Skip to main content

Test Shows Pricey Anti-Wrinkle Face Creams Are Not More Effective - CHOICE # 453

  • 2014.07.15

The market is overflowing with anti-aging creams, frequently loaded with fancy claims of scientific proof in their advertising. How well do they really work? Are they worth it?

The Consumer Council has joined forces with the ICRT (International Consumer Research and Testing) in a global test on 32 anti-wrinkle face creams, 11 of which are currently available in Hong Kong market.

The test aims to compare the samples on their efficacy in wrinkle reduction and skin hydration. The 11 test samples varied vastly in retail price from a low $24 to a high $214 per 10 ml (or grams), a difference of nearly eightfold let alone the even more exorbitantly priced products existing on the market.

The results are most revealing to the beauty-conscious: the best overall performer was the second cheapest sample priced at $48 per 10 grams!

In fact, the test discovered that the cheapest sample ($24 per 10 ml) worked just as well as some more expensive ones in the samples.

Overall performance was based on: wrinkle reduction (50%), skin hydration (25%), users' appraisal (15%), and labelling (10%). The only top-rated sample scored 3.5 stars on a 5-star scale while 8 of the remainders were rated with 3 stars and 2 others with 2.5 stars (priced at $59 and $113 per 10 ml respectively).

It must, however, be stressed that product effectiveness may vary with climate and from individual to individual - even the most effective product that works well on one may not necessarily reproduce the same effect on the others.

Furthermore, there is, sadly, no miracle product sample that can dramatically smooth out all facial wrinkles, which after all are natural signs of aging, as beauty ads would have us believe.

To find out how well wrinkle creams really work, the test conducted in Germany in October 2013 to January 2014, used a combination of laboratory measurement technology and human assessment. Each wrinkle cream sample was tested on some 30 volunteers (Caucasian women aged 30 to 71 averaging about 53).

The subjects applied the test product and a standard moisturizer (with no wrinkle-reduction claim as a control for comparison), one on each side of the face, every morning and evening daily for a period of 4 weeks.

The analysis used for the assessment of wrinkle reduction efficacy was the Fast Optical In vivo Topometry of human Skin (FOITS), which measured the depth of wrinkles (Rz) and the mean roughness (Ra) before and after the user trial.

The results: no sample came close to effectively reduce the facial wrinkles at the crow's feet area (wrinkles around the outer corners of the eyes), after 4 weeks of daily use.

Among the 11 samples, 4 were slightly better in performance than the standard moisturizer; 6 others were similar, but one came slightly below the standard moisturizer performance.

On the other hand, all samples fared favourably when compared with the baseline condition (measured before the start of the user trial), in wrinkle-reduction improvement and, in some cases, comparatively significant.

However, to the naked eyes, the level of improvement in wrinkle reduction is generally barely visible after the trial as reflected in the users' own appraisal.

On skin hydration efficacy, a corneometer was used to measure the skin's electric capacitance before and after the trial. The higher the value, the more the skin is moisturized.

Only one, among the 11 samples, was found to perform better than the standard moisturizer. For the remainders, 6 samples showed no significant difference in performance to the standard moisturizer; 4 samples were slightly inferior.

All but 3 samples were able to produce skin hydration improvement to the baseline condition.

Results of the test attested clearly to the benefit of moisturizing in wrinkle reduction. Indeed a good majority of the anti-wrinkle cream samples in the test were found with similar performance as the standard moisturizer.

More tips in the choice of anti-wrinkle face creams:

- Study the ingredient list to avoid products with ingredients such as preservatives, fragrance, and fragrance allergens that may cause skin irritation or allergy to you.

- Choose products with clear expiry date (preferably also with expiration period after opening).

- Be careful of such claims as "dermatologist tested", "non-comedogenic", as different brands may have different definitions for these claims.

- Choose anti-wrinkle face cream with due consideration to the weather, skin condition and aspects of improvement desired.

- And to help keep skin health: take good rest and maintain a balanced diet, do not smoke, and avoid excessive exposure to UV radiation.

The Consumer Council reserves all its right (including copyright) in respect of CHOICE magazine and Online CHOICE (