No magic cream

You don’t need an anti-wrinkle formula to look young, a regular routine of sunscreen and moisturiser will suffice. Swachchhasila Basu has the story 

  • Published 15.11.17
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Sreyashi Sarkar was not much into skincare but after turning 40, she got worried about her ageing skin. A neighbourhood chemist sugges-ted an anti-wrinkle cream and Sarkar promptly bought it. After a couple of weeks, her skin had not improved but her hair became silky — the ones sprouting all over her face. The dermatologist said it was a reaction to the steroid in the new cream.

“The creams lead to thinning of skin, itching, acne, pimples, unwanted hair. Steroid has an addictive property too and is giving India topical steroid-dependent damaged face,” says Dr Koushik Lahiri, Calcutta-based dermatologist.

Should we be using anti-ageing creams at all? Not the medical ones without a doctor’s prescription. Says Dr Lahiri, “You might know that a certain product has an anti-wrinkle ingredient but, unknown to you, another component might be a harmful steroid. It is best to know what you are applying.” 

There have been many studies on ageing and recent research has brought a closer understanding of the mechanisms of ageing. Our skin looks old because it gets dehydrated with age and wrinkles are formed because the collagen fibres lose elasticity. No study has found any evidence that the various anti-ageing and rejuvenating creams, lotions or vitamin supplements in the market actually heal or reverse ageing.

“What most of these creams do is that they moisturise your skin, leading to a better look and feel,” says Dr Sanjoy Ghosh. “They also include suncreen lotion that protects your skin from photo ageing,” says the medical director of the Institute of Allergic and Immunologic Skin Diseases, Calcutta. “A sunscreen is necessary not only outdoors but also in front of computers, bright light, TV, cooking gas. Even on rainy or cloudy days,” he continues.

What about those creams that claim to have collagen? There is no proof that applying collagen on your skin repairs wrinkles. “A cream with retinol is expensive but very effective if the skin has begun showing signs of ageing,” says Dr Ghosh. Retinol helps prevent collagen tissue lose its elasticity.

Dr Lahiri agrees that retinol helps in maintaining the thickness of skin and has anti-ageing properties in low concentrations. So if you want a cream that will help maintain your skin, use the one with a reasonable SPF, moisturiser and retinoids.

The other things that help maintain good skin are antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. Dr Lahiri points out, “Vitamin A or E creams are quite popular. But it has not been proven so far that they can be beneficial when used externally. The molecular sizes of these vitamins are larger than the pores of the skin. So, it is unlikely that they’ll penetrate the skin and help.”

Eating fruits do help as does applying the pulp on skins, especially those with antioxidants. “Ripe, yellowish fruits are natural antioxidants,” says Dr Ghosh who believes that anti-ageing creams are only as useful as natural home remedies —  such as applying cucumber under your eyes or honey on your face.

“The best way to keep your skin looking young is to avoid the factors that age skin,” says Dr Ghosh.

So what does age skin? Smoking, exposure to sunlight, heat, grime, pollution, stress and an unhealthy lifestyle hasten the process of ageing that is otherwise dependent on race and genetics. You can’t change your genes but you can make changes in your lifestyle. So, for a young and glowing skin, quit smoking, ensure you eat healthy, drink enough water, have a daily helping of fresh seasonal fruits and avoid stress. The next step is using a sunscreen religiously and moisturising according to skin type.

If you put in place your skincare routine — cleansing, toning, moisturising and applying sunscreen — in your 20s, you will not need anti-ageing creams. Even if you haven’t, it is never too late to start. And yes, it will be probably more effective than any magic cream.

Stay young

Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Re-apply every four hours even if just sitting in front of the computer all day. Monitors too emit radiation

Moisturise regularly. An ideal one should not contain fragrance, paraben and the moisturising agent lanolin. It should also be non-greasy and non-comedogenic, that is, it should not block pores

Quit smoking. Nothing ages your skin like a cigarette

Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and plump

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