Anti-aging creams may have the unintended effect of transforming young women’s fresh faces from plums into prunes. According to two top British dermatologists, women in their teens and twenties who try to get a head start on Father Time by using anti-aging creams may actually accelerate aging, leaving their skin permanently damaged.
The Hollywood culture of youth drives the use of these creams. Movie star Scarlett Johannson, for instance, is quoted at the age of 20 as saying, “I already use anti-aging products. It’s hard not to feel under pressure—everybody in Hollywood is just so damn beautiful.”
The result of such pressure trickling down to the girl next door is that, according to recent research, approximately a third of women under 25 regularly use products intended for women over 40. These products can cause problems for young skin in two ways:
Over-40 products, which can be heavy and greasy, may clog youthful skin. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Dr. Susan Mayou, a consulting dermatologist at London’s Cadogan Clinic, said, “Eczema patients who use products that are too greasy often suffer from a condition called occlusive folliculitis—sweat cannot escape from behind clogged pores, causing itchy red bumps. Teenagers using a heavy product could suffer from the same thing.”
Over-40 products often contain retinoids (derived from retinol, a form of vitamin A) and AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acid compounds). Dr. Nick (“Dr. Botox”) Lowe, who maintains a practice in both London and Los Angeles, told the Daily Mail, “These compounds are included in anti-aging products because they basically break down the top layer of your skin, increasing the rate at which skin renews itself.” Young skin, he said, is more “prone to react badly to these active ingredients.” The result can be itching, flaking, and redness.
“If these teenagers are lucky, when they stop using the cream, these symptoms will go away. If they don’t,” Dr. Lowe said, “they probably need to spend more money on creams to try and get their skin back to normal.”
While the positive benefits of anti-aging creams may outweigh the negative factors when used on older skin, many experts in the health and beauty world believe they are too strong for younger skin. Helen Lynn, health coordinator of the Women’s Environment Network (UK), in an interview with The Independent, said these creams “can remove the outer layer of skin and increase sun sensitivity.”
Dr. Lowe agrees. “Because these compounds damage the outer layer of the skin, they increase skin photosensitivity, leaving skin far more susceptible to sun damage,” he said. “Anyone who uses a product that contains any significant concentration of these [retenoids and AHAs] is advised to ensure that they use sun protection every day. If you don’t religiously apply an SPF when using products like these, not only are you more susceptible to sunburn, but, ironically, you can actually cause many of the problems that you’re trying to avoid—age spots, uneven pigmentation and even wrinkles.”
Increased sun sensitivity is also a concern of Dr. Mayou, who told The Telegraph in an interview, “Eighty percent of wrinkles result from the effect of ultraviolet light on the skin. When we’re outside in daylight, even when not in strong summer sunlight, we are sustaining damage that we’re not aware of and which won’t show up for another 15 or 20 years.”
If young women should avoid anti-aging creams, what can they do to keep their skin young? “Simple,” Dr. Lowe says. “Don’t use sunbeds, don’t smoke and do use an SPF15 sunscreen that also contains proven UVA protection every single day. That’s going to be infinitely more effective than using products meant for women three times your age.”
Anti-aging cream fact: According to market research firm Mintel, sales of anti-aging skin products exceeded $1.6 billion in the United States in 2008. Anti-aging sales took a quantum leap over facial cleansers, surpassing them for the first time and leaving them a distant second with total sales of $570 million.
DQ's note: Be careful of sunscreen products, as many contain harmful chemicals and often block out the beneficial rays while letting the harmful ones in.