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Can you really have younger-looking skin?

On day three of our special three-part series, “Women's Health — Myths and Facts,” we take a look at the confusion about anti-aging products. There is an abundance of products all promising the same thing — more youthful-looking skin — and Americans are spending billions of dollars on them each year. Diane Berson, a professor of dermatology at New York Presbyterian Hospital, was invited
/ Source: TODAY

On day three of our special three-part series, “Women's Health — Myths and Facts,” we take a look at the confusion about anti-aging products. There is an abundance of products all promising the same thing — more youthful-looking skin — and Americans are spending billions of dollars on them each year. Diane Berson, a professor of dermatology at New York Presbyterian Hospital, was invited on “Today” to help us better understand anti-aging products and the secrets to younger-looking skin.

Hundreds of products claim to have “anti-aging” benefits or “wrinkle eraser” attributes. But do they work? Is there a magic potion? Can you turn back the clock and reduce the signs of aging? The answer is no, but Dr. Berson says that some of these products can help your skin look better.

A big buzzword these days in the dermatology industry is cosmeceuticals: Over-the-counter skin treatments that aren’t considered cosmetics or pharmaceuticals, and that are largely unregulated. It is estimated that U.S. sales of skin-care cosmeceuticals has reached $6.4 billion annually, and those sales are expected to grow.  

To help make sense of these products and sift through some of the chaos, Dr. Berson offers information on anti-aging treatments, so you can tackle the skin-care aisle with some confidence.

Three essential anti-aging products:

  • sunblock
  • moisturizer
  • antioxidant cream

Sunblocks

Sun protection should not only be worn for a day at the pool or at the beach, but every day. UVA rays (tanning rays) penetrate through glass. So even when you're sitting in your living room, car or desk, the sun can still add damage to your skin. Incidental sun exposure without wearing a sunblock — running across the street, walking the dog — adds up to sun damage over time. So the most important thing you can do for your skin is to wear sun protection every day. Overexposure is the cause of premature aging of skin, including wrinkles and blotchiness. Sun damage can also can suppress your immune system and lead to skin cancer. 

Lotions with an SPF of 15 block about 96 percent of the sun's rays, but those with 45 SPF cut out about 99 percent of them. That can make a big difference to someone who has fair skin.

Moisturizers

The big culprit of dry skin is sun exposure. You can't be too young to know this. The earlier you start the better! You should look for ingredients in a moisturizer like:

  • petrolatum
  • glycerin
  • hyaluronic acid  

All of these ingredients help prevent water loss from your skin. They bind water molecules and hold moisture in the skin. Moisturizers will improve the appearance of wrinkles by plumping them up. However, the key for these products to work is to give them a chance. More often than not, when women read about the next great product, they drop the one they are using and give the newer one a try. Use a moisturizer for four to six weeks to see if it works, before you invest in something else. If you switch from product to product, your skin will become sensitive.



Anti-wrinkle creams

If you've noticed fine lines, wrinkles, and blotchiness, try “over-the-counter”  treatments. If used on a regular basis, some products can improve the way your skin looks. Lotions containing antioxidants reverse signs of sun damage and prevent further damage. Antioxidants can help repair damage caused by the sun (wrinkles). Most people who use these creams do look better. But it's hard to quantify it because there's no FDA screening. 

Types of antioxidants

  • Retinol. It’s found in many creams, such as those offered by Neutrogena Healthy Skin, L'Oreal Line Eraser, and Roc.

  • Vitamin C and Green Tea. Used with a sunscreen, products that contain these antioxidants may help prevent inflammation.

Peptides or pentapeptides

These stimulate collagen. Products that contain peptides include Olay Regenerist, Estee Lauder Perfectionist, and Strivectin.

Expensive might make you feel better, but the key thing is the ingredients. With some products, you are paying for beautiful packaging — and why not if you want to? But you don't have to. Olay Regenerist Serum contains a high percentage of pentapeptides, plus antioxidants — a great product and it costs $18. Estee Lauder Perfectionist costs about $50, and Strivectin about $150! All contain the same pentapeptides.

When beauty product manufacturers market a product, they can make a claim — saying their product is anti-aging — without that claim being FDA-approved. An "effective anti-aging treatment" could simply mean the product is moisturizing the skin. There's no way to tell, except to find out what works best for you. And this can only be figured out by trial and error. 

If you are really concerned about your skin and over-the-counter treatments haven't worked for you, see a dermatologist. Dermatologists can give a prescription for stronger topical formulas, as well as referrals for dermabrasion and laser treatments.

Bottom line: Wear a sunblock, and you're already going to look better.