While any good skin care treatment will help dryness, only a few can actually renew your complexion.
By Linda Foster | Medically reviewed by Stefan B. Craig, MA, MD
Walk through any drugstore or department store aisle, and you’ll see dozens of skin cream options that promise to erase wrinkles, eliminate dryness, and bring back that youthful glow. Some creams are highly specialized, while others focus on treating a specific issue.
Most skin creams with a rich texture will soothe dryness, but there are many that say they can reverse the signs of aging — and that’s where you need to be careful. Fortunately, some skin creams do what they promise and deliver that healthy, youthful glow everyone wants.
But with so many to choose from, how do you know that you’re picking the best cream for your needs? Before you start shopping, learn more about the ingredients that you should be looking for on the labels.
Common Skin Cream Ingredients
- Retin-A and Renova. Some of the more popular beauty-counter skin creams include an ingredient called retinol, a form of Vitamin A. However, the only form of Vitamin A that has been proven to be effective as an anti-wrinkle agent is called tretinoin, and it’s only available as a prescription. It comes in two formulas: Retin-A and Renova.Scott Gerrish, MD, founder and CEO of Gerrish & Associates, PC, describes collagen as “the skin fibers that give your skin support and its plump, youthful look.” Retin-A and its sister formula Renova actually stimulate collagen growth, plus increase the thickness of your skin, skin-cell turnover, and the flow of blood to your skin.
First used to treat acne more than 30 years ago, Retin-A was created by dermatologist Albert M. Kligman, MD, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Dr. Kligman’s older acne patients reported that their skin was not only clear, but more youthful after using it — an amazing side effect of the formula.
Because Retin-A was aimed at people with oily skin and breakouts, it was drying to older complexions. Renova was developed in the 1990s to deliver the same anti-aging effects in a cream base without the side effect of dryness.
A physician has to prescribe the right formula for your skin type and give you careful instructions for proper use. Either version can costs over $100 for a tube, but because only a pea-sized amount is used at a time, it lasts for months and, unlike some skin creams that cost hundreds more, it’s a skin care treatment that works. Dr. Gerrish adds this caution when using either Retin-A or Renova, “Make sure you use a sunscreen daily as it will make your skin more sensitive to the sun.”
- Vitamin C. Skin creams treat and affect the epidermis, which is the thin, outer layer of the skin that protects the underlying dermis, where your body makes collagen. “Skin creams with a high level of vitamin C help your skin produce collagen and can make your skin look brighter,” says Gerrish. “But in order to penetrate the epidermis and affect the dermis, the vitamin C has to be formulated as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, or MAP.” Look for products with MAP on the label, such as Isomers Vitamin C Serum MAP + E.
- Hydroxy acid formulas. Skin creams that contain one of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) offer exfoliation and moisturizing benefits. Says Gerrish, “The glycolic acid family, one of the AHAs, has been further studied and aside from its beneficial effects on the epidermis, with a high concentration of 25 percent, glycolic acids improve the quality of collagen and elastic fibers, improving the dermis and brightening your skin, too.” Over-the-counter concentrations are not quite that strong, but Glytone Rejuvenate Facial Cream 3 and Neostrata Face Cream Plus – AHA 15 are two to consider.
- Peptides. The latest skin cream on the horizon packs peptides inside. “Collagen cannot penetrate the epidermis; however, peptides are small pieces of collagen that can penetrate it and reach the dermis, the layer where collagen is actually produced.” Peptide creams now available on the market contain Matrixyl or the Argireline molecule. “Another positive of Argireline is its relaxing effect on facial muscles, which reduces wrinkles,” states Gerrish. Faitox-25 contains both Matrixyl and Argireline, and Peptide 6 Wrinkle Cream has Argireline.
“All people can benefit from a good skin cream,” says Gerrish. To help you choose between over-the-counter options, he sums it up this way: “Those with dry skin benefit from the moisture-preserving Vitamin C creams. If your skin is oily, look toward the retinol and glycolic acid creams, which have a beneficial exfoliating and acne-preventing effect. Young people can also benefit from the Vitamin C creams, which preserve moisture in the skin. And everyone should wear a good sunscreen daily.”
A number of skin creams have been proven to help keep your skin looking younger. While none can totally eliminate the aging process, the most effective ones can slow it down and help you look your best.