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What to do if nothing seems to improve your wrinkles

I often hear people saying something like this: "I've tried numerous skin care creams and serums to improve my wrinkles, and none made even a tiny bit of a difference. Just money down the drain. The entire skin care industry is one giant money-sucking scam."

I understand the frustration. Today's skin care market is confusing, expensive and saturated with hype. And, indeed, many products are ineffective. However, it would be unfair to say that all of the treatments on the market are totally useless. While I wouldn't relieve skin care industry of all the blame (especially for some of its pricing policies), some responsibility lies with the consumers. Before you say that nothing works, make sure that you tried the right treatments in the correct way.

The first mistake many people make is trying too many scientifically unproven treatments. To maximize the chances of success, you should start with treatments proven by solid science. (Such a treatment would be supported by several clinical studies published in peer-reviewed journals.) Even proven treatments do not work for everyone due to variations in skin chemistry and other reasons. But they do offer a higher chance of success. Only if none of the scientifically proven treatments produced the desired effects, should you consider so-called "promising new treatments", i.e. treatment supported only by small pilot clinical studies. Even further down the list (if at all) should be treatments supported only by test-tube and/or animal experiments. (See our Anti-Aging Treatments section and Skin Rejuvenation Infopack for classification of current treatments based on supporting evidence.)

The next common mistake is incorrect application. An ineffective product won't work regardless of the application technique. But an effective one may fail simply because it wasn't properly applied. To make sure you are doing it right, see our article on how to apply skin care products.

Another potential pitfall is a lack of patience. Skin changes do not happen rapidly. Keratinocytes, the cells of the epidermis, the skin's outer layer, are replaced about every four weeks. Changes in the dermis, the deeper layer where wrinkles originate, usually take longer. Even under the best of circumstances (i.e. proven treatment and responsive patient), changes are usually barely noticeable after one month. Most experts feel that 2-3 month is a reasonable trial period for anti-aging/anti-wrinkle products. Keep in mind that slow and gradual changes are hard to notice. Sometimes, a person may think that a product is not working even when it does. Unfortunately, objective measurements of treatment effects are hard to perform without a research lab. Some people resort to split face testing but that may be impractical over a span of 2-3 month. Another alternative is to take before and after photos. However, such photos are useful only if taken in reproducible, well-controlled lighting and camera conditions. This is doable but requires a substantial degree of diligence.

Finally, know what you can and cannot expect from a particular treatment. Topicals, such as creams and serums, may improve skin texture, fine lines and small-to-medium wrinkles; but they usually fail against deep wrinkles, especially the wrinkles caused by facial movements. On the other hand, Botox has an excellent track record in treating motion wrikles but cannot reduce other types of wrinkles or improve skin texture (see also our Botox article). Wrinkles fillers, peels, cosmetic lasers and other procedures also have their place as wrinkle treatments but are expensive and have to be chosen carefully to match you particular situation (see anti-aging treatments).


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