The creators of most firming lotions believe that they've found the perfect combination of ingredients to effectively smooth out any unsightly wrinkles, lines or cellulite. The products all feature different ingredients, however, both active and inactive.
"There are [ingredients] such as retinoids, epidermal growth factors, cytokines, and peptides which have shown increased collagen production," says Wendy E. Roberts, M.D., a dermatologist in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "Typically, products are mixes of many compounds which synergistically work to reduce the appearance of sagging, lines and wrinkles."
Some of the products employ active ingredients that plump the skin to make it look tighter, while others strive to tighten the outer layer of skin to get rid of lines. Most make an effort to stimulate the production of collagen, which is a key component of healthy, young-looking skin.
Firming creams generally contain mineral oils, parabens (as preservatives) and fragrances. The active ingredients, however, are the ones that actually get the firming job done. Here are some of the most commonly used:
- Peptides are bits of protein molecules that, when combined with glycerin, results in increased collagen production. The many forms of peptides are popular in firming creams, and for good reason. Hexapeptides act as muscle relaxers, whereas pentapeptides and oligopeptides stimulate fibroblast cells, which are responsible for collagen production. Keratin is a blend of protein peptides. Neuropeptides are an even more effective option, but much more costly to produce than more commonly found pentapeptides; therefore they are found in generally high-end creams.
- Retinoids (chemical compounds derived from Vitamin A) are considered by many experts to be the most effective treatment, thanks to scientific studies. Retinoids allow new skin cells to surface faster and slow the breakdown of collagen as well as thicken the deeper layer of skin where wrinkles tend to begin.
- Alpha lipoic acid is known to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It also offers the added perk of being an excellent anti-inflammatory, which helps with annoying under-eye bags. Plus it promotes blood flow, resulting in radiant skin.
- Fat-soluble Vitamin C ester is renowned for its ability to stimulate the growth of elastin, which helps the skin retain flexibility. It also helps to boost collagen production.
- Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) is a nutritional supplement that acts as a muscle toner of sorts. In fact, DMAE actually keeps muscles from drooping or sagging, helping to effectively reverse wrinkles and lines and plump up dimpled areas.