so the surface looks coarse and lumpy. Dr Lowe says: "What you need is better skin quality and elasticity. There's no proof a cosmetic can do that."

Skin-firming "instants" like soy-extract temporarily tighten the skin surface. Products to try: Marks & Spencer Face Formula Daily Elastin Firming Cream (pounds 7), Plenitude Revitalift (pounds 6.50), Vichy Liftactiv (pounds 15), Mary Cohn Nutrilift (pounds 48.60, call 01344 873123 for stockists).

NOURISHERS

Vitamins are skincare's flavour of the month. The Big Three are A, C and E, which help neutralise free radicals - lonely, destructive oxygen molecules that cruise the bloodstream looking for a partner. Free radicals play a key role in natural tissue breakdown, but sunlight, pollution, smoking and traffic fumes encourage them to over-react, attack and destroy cells. The ACE team neutralise free radicals by giving them something else to latch on to. Together, they may give skin protection against sunlight equal to a Sunscreen Factor 2 or 3.

Vitamin E is also a good surface lubricant that helps strengthen the skin's natural defences. Vitamins A and C help build collagen and elastin, but they have to reach the skin's foundations. Critics say these unstable vitamins would simply be destroyed on the way down.

The latest things in antioxidant skincare are cream and pill combis. But, says Dr David Fenton of St. John's Institute of Dermatology: "There is no good scientific evidence to suggest that vitamin supplements can significantly improve your skin or reverse damage."

You would have to be badly malnourished in the first place, he suggests. But there's no harm in taking anti- oxidants to protect skin from damage in later life. Products to try: Lancaster Suractif Alpha Retinol Cream (pounds 49), Helena Rubinstein Force C Daily Re-activating Fluid with Fresh Vitamin C (pounds 27), RoC Retinol Actif Pur Moisturising Anti-Wrinkle Day Cream (pounds 16.95). Cellex-C Serum with 10% Ascorbic Acid (pounds 75, call 01273 401605 for stockists).

SOOTHERS

Irritation, either from the environment and from reaction to, weakens skin's resistance and is thought to be another cause of early ageing. Experts say that to neutralise one small irritant, a lot of cells have to die and the skin's immune system becomes weakened.

New formulas contain "damage limitation" ingredients including bisabolol from camomile, liquorice, green tea extract (which is also a powerful antioxidant), vitamin K and aloe vera (also an excellent moisturising skin healer). But, asks Dr Fenton: "Why should normal skin need anti-inflammatory agents? If your skin regularly flares up, see your GP."

As a rule, the fewer added extras, the less irritating a cream is likely to be. "Basic cold creams have a cooling, moisturising effect," says Dr Fenton. "Avoid wasting money on expensive, top-of-the-range creams offering tiny amounts in elaborate packaging."

Products to try: Guerlain Odelys Perfect Care (pounds 29.50), Estee Lauder Verite Moisture Relief Cream (pounds 36), Prescriptives All You Need + for Drier Skins (pounds 32), Gatineau Serenite Anti-Redness Cream (pounds 26, call 01753 620881 for stockists).

FOR SUPER-YOUTHFUL SKIN DO use a sunscreen. Even on dull days, UVA-rays penetrate cloud and travel through glass. Make sure your regular moisturiser has built-in protection of at least SPF6.

DO exercise. Regular aerobic activity like brisk walking boosts the circulation and brings nutrients and a healthy glow to your skin.

DO eat well. Your balanced diet should include A, B-group and C vitamins to keep skin soft and moist, and strengthen tissues and blood vessels. DON'T smoke. It shrinks blood vessels, limiting oxygen and nutrient supply to cells. In every drag there are 100 billion free radicals, hell bent on destroying vitamin C and damaging cells. Puckering encourages wrinkles round the mouth and eyes.

DON'T drink too much - alcohol destroys vitamins B and C, leads to broken veins and triggers free radical activity. Watch caffeine intake too. It dehydrates and contributes to a blotchy complexion.

DON'T over-cleanse. Alkaline detergents damage the skin's defensive acid barrier, leaving it prone to dryness and irritation. Experts believe that chronically dry skin can lead to conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Use a balanced cleanser with a pH around 5 to 6.

DON'T worry. Stress and depression lower your body's natural immunity, and that includes your skin's resilience. A constantly tense expression deepens frown lines and robs the face of its youthful vitality.

HOW YOUR SKIN AGES

Your genes determine how you age - you inherit your wrinkle blueprint from your parents. But dermatologists worldwide agree that 90 per cent of premature wrinkles are caused by sunlight.

Sagging, dehydration, roughness and age-spots are also the result of environmental exposure. It used to be thought that only "burning" ultra- violet B-rays wreaked havoc. Now it's thought that tanning ultra-violet A-rays undermine the skin's foundations, distorting cell nuclei and causing wrinkles. You don't have to sunbathe or use sunbeds to damage your skin, although it helps. Many people forget to protect their skin in the garden or around town. Giveaway signs are the wrinkly V-chestline in women and "turkey neck" in both men and women. Although you can't turn the clock back to baby-smooth skin trials have shown that regularly wearing SPF 15 gives skin a better chance to repair some of the damage. And as sun-damage can take 20 years to become etched on your face and body, protecting children can save their skin as well as their health.

It's now thought that even a single dose of sunburn in childhood can trigger skin cancer later on.

SO WHAT REALLY, REALLY WORKS?

Sorry, but it's a drug. Dermatologists agree that the only cream clinically proven to shrink wrinkles and firm up sagging skin is tretinoin. This chemical cousin to vitamin A is the active ingredient of Retin-A and Retinova, prescription-only creams which smooth sun damage and keep acne under control.

"We do have good evidence that tretinoin improves collagen-production as well as signs of surface ageing," says Dr Nick Lowe of University College Hospital, London. Lasers, like the new, low-pain Erbium-Yag resurface lined, damaged skin, making way for a smooth new layer to form. But, says cosmetic surgeon Dr Anthony Erian: "What's the point if you smoke and sunbathe?" His advice? "Eat healthily, cleanse well with simple products and protect with a lightweight, sunscreening moisturiser." Looking after your skin before the damage happens is the best anti-ageing tip.

HOW AGE AFFECTS YOUR SKIN

YOUNGER SKIN Thick outer layer, lots of collagen fibres in deep layers to give the skin elasticity

OLDER SKIN Outer layer is thinner, wrinkled and more prone to injury. Fewer elastic fibres

HOW TO READ THE LABEL

COMMON SKINCARE

INGREDIENTS

Exfoliating Acids Glycolic, lactic and citric acids are all exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids. Gluconic acid is a gentler version, less likely to irritate sensitive skin. Salycilic acld, from witch hazel, is a beta- hydroxy acid (BHA) with a gentle exfoliating effect, often used in acne products.

Moisturising Acid Hyaluronic acid binds moisture in tissues, is vital to the skin's natural moisture factor (NMF) and is an excellent smoothing emollient.

Silicones These give moisturisers their "slip", helping them glide on evenly. Cyclo-methicone is a popular ingredient in firming gels, giving them a satin, rather than greasy glide-on.

Ceramides Fats found naturally in sebum which form a waterproof bond between the skin's surface cells. Creams containing ceramides claim to repair splits and gaps.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Bentley, Vicci
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 29, 1998
Words:1697
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