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Not Always Skin Deep: Anti-Ageing Creams

We’ve always suspected that the adverts suggesting we can reduce our wrinkles, turn back the clock and look ten years younger are possibly trying to blind us with “science” when they say things like “clinically proven retinol formula”, or “opti-blur technology” (yes, that’s really a thing!).  They flash over-exposed images of happy looking women at us, all telling us how the miracle anti-ageing creams which they are advertising have worked in just 4 weeks/two days/overnight to reduce their wrinkles and how much more attractive and younger they feel.

The market is saturated (pun not intended) with creams and lotions that vary in price from less than £10 to as much as, well – hundreds.  And the adverts are always tantalising enough that even the most cynical of us get sucked in.  But many of the adverts have been highly criticised by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) for being misleading – a list which includes brands such as Avon, The Body Shop, Nivea and Clarins last year.  Two years ago Nivea’s ad, which showed a woman (62) looking incredible for her age, was banned when the ASA deemed the advert made her look younger and was therefore misleading and many of them skate very close to what is considered acceptable.

A lot of adverts use words like “appear to reduce wrinkles” and “proven temporary effect” to get around the legalese and ensure that they don’t get into legal trouble.

Despite this, millions of us are still buying them.

Somehow, no matter how informed and intelligent we are, we still get sucked into this ideal and some of us spend thousands of pounds a year buying these products.  And for our money, we feel like we’re investing in ourselves, get to put beautiful bottles on our bathroom shelves and apply luxurious, fabulously scented creams to our skin – many of which really do appear to plump up our skin (even if it is only fleetingly).  So are they really nothing more than pretty bottles and lovely smells?

Why they don’t work

Some creams do very little save for moisturise although the better ones also offer an SPF (one of the most brilliant tools for protecting your skin from ageing) but whatever they do – they only do it so far.  The skin is made up of layers, a bit like a mattress and these creams only penetrate the top layer (the epidermis).  The epidermis is made up predominantly of dead skin which we shed and every month we have an entirely different top layer.  So it stands to reason that anything effecting the top layer isn’t going to have lasting effects!  To change the skin, you need to penetrate all the way through the mattress.

And there’s a really good reason why these cosmetics don’t go deeper than the epidermis.  To make changes to the skin, or anything, will always carry the risk of side effects.  And no company can risk selling creams and potions that could have side effects – imagine their health care bill!

When Creams Do Work

There are some creams and treatments that go beyond the epidermis and most responsible sellers only make these available through medical experts.  The Doctors Laser Clinic use Medik8 whose products are able to go beyond the outer layer of the skin which enables the product to make lasting changes.  How this works gets quite scientific and the effects of some products can be explained in very fat books – which we’re not going to detail here!

Most of the Medik8 anti-ageing products use vitamin C, vitamin A, hydroxy acids and sunscreen but so do some other creams.  What makes Medik8 so effective is the way in which these are administered.  For example, vitamin C is highly effective (if you can make it work at all) but at it’s worst it’s extremely unstable.  It can go from being a really valuable anti-oxidant to a pro-oxidant (the opposite of what we want!) if it “goes off”.  So understanding how best to use this is crucial.  All of the Medik8 creams are formed to make sure that the vitamins they contain actually get absorbed by the skin.  With things like vitamin A, which help the skin to repair itself, it’s very difficult to get the skin to use it properly – the same for the unstable vitamin C which is an antioxidant that slows the rate of free-radical damage.  Where lots of creams can boast containing them, not many can boast the skins ability to actually absorb and benefit from them with use.

So there are creams out there that can make a difference.  But they’re not usually the ones in the shiny pots that cost more than a pair of jeans.  They’re seldom ever the ones that are advertised on TV/in magazines/on billboards with over-exposed smiling actresses, “normal women” or models.   They’re the ones you’ve been advised on, by specialists and doctors who know whats right for your skin and can make sure you’re not wasting money on products which will give you no benefit.

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