HealthZette

And You Thought Wrinkle Creams Were a Waste of Money

'It's the ingredients that are important,' says one dermatologist — and these won't break the bank

There are few areas of our body that show our age as much as our face.

And when we actually take a few moments to stop and examine in the mirror the toll that time has taken — it can be a scramble to find something that might turn back the hands of time, or seem to, anyway.

If you want something simple, effective and non-surgical that won’t break the bank, where do you turn? What do you look for, and how much does that product have to cost?

“It’s not the price but the ingredients that are important,” said Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and the author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From A Top New York Dermatologist.” “You can get an over-the-counter retinol for just $20.”

Related: The Secret Messages from Your Skin

Here are the ingredients that Jaliman and Robin Evans, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Stamford, Connecticut, told LifeZette will give consumers the most bang for the buck:

Tretinoin. Tretinoin is “the single best anti-aging product researched in scientific study,” according to Evans.

It is essentially vitamin A, with an active ingredient of Retin-A, which is widely used to treat acne. Studies in the 1980′ demonstrated that Retin-A can decrease fine lines, help with sun spots, and improve the overall texture and tone of the skin when used over the long term.

Tretinoin is a prescription product, so one would need to see a dermatologist to have it prescribed in the best and most tolerable formulation and strength. One important note: It cannot be used safely during pregnancy.

Retinol. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and more suitable for those with sensitive skin. It helps to slough off skin and stimulate collagen production and is best used at night in a cream or serum, as it can make users sun sensitive. Jaliman recommends that it’s pair with a SPF 30 sunscreen in the morning to prevent UV damage.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it repairs free radical damage to the DNA and cells.

Niacinamide. This B vitamin is also known as vitamin B3. It helps even skin tone and improve fine lines and is a good choice for women whose skin has lines and some discoloration.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it repairs free radical damage to the DNA and cells. “Free radicals are missing a molecule. The antioxidant complexes with the free radical and inactivates it. This is a good ingredient to look for in an anti-aging cream or serum,” said Jaliman.

Lactic acid and glycolic acid. Both of these ingredients help slough off dead skin, soften lines and make skin smoother. These are especially helpful for those with oily skin. These can be irritating to some skin types, however, so use should be started gradually.

Peptides. Peptides stimulate collagen production and can be found in serums and creams. They are effective and gentle and are a good choice for women with fine lines and wrinkles.

Sonic Cleanser. “To put a skin care regimen on overdrive, use a sonic cleansing system to increase the penetration,” said Jaliman. A good cleanser vibrates dirt, bacteria and make up from the skin and is better than using washcloths.

Related: Veggie Beautiful Skin 

All of the above ingredients aside, a healthy diet over the course of one’s lifetime along with exercise and staying hydrated also help. Both experts emphasize, however, that the most important part of any skin care regimen is sun protection — rain or shine. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high concentration of zinc oxide is recommended as UVA rays damage collagen and elastic tissue which causes wrinkles.

“Minimize sun exposure, cover up, use sunscreen —  and don’t smoke. Both sun and smoking will age the skin more than anything else,” said Evans.

She added, “Anti-aging creams can definitely offer benefit to the overall health, quality and appearance of the skin — but not overnight. With continual long-term use and care of the skin, one will see that the ‘clock ticks a bit more slowly.’ Use of quality products is definitely worthwhile along with the continual and constant avoidance of sun and use of sunscreens to prevent photo-damage.”