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I have a friend who told me that anti-aging cream cannot work to reduce wrinkles as it only penetrates x amount of skin layers and can never make a long term effect. Me not knowing much about how penetrative skin actually is, I was wondering if anyone knows if this is true and if anti-aging products are only working like a temporary moisturiser?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Bio. Your first sentence "...not based on whether anti-aging products actually work..." does not match with your concluding question: "...if anti-aging products are only working like a temporary moisturiser...". Be specific - what do you want to know? I certain compounds can penetrate deeply enough, or whether anti-aging creme is bogus? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 17 '15 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD Hi, you're right, I wasn't being clear. I've just removed the first line. $\endgroup$ – SaturnsEye Mar 17 '15 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ You mean anti-aging cosmetic cream in the sense that they remove wrinkles etc.? These cannot work, as they are not allowed to go deep into the skin, otherwise they would be classified as medical drugs. As such they would need licensed by the regulation agencies, undergo extensive testing and so on. These creams are mostly useless beyond moisturizing the top skin layer. $\endgroup$ – Chris Mar 17 '15 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris Yes that's what I mean. When you say "not allowed to go deep into the skin" do you just mean that the cream physically cannot penetrate that far down? $\endgroup$ – SaturnsEye Mar 17 '15 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @SaturnsEye Yes, that's what I mean. $\endgroup$ – Chris Mar 17 '15 at 12:31
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Since there are different formulations for anti-aging creams, it would be helpful to focus on the specific compound or combination of compounds.

According to a comprehensive literature review done in 2007, certain compounds (Vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin B derivatives, and botanicals) have had varied success in literature demonstrating anti-aging efficacy with Vitamin C and alpha-hydroxy acids being the better candidates.

Vitamin A/retinols have been shown to reduce wrinkles in some studies but no large studies have been conducted to show efficacy, Vitamin C has been shown to be the most effective (statistically significant improvement in texture, wrinkling, etc.) and alpha-hydroxy acids have been shown to increase collagen density, for example among other improvements. A lot of these and other compounds have had positive or encouraging results replicated in literature, on mostly animal and human cell models so whether they actually have a significant effect on a large group of people needs to be looked at but to assess whether or not they actually "work" depends on what issues of skin damage as a result of aging one is targetting, the severity, the age at "treatment" and whether you're referring to over the counter or prescription-strength.

Huang, C. K. and T. A. Miller (2007). "The truth about over-the-counter topical anti-aging products: a comprehensive review." Aesthet Surg J 27(4): 402-412; quiz 413-405.

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