What do you think are more aging, wrinkles or sagging jowls?  Judging by many of the emails I receive, the pull of gravity is a distressing sign that its downhill from now on. The question that always comes is what cream will reverse sagging skin. The short answer is that I haven’t found one yet. The long answer is more encouraging though: there are some creams that will help to some extent, especially if coupled with regular treatments that really do make a difference. Sorry, that there are no quick fixes, but, hey, with patience and realistic expectations things can only look up.

By treatments, I mean the non-invasive type. I completely understand the temptation to opt for fillers, but here I am suggesting some approaches that could help postpone that decision. I am convinced that my regular salon treatments have staved off the need for fillers for me so far.

Microcurrent: delivers low level electric currents to fight sagging and puffiness by delivering a tiny charge that stimulates facial muscles (I believe that the system was originally designed by doctors to help stroke victims regain movement). The theory is that microcurrent improves the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical in muscles that provides energy. Face and neck muscles feel toned – the equivalent of having done bicep curls. I would go without shoes before giving up monthly microcurrent treatments.  There are at-home devices such as the NuFace or FaceMaster, but I wasn’t hugely impressed when I tested them. Also, whereas any fool can sit under an LED light (see below), microcurrent needs a practiced hand. Not for nothing is it called “face sculpting” and the best results are achieved by knowing what muscles to target and at what angle and point. Depending on where you live, expect to pay up to $160 for a treatment.

Pellevé: The Pellevé Wrinkle Reduction System is, at least, according to its manufacturer, the next-generation high frequency radiowave technology.  One way of thinking about Pellevé – given FDA clearance in May 2009 – is that it is like Thermage, but less painful. The frequencies cause a process called denaturation as a result of which collagen fibers contract stimulate the growth of new collagen, This results in firmer, tighter skin. I tried Pellevé out at the beginning of this year and was rather pleased with the results. A couple of treatments are required and are supposed to last around 18 months. Sessions can cost between $700-$1200.

Ulthera: Although I haven’t personally tried this, I have met the team behind it and heard from them about how it works. Ulthera uses ultrasound so the dermatologist can see an image deep into the dermis of the fibro muscular layer or connective tissue. At the same time, the ultrasound delivers a focused beam of heat. This micro-targeted and very fast heating of the tissue causes it to be “injured” and the tissue’s response is to contract. The result is tighter skin. Expensive (up to $3,000), but supposedly long lasting (perhaps even lifetime lasting).

LED light therapy: I always say that if you do nothing else, get an at-home LED device. Diligent use a few times a week, will help. Like microcurrent, light therapy increases production of ATP (the energy engine of cells) and the modulation of reactive oxygen species. However, although light therapy has been uses in Europe for decades to treat muscular pain, the mechanism isn’t well understood. Anecdotally, though LED does help the skin look a lot plumper and firmer, particularly if focused along the jawline. Salon sessions can cost up to $130.

Because there is always hope in a jar, here are some creams that are worth trying out as members of Truth In Aging community have seen some results with them:

Osmotics: I first got the idea of using high potency serums with LED from Osmotics and their demonstrations with Anti-Radical Age Defense Barrier. They also have a specific product for targeting nasolabial lines called Lipofill that does, surprisingly, work (especially if used with LED).

Chella’s Master Protocol 7: Our tester, Ann, was specifically looking for an impact on nasal labial folds and slacking of the jowls and after six weeks of using Master Protocol reported a “slight, but noticeable” improvement.

La Vie Celeste and SenZen: We should all be looking out for ingredients that help protect our laminins. These are proteins and, in particular, lamin-5 critical in keeping the epidermis adhered to the dermis by playing a key role in the epidermal basement membrane. This is the skin’s scaffolding – the basement membrane structure is anti-sag. So far, one of the few ingredients that I have come across that goes straight for laminin-5 is a tetrapeptide that is marketed under the name of ChroNoline. You can find it in La Vie Celeste’s Extra Rich Cream (and its recently reformulated eye cream) as well as SenZen’s Infinity.