Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cosmeceuticals: Anti-Wrinkle Products

Consumers are spending big bucks on a new category of anti-wrinkle creams and lotions — cosmeceuticals. These over-the-counter products include active ingredients that can affect the appearance of skin.

However, buyers should beware before investing too much money or hope in cosmeceuticals, advises the June issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource. Considered cosmetics rather than medications, cosmeceuticals aren’t subject to rigorous testing for safety or effectiveness.

While there are no guarantees, the active ingredients in cosmeceuticals can affect biological processes such as the production or breakdown of skin cells, which can affect the surface appearance of skin. Popular active ingredients include:

-- Retinal, a form of vitamin A and the first antioxidant widely used in nonprescription wrinkle creams. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals — unstable oxygen molecules that break down skin cells and cause signs of aging.
-- Hydroxy acids that act as exfoliants, removing the upper layer of old, dead skin and stimulating the growth of new skin.
-- Coenzyme Q10, a nutrient that helps regulate energy production in cells and may help protect the skin from sun damage.
-- Copper peptides, which can stimulate collagen that helps keep skin taut.

Some nonprescription creams may slightly improve the appearance of skin over time or protect it from further damage. But nothing — including cosmetics that have druglike properties — works anti-aging magic.

Consumers should keep in mind that over-the-counter products may not have a high enough concentration of active ingredients to have a noticeable effect. Expensive creams may produce no better results than inexpensive ones. And improvement takes time. Even prescription products known to enhance skin appearance take time to produce results.

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