Every day I meet women who are seeking advice on what they should be using for “face creams.” This question invariably comes up during office visits, whether women are in our office to talk about skin cancer, acne or a rash. What most of them are really asking when they ask about “face creams” is usually the following:
- Is there a cream that will help my wrinkles?
- Is there a cream that will help my sun spots/age spots/ freckles?
- How much do I need to spend on these creams?
- Does it really matter what cream I’m using?
Well, the answers to these questions is yes; yes; not a lot; and yes!
Anti-Aging Creams: 101
There are two “face creams” that every woman should be using for anti-aging. The first is a sunscreen, and the second is a retinoid. I recommend these two ingredients for all people, for all ages, for all skin types, for life.
Anti-Aging Cream No. 1 – Sunscreen
The single most important anti-aging cream is sunscreen. Hands down. End of story. If your goal is to minimize wrinkles and prevent sun spots, you must wear sunscreen every single day—even in the winter. 365 days per year. Period. If you aren’t doing this, everything else you are doing is, to be frank, a waste of your time and effort.
I know this sounds harsh, but sunscreen is really that important! The SPF in your foundation or finishing powder is not enough. The SPF in your daily moisturizer is better than foundation. But, if you truly want the best results, you should apply a true sunscreen at least every morning to your face (and reapply if you are going to be exposed to any significant sun during the day). Remember, sunscreen’s effect only lasts 2-4 hours at the most, so if you put on a sunscreen at 7 a.m., by 11 a.m. its protective benefits are gone. Now, I realize that reapplying sunscreen to your face during the middle of your workday when your makeup is done is probably not going to happen. However, at the very minimum, it’s not too hard to add a sunscreen into your morning routine and keep sunscreen in your purse for those times when you are going to have significant sun exposure.
Choosing Your Sunscreen
The follow-up question that is always asked is – what sunscreen should I buy? Unfortunately there’s no one correct answer for this question. My best advice is to choose a sunscreen that has these elements:
- SPF of at least 30
- Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as its active ingredient
- Reasonable price (you don’t have to spend $45+ per tube)
- Feels good on your skin
One of my favorite sunscreens for everyday wear is called CōTZ. It has a silky feel to it that is completely different than so many other sunscreens, and it comes in both tinted and non-tinted creams for the face. It is available at the Avera Dermatology Pharmacy located in our clinic and it can also be purchased online.
Anti-Aging Cream No. 2 – Retinoid
The second most important anti-aging cream is a retinoid. Tretinoin (Retin A®) is the prototype retinoid. It is a prescription cream that has been used for acne for decades. However, aside from sunscreen, it is by far the single most effective anti-aging cream with quality research to back its claims. Effects are gradual but impressive. With time you’ll notice a smoother texture to skin, a more even skin tone, a decrease in fine lines and a lightening of sun spots. It truly does make a difference.
Finding a Retinoid for You
Generic tretinoin cream is available with a prescription for $60-$70 for a 3-4 month supply. Renova is a brand name tretinoin formulated in a moisturizing base that is also available. I recommend all women use a nightly retinoid for anti-aging. However, if you are pregnant or nursing, you should not use a retinoid during that time period.
There are many other anti-aging creams available at pharmacies, shopping malls and other specialty skin stores. You’ll see creams containing peptides, growth factors, anti-oxidants, and stem cells. Although these creams may be beneficial, they are often quite expensive and lack significant research. If you stick with sunscreen and a retinoid, you’ll be guaranteed good results without having to break the bank!