I’m going to disappoint you right now and tell you a secret: there’s no such thing as a non-prescription skincare cream that will reverse the premature signs of ageing (such as fine lines, wrinkles, “age” spots). The cosmetics industry can make claims such as “reduce the appearance of” the signs of ageing–because it’s a very vague and broad claim, and they’re not really making any real promises. Appearance is very subjective and in the eye of the beholder.
Always read the fine print in any print ad for a skin cream (follow the asterisk and read the tiny, microscopic print at the bottom of the page). It will usually say something like, “In a study conducted with 40 women, 80% agree that they saw a reduction or improvement in the appearance of wrinkles or fine lines after 4 weeks of use”–or something worded very similarly.
This is not a real clinical, double-blind, and independent study, but it’s done anyway to make you, the consumer, believe it’s very scientific and above-board. It’s not: we don’t know who these women were that this “study” was conducted on, we don’t know whether these women were employees of the cosmetics company or if they were paid for their participation, we don’t know if they were promised anything in exchange for a glowing and positive review of the product, and finally, we don’t know if the skin cream really did do anything other than a certain majority of these women agreed with the statement that they saw an improvement in their skin of some kind after 4 weeks of use.
In other words, it’s all just their personal opinions and completely subjective, it’s not measurable (despite the pictures, which can be, and very often are, manipulated and photoshopped) by any actual scientific means.
Skincare products are just that: products for the surface of the skin. Meaning, they don’t do anything other than provide moisture to the very top layers of your skin–and wrinkles are caused by unprotected and cumulative sun exposure (UVA and UVB rays), as well as a genetic disposition, and really, it’s a natural process as we age.
All those skincare cream “studies” cite 4 weeks, because it takes on average 4 weeks for the average person’s skin cells to turnover (the dead skin cells at the very top layer of our skin sloughs off and gets replenished by a fresh layer). This process slows down as we age.
Products with retinol will help to a certain degree (most skincare creams you find at the drug store or beauty counter that have retinol in them do not have the correct type or percentage to actually be that effective though) with cell turnover, but as I mentioned above, most non-prescription creams aren’t that effective with “reversing” or visibly reducing lines and wrinkles.
Another caveat: with prescription strength retinol (aka vitamin A), a couple of the side-effects is it can thin the texture of your skin, and makes it extremely sun-sensitive–so if you already have thin, fair, sunburn prone skin, I wouldn’t recommend prescription strength retinol for you. I am not a dermatologist, so please speak to one if you want to go the prescription skincare route.
If you want a good tip to help protect your skin from premature ageing, use a sunblock every single day, especially if you plan on being outside for at least 15 minutes or longer. This includes even during winter, and even if you’re mostly inside (but let’s say, you work next to a giant glass window, or drive in a car all day) because UVA rays can penetrate through glass and into the deeper layers of your unprotected skin. Also, if you’re lying on a beach, no matter how much melanin pigment in your skin, (i.e. whether you’re black, brown or already tanned), always wear a sunblock (whether you choose a chemical or physical sunblock is up to you).
The conventional wisdom with sunblock is to wear a minimum of 30 SPF. However, do you know how the sunblock industry conducts and determines the different levels of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and what that actually means? They use a 2 centimetre (less than 1 square inch) square patch of skin, and apply a 2 milligram amount (about the size of a quarter) to that surface area and determine how long it takes for the skin to burn when exposed to the sun.
That is a HUGE amount of sunblock applied to a miniscule amount of skin. No one would ever use that amount of sunblock no matter how judicious they are about protecting their skin from sun exposure, in real life. So my advice, is use the highest SPF sunblock available, apply at least 30 minutes in advance to let it fully absorb (unless you’re using a physical sunblock, in which case, you can apply immediately before sun exposure), and RE-APPLY every two hours (because the sunblock’s effectiveness deteriorates over that time).
Most of those fine lines you see on your skin, may not have anything to do with sun exposure or genetics. It can be as simple as you’re dehydrated. Drinking water helps, and you should drink whenever you’re thirsty (the 8 glasses a day advice is sort of a myth; it depends on your metabolism and believe it or not, drinking too much water can actually be extremely harmful and in exceptional cases even fatal to you–especially if you drink an extraordinary amount in a very short period).
Another thing to consider: exercise. It sounds like weird advice in a skincare/anti-ageing post, but I’m talking about things that will help retain the overall health and elasticity of your skin–the largest organ of your body. Skin is “held up” by the under-layers (I’m not going to be too scientific here in the description because you can easily look up epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis on your own), but beyond those layers of skin are the muscles that our skin covers.
Exercise of any kind will help with keeping your muscles and in turn, your skin taut and smoother looking. The type of exercise that recent studies have been demonstrably shown to help with reversing cellular damage, and therefore most effective, is HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training); you don’t need a gym membership, any equipment, and it can be done in as little as 15 – 20 minutes a day in the privacy of your own home.
So, while your skincare regimen will help with surface problems like provide moisture to areas that are drier, or reduce shine in areas that are more oily, don’t believe the hype and waste hundreds of dollars on a fancy cream because someone is telling you that it will help you look younger. It will help moisturize your skin, which is important, it may smell and feel nice to the touch, and make your skin feel softer and smoother in texture, but deep down, it won’t actually reverse any signs of ageing.
By all means though, do spend the money if you just like the luxuriousness of the product and want to indulge yourself.
Other than plastic surgery or injectables, you won’t be able to “erase” deep wrinkles or lines on your face (there are skin products that “blur” and seem to magically make those lines disappear, but they’re temporary–once you wash it off or stop using the product, there are those darn lines again).
Maybe the best way to look at it is this: those lines on your face are not a curse. They are an indication of a life lived and experienced to the fullest–with laughter, with love, joy, pain, sadness, grief, anger. It’s what makes us human, it’s what gives us a sense of our own individual and unique beauty–and every woman’s beauty is more than skin-deep.