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Hope in a Jar: Do Skin Creams Work?

New antiaging skin creams claim to do as much as a medical procedure -- but can they? Doctors explain.

Collagen Is Key continued...

Gordon remains dubious of the promises. "It is a big jump to say that what happens under the skin is the same thing that happens on top of the skin; I have not seen any conclusive evidence that this jump is possible," she says.

But that doesn't seem to stop the antiaging brigade. Still more attention has been focused on yet another entry in the antiaging category: products like "Wrinkle Relax" that combines two types of pentapeptide technology -- palmitoyl pentapeptide and acetyl hexapeptide, (also known as "argireline")  -- for a compound that may mimic both a wrinkle-filling shot and a Botox injection.

"Botox works by destroying a protein involved in the release of a neurotransmitter that would otherwise keep a muscle tense, allowing a wrinkle to form," Jamal tells WebMD. By stopping the tensing motion and relaxing the muscle, the wrinkle seems to disappear, she says.

The argireline complex attempts to mimic that same Botox action by blocking the action of the protein. It doesn't destroy the protein, like Botox does, says Jamal, but instead simply keeps it from connecting to the cell and turning on the muscle contraction. The palimtoyl peptide, meanwhile, works on producing more collagen. The end result, she says, may be similar to medical procedures, just much less dramatic.

"I think there is question of degree -- you have to think of not only the effect, but the magnitude of the effect -- plus whether or not any product has enough of the ingredients to actually bring about a change in your skin," Jamal advises.

Again, Gordon is less convinced. "Botox is a compound that clearly inhibits neurotransmitters, but you have to be very precise where you put it; isn't it a little frightening to think that you could get the same effect by smearing a cream all over your face? It really makes you wonder," she says.

Antiaging Skin Care: What to Choose

If you just can't wait until the jury decides, here's a sampling of  what's available -- and the active ingredients they contain.

  • Regenerist by Olay. Key ingredient: palmitoyl pentapeptide-3. Price: $18.00 for 1.7 ounces.
  • Strivectin-SD by Klein Becker. Key ingredient: oligopeptide palmitoyl. Price: $135 for 6 ounces.
  • Principal Secret Reclaim Anti-Aging Night Cream. Key ingredient: argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-3). Price: $40 for 1 ounce.
  • Wrinkle Control Intensely Lifting Eye Gel with Revolox. Key Ingredient: acetyl hexapeptide-3. Price: $19.99 for 0.5 ounce.
  • Wrinkle Relax by Doctor's Dermatologic Formula. Key ingredients: acetyl hexapeptide-3, palimtoyl pentatpeptide-3. Price: $75 for 0.5 ounce.
  • Anew Clinical Line and Wrinkle Corrector by Avon. Key Ingredients: Exfoliants that include apple root extract, saccharomyces/pichia petone (a yeast complex), pomegranate juice, and oxa acid. Price: $32 for 1 ounce.

Botox injections cost approximately $400 each, take up to three weeks to see final results, and must be repeated every four to six months. Wrinkle-filling injections cost about $500 per line and up.  They can last from six months to two years or more depending on the filler.

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