You can pay more than $100 an ounce for a wrinkle cream that promises to erase the years from your face, but spending a few bucks on a good sunscreen is probably a better investment, new research shows.
Those "breakthrough" anti-wrinkle creams now dominating department store cosmetics counters don't really work all that well, shows a Consumer Reports investigation that compares wrinkle creams. And neither do their less pricey drugstore counterparts.
Investigators found no correlation between price and effectiveness in the wrinkle creams they tested. One of the cheapest -- Olay Regenerist -- performed slightly better than the rest.
But none of the tested brands produced dramatic results in terms of reducing wrinkles.
"The fact is that using these products isn't going to make you look like the models in their ads, unless you are 27-years-old and have no wrinkles to begin with," says Nancy Metcalf, a senior projects editor at Consumer Reports.
Study Compares Wrinkle Creams
Americans now spend more than $1 billion a year on antiaging skin products, but most have no idea if there is any scientific basis for claims the products make.
In their first-ever investigation to compare wrinkle creams, Consumer Reports investigators tested nine products, ranging in price from $38 to $335.
Light-skinned women between the ages of 30 and 70 used the creams as recommended by the manufacturers on one side of their face for 12 weeks, while using a moisturizer with sunscreen on the other side.
Each cream was tested by at least 17 women.
An optical device designed to measure minute changes in wrinkle depth and skin roughness was used to evaluate the creams' effectiveness.
Photos were also taken of the crow's feet area of the women's faces before, during, and immediately after participation in the study.
Finally, study participants were evaluated by specially trained technicians, as well as being asked about their satisfaction with the face cream they used.
The investigation found only slight improvements overall in wrinkles for any of the tested products.
But each product performed better for some women than for others.
At $57 for the cream, lotion, or serum, Olay Regenerist was the top performing product, followed by Lancome Paris Renergie, at $176, and RoC Retin-Ox+, at $135.
One of the worst performing products, La Prairie Cellular, was also one of the most expensive, at $335 for an ounce of day cream and 1.7 ounces of night cream.
Active Ingredient Didn't Matter
Investigators found little relationship between the active ingredients in the products and their overall performance.
That surprises Florida dermatologist Susan Weinkle, MD, who tells WebMD that the active ingredient in a wrinkle cream is the most important factor in how it works.
Weinkle is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of South Florida and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.
She says products that contain the vitamin A derivative retinol do seem to have some effect on existing wrinkles. Retinol-based products are weaker versions of the prescription wrinkle cream Retin-A.
However, both the poorest performer in the Consumer Reports test, RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle, and one of the best performers, RoC Retin-Ox, have retinol as their active ingredient.
Weinkle says antioxidant-based products, like those containing vitamin C, green tea, or copper, may help prevent wrinkles, but they won't banish those that already exist.
For existing wrinkles, products containing hexapeptides or pentapeptides as their active ingredient may help, she says.
Olay Regenerist is a pentapeptide-based product, but so was one of the poorer performers in the test, StriVectin-SD.
Weinkle agrees that price has little to do with effectiveness when it comes to antaging skin products.
"Just because you pay more doesn't mean you are getting more," she says. "You really have to look at the ingredients."
She adds that wearing a sunscreen every day will do more to prevent new wrinkles than any face cream on the market.
"Wrinkling comes from ultraviolet light, so you can use expensive wrinkle creams until the cows come home," Weinkle says. "But they aren't going to do much good if you don't protect your face from sun damage."
SOURCES: Consumer Reports, January 2007. Nancy Metcalf, senior projects editor, Consumer Reports. Susan Weinkle, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of South Florida; spokesperson, American Academy of Dermatology.
By Salynn Boyles
Reviewed by Louise Chang