Evening Standard Newspaper

Evening Standard Newspaper

CREAM OF THE CROP – Collagen moisturisers may make little difference, says Alice Hart-Davis, but there are some magic ingredients that do work

Face creams promise the earth but what really works? The latest chink to appear in the skincare industry’s armour comes courtesy of the charity Sense about Science, which has said that collagen moisturisers do not help strengthen the collagen network that lies within the deeper layers of the skin because they cannot penetrate the epidermis. (To really stimulate collagen formation, the skin needs to be zapped with radio-frequency, or traumatised with fine needles.)

Now that most face creams seem to boast some form of clinical “proof” of how effective they are, it’s harder than ever to know what to choose. Most skincare ingredients, however nice they feel, just sit on the surface of the skin until you wash them off, so which are the ones that do a bit more?

“There are very few skincare ingredients with robust clinical evidence behind them for improving the skin,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting (drsambunting.com). “There are retinoids, such as tretinoin, which are derived from vitamin A and which are drugs and need to be prescribed by a doctor.

“There is some evidence that retinol [a weaker derivative of vitamin A] can also help wrinkles, but how well it works depends on how much of the ingredient there is in the product, and how well it is delivered into the skin.”

Dr Bunting says there is good evidence that high-strength vitamin C, at a concentration of 10 per cent or more, stimulates collagen growth and may help pigmentation. “But it’s expensive because it needs to be properly formulated and well packaged, to keep it stable.”

Another group of effective ingredients are the alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), the best-known of which is glycolic acid. “These don’t act within the nucleus of the cell, like tretinoin does,” says Dr Bunting, “but at a high percentage, they may help improve the skin’s collagen and elastin.”

Then there are a couple of ingredients which, from anecdotal reports, look like they may be the next big thing. One is epidermal growth factor (EGF), a substance which speeds up the rate at which skin cells renew themselves (fine as long as you’re not applying it to cancerous cells, warn some doctors). It was discovered in a piece of science that won a Nobel Prize and is well-known for its wound-healing abilities; in a nutshell, it makes old skin cells behave, and replicate, like young ones.

Potentially even more exciting are nano-sized fullerenes, high-strength antioxidants which are so small they slip easily through the skin barrier into the deeper layers of the dermis, where they may have much more than a cosmetic effect at nourishing and reviving the skin. “Studies are under way on these ingredients,” says Dr Bunting, “and the new data looks promising.”

But then again, I often meet people with lovely skin whose only beauty secret is sleep, or water, or olive oil. What really works, as ever, is whatever works for you.

Alice Hart-Davis is the editor of New You, a magazine about the future of beauty, which launches this spring.

Link to Evening Standard Newspaper – Face creams promise the earth but what really works? – Shinso Essence