Can a cream really work as well as a face-lift?

attractive brunette woman lying on white background
Look for face creams that include proven, active ingredients, like retinoids. See more getting beautiful skin pictures.
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Plenty of anti-aging cream manufacturers tout their products as face-lifts in bottle form. If that were true, it would be nothing short of a miracle. After all, creams are much cheaper and less invasive than surgical face-lifts, and you can use them from the comfort of your own home. All things being equal, who wouldn't choose the less expensive, less risky option?

The reality, however, is that all things aren't equal, and no cream will give you the same result as a face-lift [source: AAD]. That's probably why plastic surgeons keep doing so many of those procedures. However, there are possible downsides to cosmetic surgery, too: You've probably seen pictures of a botched or artificial-looking face-lift, in which the patient actually ends up looking worse than she did before the surgery [source: Ellin]. That's where the advantage to using creams comes in. Because creams can't work as dramatically or invasively as a face-lift, they also don't have nearly as much potential to cause painful and lasting side effects. And the positive results that you do get, while being less dramatic, will often look much more natural from a cream.


Another advantage to creams is that they can provide additional, perhaps unexpected, benefits to your skin. Surgery can tighten the skin by pulling it, but it can't improve the overall texture of your skin. Face-lift creams may continually exfoliate and moisturize while reducing the appearance of pores and wrinkles -- things a surgical face-lift can't do [source: MayoClinic].

When evaluating creams, looking for those that contain antioxidants and natural extracts can be a good place to start [source: Jones]. But if you want to see significant results, tried-and-true active ingredients, like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids and peptides, are essential. Some of these agents can promote the growth of collagen, which has the power to reduce the appearance of fine lines [source: AAD: 10 Tips].

Creams will not give you the same, dramatic results as surgery. But in some ways, that's not a bad thing. A cream won't remove all the wrinkles, droops and sags that surgery can, but you may improve your skin just the same, and you won't run the risk of looking artificial. The choice of which path is better, of course, is up to you.

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  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists Dispel Common Myths About Age-fighting Topicals." June 17, 2009. (accessed 8/11/09)
  • The American Academy of Dermatology. "10 Tips: Selecting Age-Fighting Topicals." June 17, 2009. (accessed 8/4/2009)
  • Ellin, Abby. "Want a Facelift? First, Better Stop Smoking." Aug. 13, 2008. (accessed 8/11/09)
  • Jackson, Samantha. "Facelift Cream or Surgery? Making the Right Choice." America Chronicle. 11/17/2008. (Accessed 7/28/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkle Creams: Your Guide to Younger Looking Skin." Oct. 11, 2008. (accessed 8/12/09)