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Five Best ingredients for firming sagging skin

August 22, 2012 Reviewed by Marta 14 Comments

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.

You can find it in La Vie Celeste’s Extra Rich Cream ($75 in the TIA shop), as well as SenZen’s Infinity ($95 in the TIA shop) and Osmosis Correct ($44), a relatively gentle retinol serum.

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).

For those that want to get ChroNoline’s benefits at every stage of their beauty regimen, it even comes in the self-tanner for face by Beautisol ($23 in the TIA shop).


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%.

It is in a neck cream by Isomers ($34.99), Hydroxatone ($80) and in Osmotics Nécolleté ($63 in the TIA shop)


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.

Relistase is in the new Your Best Face Control and Skin Perfection’s serum.

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.

  • April 6, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Maggie, both of those are primarily for hydration, not for firming sagging skin. With ultrasound or microcurrent you need a water-based product, ideally a gel. Alcohol need not be avoided, although in general products without alcohol are preferable.

  • April 6, 2016

    by Maggie Hill

    What about the optimizer serum by yonka and Hyalronic acid by Image
    Do the creams used in Microcurrent have to be without alcohol..Thanks

  • February 23, 2016

    by kay

    Can syn hycan be used alone? If not what moisturizers can it be mixed with?

  • December 15, 2015

    by Marta

    Hi Vivian, this article has been updated with a Five Best for sagging skin 2015. The single most effective is ultrasound. Here's the latest Five Best:

  • December 14, 2015

    by Vivien

    Hi Marta,

    If you had to choose one of the 5 products you listed as best for sagging and firming skin, which one would you choose?


  • November 28, 2012

    by Donna OBrien

    Hi Marta- Really enjoyed your article/review of the newest skin firming peptides. Being a 64 year old who intends to "go down fighting" this was exciting news indeed. When young, I rarely tanned so wrinkles are not yet a big problem, but I am beginning to "sag" a bit especially under my eyes [a/k/a eye bags]. I have a drawer full of "failure serums" but am always ready to try the newest breakthrus. If possible, I'd love a sample of one of these new peptides to review & hopfully add to my "what really works" drawer!

  • September 1, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Penny, that looks like rather a good find. The ones I mentioned have a lot of other actives in them, so the only caveat I would have about Syn-Hycan Boost Serum is that you'd have to put all your faith into Syn-Hycan because there's not much else going on. It certainly looks worth trying out and the price is great. But if money was not the entire issue, I would personally go with something that has more complimentary ingredients. Hope that helps.

  • September 1, 2012

    by Penny

    Hi Marta - There is a Syn Hycan product at the site Makeup Artists Choice. It's appropriately called Syn-Hycan Boost Serum. The price is great. Can you take a look and let me know what you think compared to the others that you've mentioned above? I really have no other skin concerns besides lifting/tightening and want to use the best product I can find.

  • August 24, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Diane, I don't think there is patchouli in anything in this selection. The YBF Control does have a smell of almonds. From a scent perspective, the Osmosis Correct may be the most neutral.

  • August 24, 2012

    by Diane Shelander

    Hi Marta,

    Of the products in the TIA Shop as the 5 best for sagging skin, can you tell me which ones are strongly scented/perfumed? I noticed on the ingredients list for La Vie Celeste Restorative Rose Hydrosol Eye Cream that Rosa Damascena (Rose) Flower Water is the second ingredient listed. I haven't found a rose-scented product that doesn't give me a headache. Same thing happens with patchouli. I prefer unscented or lightly products.



  • August 23, 2012

    by aliki simha

    thanks Marta , but how to choose the best?

  • August 22, 2012

    by Kate Z

    Thanks Marta for this informative list! I love that you break it out so that TIA members know what to look for, what works, and where to put our money depending upon our needs. I'm learning so much from TIA and my aging skin and me are very thankful!

  • August 22, 2012

    by Cindy

    Can I use my ultra renew since I now have filler in my face?

  • August 22, 2012

    by Terri

    I get put the 5 best ingredients...why isn't there ONE product with all 5 in it? I still never know or understand what to use or buy~!~~

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