A big beauty breakthrough of the past year has been the increase in products that can help firm sagging skin and improve elasticity. Can you believe that it was only a year ago that I wrote: “The question that always comes is what cream will reverse sagging skin. The short answer is that I haven’t found one yet.” Well, now I have. There are several active ingredients that make a visible difference and are excellent complements to at-home treatments. I have no doubt that the science behind these will get better in the coming few years, but for now these are the Five Best for stopping the sag.
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 – Caprooyl tetrapeptide-3 – that is marketed under the name of ChroNoline.
ChroNoline makes sense for sagging eyelids as well and is worth looking out for in La Vie Celeste’s reformulated eye cream ($60 in the TIA shop) and Teamine’s Anti-Aging Complex for Dark Circles ($60).
The full name is tetradecyl aminobutyroylvalylaminobutyric urea trifluoroacetate. I admit that I’ve seen dinosaurs with friendlier appellations, but you’ll want to get to know it anyway. It is a tripeptide that thankfully is marketed under the simpler name of Syn-Hycan. Specifically, it is aimed at lifting sagging skin. It stimulates hyaluronan (HA) synthesis and expression of the proteoglycans, decorin and lumican. The company that makes it tested it on women aged 56 to 65 years with loose skin on face and forearms and claims a significant decrease in sagging and double chins.
I first came across it as Syn-Hycan in Osmotics Nécolleté ($63), for neck and décolleté, and more recently Your Best Face Control ($160 in the TIA shop), which has been newly formulated with another interesting elasticity improving ingredients mentioned below. So far, I haven’t come across it in anything else that looks promising (if anyone has, do let me know).
Essenskin is mostly calcium and essential amino acids (the full combo is pentylene glycol, polysorbate-20, 3-aminopropane sulfonic acid, calcium hydroxymethionine and hydroxyethylcellulose). Sederma claims it will reboost cell metabolism and protein synthesis, rebalance ion flow and recreate calcium gradient. There are results from a two month clinical study (conducted by Sederma, so not independently verified) on 29 women with an average of 60 and mature skin and sagging necklines using a cream with 2.5% concentration of Essenskin. The company claims skin density increased by 68%, firmness and elasticity by 80%.
Relistase lurks under the intimidating sounding acetylarginyltryptophyl diphenylglycine. This is actually a tripeptide and inhibits elastase activity and boosts collagen 1 synthesis. It has also been designed to treat sagginess and restore firmness to the skin. I haven’t found any independent studies but the manufacturer claims that women around the age of 49 saw a 14% improvement in overall elasticity within 8 weeks.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an ingredient that is also in DermaSilk. It is the main energy source for the majority of cellular – and muscular – functions. This includes the synthesis of DNA. Living things use ATP like a battery – storing and using energy when needed and, it seems, in complex ways (a sprinter will use ATP very differently from a marathon runner). Theory has it that microcurrent treatments work by improving the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical in muscles that provides energy. Hence firming the skin. Products with ATP include Skin Nutrition Cell CPR, DermaSilk and M.A.D Age Corrective Serum.
Ultrasonic and LED
Although not ingredient, as a bonus I should mention in LED and ultrasound. Used with or without the anti-sag serums mentioned above, these treatments – even at home versions – make a very significant difference. Over the past three years, I have topped up my monthly salon microcurrent and LED sessions with at home devices, like Ultra Renew Plus ($159 in the shop), which combines LED, ultrasonic and ionic technologies. With regular use (at least three times a week for about 10 minutes), I have managed to stave off dermal fillers. You can read more on how LED and ultrasound works.