Consumer Reports

Checking anti-wrinkle cream claims

Nothing betrays a woman’s age more than wrinkles, according to the 12,699 Consumer Reports online subscribers who responded to a recent survey about aging.
For the many Americans determined to vanquish wrinkles, the market overflows with anti-aging lotions, potions, skin-care regimens and even body washes that manufacturers claim work magic on your dermal layers — in weeks!
But how well do they really work? Not very, CR’s latest tests show.
CR bought nine face serums, a product it hasn’t tested previously.
Serums, which are thinner and more fluid than creams, usually soak into the skin quickly.
Those tested range from $20 to $65 and are available at drugstores, department stores and specialty beauty stores such as Sephora or online. Almost all are claimed to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
CR’s results are similar to what it found with face creams and included these conclusions:
— Results were inconsistent. After six weeks of use, the effectiveness of even the best products was limited and varied from subject to subject. Every serum tested produced a visual change in wrinkle length or depth for at least one person and did nothing for others.
— Improvements were minor. When CR’s testers did see wrinkle reductions, they were at best slight, and they fell short of the miracles that manufacturers seemed to imply on product labels. The dermatologists who were consulted said CR’s findings weren’t surprising, since the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees cosmetic safety and labeling, doesn’t require manufacturers to test the products for efficacy, let alone test for whether they meet their claims, though claims must be “truthful and not misleading.”
— Natural didn’t cut it. Burt’s Bees Naturally Ageless Intensive Repairing Serum contained a laundry list of essential oils and no parabens or phthalates. And with a tiny bottle (less than one-half ounce), it was among the priciest products tested in terms of cost per ounce at $25.
Scoring the serums
CR’s test took place at an outside laboratory and included 79 participants, 67 of them women, between ages 40 and 65. Testers used one serum on each side of their face for six weeks, longer than the time their manufacturers claim it takes for the products to visibly reduce wrinkles. The products were camouflaged so testers couldn’t identify which they used.
Using a high-resolution digital camera, CR took photos of each participant’s face before the test, 20 minutes after first using the serum, and after six weeks of use. CR’s trained sensory panelists analyzed the photos and scored each one on the length and depth of any visible facial wrinkles. The Ratings were based on the extent to which the sensory panelists detected an improvement.
Two serums were rated as slightly more effective than the others: DermaSilk 5 Minute Face Lift ($40 per ounce) and Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle ($20 per oz). Interestingly, these two serums with the best results received fewer positive comments from the testers than the others.
If you want greater improvement, talk to a dermatologist about using a prescription retinoid (Renova, Retin-A and generic). Those products, which contain a potent derivative of vitamin A, remain the only topical products proven in large, rigorous studies to reverse the collagen loss that causes wrinkles. Retinoids can cause irritation and flaking.
Moisturizing and shielding skin from the sun are more important than choosing an anti-aging product, says Ellen Marmur, chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. “If you’re going to spend $100 a year on anti-aging, you should put all that money into sun protection and moisturizing.”