Findings from a study released today revealed that a limited amount of clinical research exists to prove the effectiveness of many over-the-counter (OTC) anti-aging products. The study is published in the July/August 2007 issue of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).
OTC anti-aging products represent a billion dollar industry: wrinkle creams have been marketed to the American public since the early 19th century, and Americans spent more than $2 billion on these products in 2000 alone. While a limited body of evidence exists to prove the efficacy of many of these products, their popularity continues to increase.
"This study underscores the need for much greater study of, and public education on, the effectiveness of OTC anti-aging products," said Timothy A. Miller, MD, Chief of Plastic Surgery at UCLA, lead author of the study. "Although there are a number of beneficial OTC remedies in existence, for many patients, prescription-strength or surgical procedures may be necessary to achieve desired results."
The study consisted of a review of existing research on ingredients commonly found in OTC anti-aging creams. Key compounds under review included vitamins, antioxidants, alpha-hydroxyl acids, moisturizers, pentapeptides and botanicals. Of these, Vitamin C, alpha-hydroxyl acids and pentapeptides were shown to be the most extensively researched with proven anti-aging benefits.
Vitamin A, or retinols have shown great promise, however their effects have only been proven in prescription-strength formulations; OTC benefits have not been determined. Minimal studies have been performed on Vitamin B, though what evidence does exist is promising. Moisturizers have not been extensively researched, but have been shown to improve the hydration and appearance of skin.
Botanicals such as grape seed extract, soy compounds, green tea and Gingko biloba are relatively new in the market and have gained great popularity in recent years, but their healing qualities have yet to be proven through randomized, placebo-controlled human trials. Many cell culture and animal experiments have been conducted to investigate the efficacy of these botanical compounds, however, indicating the potential for many beneficial effects such as increased collagen expression, improved antioxidant activity, accelerated healing and enhanced hydration.
"Consumers need to be realistic about the outcomes they can expect from OTC anti-aging creams, at least until solid clinical evidence of their efficacy exists," adds Foad Nahai, MD, Atlanta plastic surgeon, President of ASAPS and Associate Editor of ASJ. "No matter what the treatment -- OTC, prescription or surgical procedure -- it is always important for patients to educate themselves and discuss options with their doctor."