Anti wrinkle or anti-aging products are the most lucrative segment of the cosmetics industry and yet not a single over-the-counter product, making anti-aging claims, has a shred of published data or research to back up its marketing claims. Not one.
Don't be fooled by the "clinical studies" done by the brands selling these products. These "studies" are nothing more than marketing gimmicks designed to create a sense of science around the products.
Let me be clear—there is no topical, over-the-counter product that can reverse, erase, or otherwise remove a wrinkle from the skin once it is formed. Not one.
First, let's look at what a wrinkle is:
Teachnically called a rhytide, wrinkles are the result of some very complex biological processes. There are several actions in play that result in the formation of a wrinkle.
1. Glycation: which is the bonding of proteins or lipids to sugar molecules in the body. This is a natural process of chronological ageing and not something that can be stopped. When glycation happens the actual skin cell production slows dramatically and this process speeds exponentially as we age.
2. Loss of fat from the dermal tissue and increase in thickness of the epidermal tissue. Dermal tissue is the living skin tissue—it's where we store all our elastin and collagen. As we chronologically age this layer of skin become very thin thus the skin has less strength and spring. The epidermal tissue is the dead layer of skin and as it thickens the skin support structure becomes compressed. Both of these processes happen in tandem and are a fact of ageing.
3. Collagen cross links decrease in production as we chronologically age. This means the actual support structure of the skin is diminished and folds and depressions form as a result.
So what does this mean in regard to anti-wrinkle creams? Don't they all say they can correct these very biological processes? Well they do, sort of. Look at the marketing language on any anti-wrinkle cream and you will notice it comes just shy of actually saying it can erase a wrinkle. Lots of caveat words are used: "reduces the appearance of a wrinkle," "women reported the felt their wrinkles were diminished," "the most potent anti-wrinkle product ever created by _________." None of these claims actually say a wrinkle can be erased.
Here is why an over the counter product cannot make the actual claim:
1. By definition of law over-the-counter products cannot have a physiological effect on the body. That means they cannot change the natural biological processes of the skin. Wrinkles are formed based on natural biological processes.
2. Over the counter products cannot build volume in the skin. This is because they only penetrate the very top layers of the skin (again because any deeper and they would no longer be a cosmetic). This means an OTC cannot increase the volume of the dermal tissue.
3. Adding collagen to the surface of the skin will not build collagen in the actual tissue. Collagen on the surface of the skin will hydrate but has absolutely no relationship to the development of collagen cross links.
Over-the-counter anti-wrinkle creams and serums have absolutely no ability to change the depth, severity, or formation of a wrinkle. Not a single one of them on the market.