The truth about anti-aging ‘cosmeceuticals’

The best anti-aging product is likely sunscreen. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — They are the latest thing in anti-aging skin care, but are those pricey cosmeceuticals really worth the money?

These products contain active ingredients, but much less than prescription creams and serums regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Glossy magazines and cosmetic aisles in high-end stores are full of ads and testimonials to their value, but like anything else including chemicals, buyers should be wary.about those claims.

“These can work to our benefit and against us,” says Dr. Tina Alster, director of the Washington Institute of Dermalogic Laser Surgery.

Alster, who is also a professor of clinical dermatology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, says science has provided lots of great skin care products throughout the last ten years, including some cosmeceuticals.

But she adds “there are other ones that may claim they are doing something that don’t, or may have ingredients that could be harmful to us in the long run.”

Alster says some cosmeceuticals include ingredients that are not well known, and haven’t been around long enough to adequately judge their safety with extended use. Others include certain types of acids that can over dry the skin.

Among the acids most commonly found in over-the-counter creams are glycolic, lactic and retinoic acids — which are all found in higher concentrations in prescription treatments.

The problem, according to Alster, is many people tend to overuse cosmeceuticals, adding on layer after layer of product.

“I often see people who think the more is better, so they get stated on an active ingredient and they want to feel the burn or they feel like it is not working for them,” she says.

The bottom line is anyone who is going to cough up the kind of money needed to buy all those cosmeceuticals would be better off spending the cash on treatments under the care of a dermatologist.

“You don’t need to be putting on 20 different things a day,” says Alster, adding she prefers a simple approach to everyday skin care. She uses an antioxidant in the morning, and recommends a peptide cream in the evening that can stimulate collagen production.

And always, every day, use sunscreen. Alster says it is the best anti-aging product of all.

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