When all is said and done, it seems like nothing is ever finally said and done. Research continues at a maddening pace into the efficacy of the anti-aging products we put on our skin.
Maybe it's because 8,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day (and we have a ton of wrinkles!). Maybe it's because as a group, humans are totally susceptible to advertising. Whatever, anti-aging skin care is an $8 billion business in this country. Count in the rest of the world and the amount probably doubles.
Just trying to find out what might work to make your skin look better turns out to be a journey down a long, dusty, and oxidizing road. The FDA does not regulate “cosmeceuticals,” as they are called in the industry. Individual brands conduct tests designed to produce results vaulting their own particular potions. Plus everybody is different and some folks might feel that a certain product makes their skin look and feel better than others do. If you're really worried about your skin, see a dermatologist and ask your mother what she uses.
I think a lot of skin doctors who are not on the payroll for a specific product are reluctant to endorse any particular mixture. Dr. Michael O'Donoghue, dermatologist with the Franciscan Alliance, was kind enough to point out some products that actually do have the kind of active ingredients that might penetrate into older skin cells and encourage them to act more like younger cells.
First of all, he says, “stick to the more heavily advertised brands like Olay or Revlon. They spend a lot of money testing their products, and they probably come closer to delivering than 'off-brands.' So far, none of the research I've seen shows any permanent changes with any of these creams. One break-through product might be StriVectin.”
StriVectin is a stretch-mark cream that was tested extensively in France and is now being used to reduce wrinkles. “The active ingredient is PAL-KTTS,” says Dr. O'Donoghue. “This complex improves the skin's health by enhancing the production of protein in the skin.” With more protein, the skin gets more plump and elastic (think blow-up life raft). It's available on the Internet. Another product containing PAL-KTTS is Oil of Olay Regenerist.
Retinol has been tested and proved to diminish wrinkles and helps skin cells produce new proteins like elastin and collagen. Dermatologists can prescribe the strong stuff, and will advise patients how to be careful not to burn themselves with it.
I asked some of my 60-something friends, who take pretty good care of their skin what they thought about miraculous new skin creams.
BARBARA: “Cheap vs. expensive doesn't seem to matter. The active ingredients are the key. Longevity magazine did a great piece several years ago about this. Retinol works by exfoliating the dead skin and leaving something behind to improve the new skin. I use Cetaphil to wash, SPF 30 day cream (not brand specific), a night cream after washing and an exfoliant once a week—and what do I know? Nothing. What does work is a professional facial one a month. It does make the skin peachy.”
MARIA: I just stumbled across this cake.facesoaping.com in New Orleans. The person who makes the soap also does these other products and she sent me the moisturizer when I ordered six months worth of soap. I have had tons of problems with moisturizer—cheap, expensive—whatever because they all seem to make me break out. (A doctor told me that having laser treatments probably made my skin more sensitive—duh, after I had laser treatments in his office.) When the Cakeface moisturizer arrived I noticed it was different, heavier than other moisturizers and unscented. Moisturizers I've tried usually have scents. You're putting it on your face so they want it to smell good. Anyway, it works and it doesn't make me break out. So I love it, I’m using it every day now. ”
JULIE: “For most of my life I've been either too thrifty or too broke to invest in high-end skin care products, however a couple of years ago I did buy $300 worth of 100% organic products from an outfit in the Bay Area called ‘Dr. Alkaitis’ (alkaitis.com) because one of my girlfriends is related to the good doctor, who is a chemist and plant product enthusiast. Aside from the name which is pronounced almost exactly like ‘Al Qaeda’s,’ I was tremendously pleased with cleanser, lotion and oil in this line. If I were to budget a couple of grand annually for skin care products I would probably start with these.
“Meanwhile, a friend of mine once told me that, in the low end, good skin-care products are pretty much all the same, but that Olay is a quality cut above the others, so I use those.” When all is said and done: any product that sounds too good to be true is probably too good to be true.
The beautiful red-headed woman-of-a-certain-age across the street uses olive oil.
Even as I write this I am about to become part of the $8 billion problem, not the solution. The ingredients in the products I want include olus oil, chondrus crispus powder, sodium borate, dicaprylyl ether, and hydrolyzed quinoa. Why? Because it makes me glow.
Note to Heather-with-the-Frye-Boots-from-the-Coffee-Shop—Call me.
Note to Self: If there is anything close to reincarnation, I promise to pay a lot more attention in chemistry class.