Sorry To Say, But Your Firming Creams Probably Aren't Performing As They Should Be

Today, there is a wide array of skincare creams on the market that have the word "firming" front and center on their labels. If you're concerned about signs of aging, you may immediately flock to these products, but what exactly does it mean for a cream to be "firming?" To ensure that you aren't splurging on ineffective skincare products, it helps to understand the skin's aging process.

Wrinkles and fine lines are natural parts of aging. While you might be most concerned with the ones that appear in visible areas, such as your face, they also form on the hands, forearms, and other places that have been exposed to sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) rays play a role in the development of wrinkles, but other factors do as well, such as environmental pollutants and smoking.

Generally speaking, staying protected from the sun is the most effective way to limit the development of wrinkles, but what about ones that have already appeared? While some people immediately turn to cosmetic surgery, you might be more interested in what firming creams have to offer. With so many on the market, it seems like there's a skincare product for every anti-aging need. Here is what you should know before you spend your hard-earned cash on creams that promise to firm your skin and turn back the clock.

What benefits do firming creams actually provide?

As it turns out, the word "firming" on a product's label might be no more than a marketing tactic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers creams and lotions to be cosmetics, which means that they are not considered to have any medical value. Furthermore, they are less regulated and not evaluated by the FDA — this suggests that when a company sells a product as "firming," there may not be any hard evidence to back up the claim.

When shopping for an anti-aging cream, go into the process with the understanding that what is being sold over the counter does not have prescription-strength ingredients. While this doesn't mean you won't see any benefits, you shouldn't expect your fine lines to miraculously melt away. Some ingredients commonly seen in firming creams include retinoids (vitamin A compounds), hydroxy acids, peptides, and vitamin C. Depending on the formulation, the product you choose may offer different benefits. However, many of them can only provide topical skin benefits.

To smooth out wrinkles, some people turn to cosmetic surgical procedures. These include dermabrasion, face lifts, and laser surfacing — needless to say, they are more invasive than any firming cream. Furthermore, they can cost a pretty penny and often come with a required recovery period. Before bailing entirely on the idea of anti-aging products, it could be worth reexamining the potential topical benefits.

Ingredients to look for on firming cream labels

If you're on the hunt for a new firming cream that isn't a complete dud, there are a few ingredients you should seek out on product labels. Retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A, have skyrocketed in popularity within the skincare industry. The idea behind using a retinoid-based product is to stimulate the production of collagen within your skin. This not only helps it retain its elasticity but also combats the appearance of wrinkles.

Vitamin C is another ingredient that is commonly included in anti-aging skincare products. When used, it is thought to brighten the skin while reversing damage from environmental pollutants, as well as UV rays. Similarly, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) can potentially heal skin damage caused by the sun.

Peptides may also pop up on labels as you're browsing the wide range of anti-aging firming creams. These are groups of amino acids that can help with collagen production. Lastly, you might want to take a closer look at products that include hyaluronic acid. This ingredient can be especially beneficial if your skin is dehydrated, as it helps it retain moisture. Hyaluronic acid can potentially plump up the appearance of your skin, masking existing fine lines and wrinkles.

Can natural remedies help combat signs of aging?

Some ingredients that go into firming creams sound more like chemicals, which might make you cringe. If you prefer to go the natural route when it comes to your skincare routine, there are a few items you may want to consider.

Aloe vera, for example, has been lauded for its healing properties for ages. A 2015 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology looked at how aloe vera supplements could provide benefits when ingested orally. Researchers concluded that the supplements effectively reduced the appearance of fine lines. Additionally, it was found to boost collagen and rehydrate the skin. While most research focuses on the effects of ingesting aloe vera, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence pointing to the wrinkle-reducing benefits of applying aloe vera topically as well, per Healthline.

Eggs are also thought to be beneficial if you're looking to mask wrinkles — particularly the membrane that separates the egg from the shell. A 2016 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology examined how egg membranes could affect the skin. Participants who applied an egg membrane-infused cream to their skin over eight weeks saw less depth in their existing wrinkles. Furthermore, it seemed to increase their collagen production, which improves the skin's elasticity.

Before trying any home remedies, speak to your doctor or dermatologist about your skincare concerns. They may be able to point you toward a safe, healthy option that works for what you're trying to achieve.

How to integrate a firming cream into your skincare routine

Once you've found a firming cream that you're comfortable with purchasing, it's time to integrate it into your daily skincare routine. How you apply the product is essential to ensuring you get the most out of its potential benefits.

Generally speaking, it's always best to wait until your skin is damp to apply any anti-aging products. Creams that include ingredients such as antioxidants and retinoids, can penetrate your skin more easily when it's damp. In turn, you'll be getting the most out of the product. One exception to this rule is that if you have particularly sensitive skin — if this is the case, pat your face dry and wait a few minutes before applying the cream. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor or dermatologist before using a new skincare product if you feel any uncertainty. This may be a necessary step if you know you have sensitive skin or you're prone to topical allergic reactions.

When you're working with a cream (as opposed to a lotion or serum), keep its texture in mind as well. There's a good chance that if you're applying the product to a smaller area, such as your neck or face, you'll only need a pea-sized amount for adequate coverage. Just be sure that you cover the entire area — a "pea-sized" amount may differ for you, depending on where you're using the firming cream.

How to maintain healthy, youthful-looking skin

Whether you already have fine lines or you're trying to prevent them from forming, there's no better time to start taking care of your skin than now. Even if signs of aging are not a top concern for you, caring for your skin can help you combat the effects of everything from pollutants to UV rays.

One of the easiest ways to keep your skin looking youthful is to be mindful of the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends wearing sunscreen daily for UV protection — specifically, look for a product that is marked as broad-spectrum and SPF 30 or higher. You can also wear sun-protective clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor label. In addition to reducing the development of wrinkles, you'll also be cutting your risk of skin cancer.

Making hydration a priority can keep fine lines at bay, too. Dehydrated skin can increase the risk of damage, meaning it's best to keep it as moisturized as possible. Lotion can help your skin retain moisture, especially on your face. Be mindful of cleansers, exfoliants, and soaps you use on your skin as well. Products that include ingredients that are too harsh for your skin can cause dehydration and damage.

If you're not seeing the results you desire from firming creams, talk to your doctor about alternative options. They may refer you to a dermatologist who can discuss everything from cosmetic procedures to prescription products.