I’ve seen the ads and promotions, as well as shots of Dr. Oz showing reversals in wrinkles, so what’s the scoop on these compounds and products?
Not surprisingly, pubmed is fuller of Botox treatments, surgeries and lasers, not vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. But that could be simply because there’s a lot more money in doing something to wrinkles rather than having people fix their own at home.
Vitamin C searches get switched to vitamin A, because there are so many more studies on retinoids and their ability to peel off outer layers and make the skin appear more youthful. A recent study of very high dose vitamin C (as ascorbic acid, 23%) showed benefit in a small study of 20 Chinese women. 75% of them noticed a difference and there were no serious side effects. It confirms an earlier 2001 study of baby boomers that showed improvement after twelve weeks. Notably, none of the baby boomers complained of inflammation.
Hyaluronic acid has been used for injecting into wrinkles, and that seems to work pretty well to fill out crow’s feet. Most of the studies are on injecting the acid, but applying the acid also seems to help with wrinkle depth and skin elasticity.
Are these products the most effective on the market? No. The most effective means of getting rid of wrinkles using a topical is a 0.05% tretinoin cream. A lower dose cream of the same, either 0.01% or 0.001% of tetinoin, was not effective. And the effect of the cream was in direct relation to the amount of inflammatory side effects: “A dose-response relationship was evident for both effectiveness and skin irritation.” The stronger the acid, the stronger the effect, and the stronger the side effects.
Both vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and Hyaluronic acid fall into the lower range of the treatments you can use to strip away the outer layer of your skin. Those seeking rapid results would find lasers or chemical peels more speedy and more prone to making you look like you used sandpaper on your face for a few weeks. But if you want a slower, gentler acidic wash, either acid may do the trick.
So, let’s all get these products, yes? Perhaps. Certainly it makes sense to apply something to your skin if you are concerned about wrinkles. A reasonable use of moisturizer can benefit the skin, but we should be clear that the wrinkle resolution from an acid is likely to be more rapid skin turnover from a slight chemical burn rather than something like feeding the skin.
The trouble is that same logic can be extended to never smiling, which is certain to enforce those laugh lines. Perhaps we need to recognize that wrinkles are the visible evidence that we have lived, and lived well. Bring wrinkles back into vogue as a demonstration of courage, an acceptance of aging, and a recognition of the cycles of life.