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What Are The Long Term Dangers of Wrinkle Cream Use?

Updated on September 13, 2012
Fountain of Youth
Fountain of Youth | Source

$114 Billion Industry

The anti-aging industry is booming and expecting to increase a whopping 70% over the next 3 years. In an article written last year, David Crary reported a staggering $80 billion dollar US market. Global Industry Analysts, a market research firm, is projecting that figure to balloon to $114 billion by 2015.

There are 70 million Baby Boomers, many of them heading into what used to be called the Golden Years. With economic instability, loss of jobs and retirements funds, those who may have considered retiring in past years have found themselves needing to revise their plans. In a society where appearance and youth are gaining as much importance in the hiring process as experience and education, more and more of those nearing their latter years are focusing on creating a youthful appearance.

Costs To Consumers

Though aging is a natural process of living, efforts to block its progression have been researched and practiced for centuries. In fact, evidence exists that plastic surgery was practiced as early as 600 BCE.

These days, most people are looking for effective methods of slowing the aging process through use of less invasive procedures, such as Botox or Dysport.

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 4 billion procedures were performed last year, an increase of nearly 8% from 2010. At an average cost of $330 per procedure which needs to be repeated every three to four months, it's no wonder the cosmetic surgery industry brings in $1.3 billion!

But what about those who can't afford to shell out upwards of $1500 yearly for the age transforming wonder? Since the discovery in 1988 that Vitamin A derivatives can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, cosmetics companies have launched hundreds of products claiming their creams to be miracle workers. The one thing most dermatologists agree on is that tretinoin ( a derivative of Vitamin A) is the only proven anti-ager for skin. It is also the only FDA approved anti-aging topical and is only available by prescription at an average cost of $230 per year.

The known side affects associated with tretinoin include skin irritation, allergic reactions, risks to pregnant and nursing mothers, and some drug interactions. But what about long term effects? Will it cause other irreversible damage?

Dangerous Long-term Effects

There isn't much data to support the idea that long term use of retinoids is beneficial in any way, though the possibility that topical use of retinoids may prevent non-melanoma skin cancers has been questioned for many years. Because there is so little data available, the US Department of Veterans Affairs sponsored a placebo-controlled, double-blind study in which 1131 veterans (average age 71) were to apply 0.1% tretinoin cream to the face and ears once or twice daily. Application was to last over 2 – 6 years.

The study was terminated 6 months early due to excess mortality in the treatment group. 108 deaths had occurred out of 565 participants in the treated group, while 76 deaths occurred in the control group of 566. The numbers showed a 6% higher mortality rate for those treated daily with tretinoin. There were significant increases in death rates from vascular, respiratory, thoracic, and mediastinal disorders (central part of the thoracic cavity). The question now being raised is whether the tretinoin might actually be dangerous for older people and those with certain health conditions.


So, what about over the counter anti-wrinkle creams? Do they work?

According to the National Institute on Aging, skepticism is the best weapon against being parted from your money for useless products, as “no treatments have been proven to slow or reverse the aging process”. Professor S. Jay Olshansky, University of Illinois-Chicago's School of Public Health, says “If someone is promising you today that you can slow, stop, or reverse aging, they're likely trying hard to separate you from your money.” He also says that getting a good pair of running or walking shoes, a health club membership, and eating more fruits and vegetables is the best way to age well.

The Mayo Clinic also holds that non-prescription wrinkle creams don't do much other than cost money. The few positive affects a user might find won't last long. And though some research has shown certain ingredients in drugstore anti-aging face creams might truly improve wrinkles, they aren't regulated by the FDA. As a result, they haven't undergone any in-depth research to prove effectiveness, nor has their long term safety been established.

The Best Solution is Prevention

While research has given evidence that certain nutrients improve the skin's appearance and health, most over-the-counter products do not contain a large enough concentration to make a difference. The majority of beauty representatives advise purchasing a cream with the highest concentration of active ingredients. That advice may lead to making a better selection for possible performance, but without any long-term studies to determine safety, another type of health problem maybe lurking in continuance of anti-aging regimens.

The best solution for achieving healthy skin is to drink plenty of water, eat healthy, exercise regularly, stop smoking, get plenty of rest and use sunscreen. The ultimate answer is to protect your skin; the sooner, the better!


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    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      6 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      One thing that I have definitely noticed is hydration, as you wrote and for me, any type of moisturizer. It doesn't have to be specific to aging. I agree that I want to grow old gracefully....just not too fast!

    • Terri Meredith profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Meredith 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Hi btrbell: Thanks for the read. I've used a few of these types of products, myself and have found one or two to actually help reduce the appearance of fine lines. However, since there are relatively few known facts about the dangers, I've decided it's just not worth it. I've decided I'll just grow old, gracefully. :)

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      6 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Great hub! Thank you for this comprehensive report. Even though, logically, one thinks it is too good to be true, it is amazing to see the facts!

      Up and useful!


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