From magazines and newspapers to web pages and online blogs, it is hard to miss the promises being made for products designed for beauty and skin care. And the most tantalizing promises of all? Those that touch not just our vanity, but also our fears of growing old.
It’s an approach that seems to be working. According to Euromonitor International, anti-aging products now account for close to 9.8 billion dollars of the skin care market. That’s a nearly 109% increase since 1997.
But is the drive to deliver on the promise of still more hope in a jar bringing us any closer to finding the fountain of youth? The answer, it seems, depends on whether you are looking for a trickle or a gusher.
“A lot of satisfaction has to do with the condition of your skin before you start an anti-aging treatment,” says NYU Medical Center dermatologist Sumayah Jamal, MD. If you have pretty much never used anything on your face, she says, you are probably more likely to see results simply because you are doing something for your skin.
And that observation, in fact, may explain at least some of the reported differences in effectiveness ― differences recently highlighted in a Consumer Reports investigation. Researchers found the current crop of anti-aging creams fall short of delivering on their promises ― a conclusion shared by at least some doctors.
“Many of these products are claiming changes in the skin that would automatically classify them as drugs,” says NYU professor and dermatologist Rhoda Narins, MD. “And they are not [drugs]. So it's clear they likely can't do all they say they do.”
But is it possible that the upcoming crop of skin care “miracles” may actually be closer to delivering miraculous results? Some doctors believe there are intriguing possibilities on the horizon.
Theantioxidant anti-aging promise
One of the major ways skin ages is through a loss of collagen. Collagen is a naturally occurring substance that helps keep skin looking plump, lifted, and line-free. Although Jamal says we lose some collagen because of the natural aging process, an even greater amount can be lost through environmental assaults, particularly sun exposure and pollution.
These exposures, Jamal tells WebMD, increase the rate at which a natural cellular process occurs ― one which releases molecules called “free radicals” into the skin. The link to aging? Free radicals attack and destroy collagen. When left unchecked, Jamal says, free radicals destroy the skin's support structure, and without that support, skin sags. Eventually, wrinkles form.
That is one reason why the up-to-the-minute ingredient generating the loudest anti-aging buzz right now is antioxidants ― nutrients that attack and disable free radicals before they have a chance to destroy our collagen supply. Some may even help increase natural collagen production.