n July 2004, Good Housekeeping reported a small study of then-available skin-firming or anti-cellulite creams. The Good Housekeeping Institute sent a small group of test subjects to a well-known New York plastic surgeon. The women saw the doctor before starting treatment, after two weeks and after four weeks.
They were instructed to use one of three cellulite creams daily on one thigh only, providing a very reliable control for comparison. For example, if a woman gained or lost ten pounds during the study, the study would still reveal if the cream alone had any effect.
At each appointment, thighs were measured at three points above the knee, photos were taken and dimply skin was graded on a scale from “very noticeable” to “none at all”. Unfortunately, GHI did not reveal the names of the two losing creams; but they did report that only Avon’s Cellu-Sculpt significantly reduced the treated thighs’ circumference. The average loss – after just one month – was 3/4 of an inch. The point is – cellulite firming creams, at least the effective ones, really can have an effect.
Fast forward two years …
Avon Cellu-Sculpt still has the same great ingredients and is still one of the most popular firming creams on the market. The key active ingredients are: caffeine and cornstarch for temporary tightening; glycerine and glycosaminoglycans as moisturizers and, most importantly, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3 which stimulates growth of new elastin and collagen.
In the meantime, the search for cosmetically active polypeptides has progressed by leaps and bounds. With the introduction of tetrapeptides, we finally have an ingredient that addresses sagging, loose skin known as cellulite.
Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 has been clinically shown to stop and even reverse glycation damage which causes skin to droop. Glycation is the process by which glucose links with proteins and causes them to bind together, thus stiffening tissues.
Glycation affects the skin’s support system – collagen, elastin and other proteins – and leads to wrinkles, sagging, uneven skin tone and loss of youthful contours.
Finally, in a class by themselves, are the neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are polypeptides that act as neuromodulators, neurotransmitters, neurohormones, and hormones. Probably the best-known proponent for the cosmetic use of neuropeptides is Dr. Nicholas Perricone. His previous anti-aging developments have met with broad acclaim and his three books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Dr. Perricone explains his work with neuropeptides in his third book The Perricone Promise thus: “In The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription, I introduced a major theme of my research: the Inflammation-Disease-Aging Connection. Because inflammation is a great contributor to accelerated aging, it has been an important focus of my ongoing scientific research. And we now know that neuropeptides and peptides play an important role in mediating inflammation.”
According to Dr. Perricone, neuropeptides provide the benefits of the above polypeptides as well as provide powerful anti-inflammatory (i.e. anti-aging) activity and maximum hydration to the skin.
We surveyed the market for cellulite creams that contain some or all of the ingredients you want for maximum firming. Then we ranked them for their firming effectiveness. The ideal firming cream would contain ingredient(s) from each category below.
Key Ingredients to Look For in a Cellulite Firming Cream
A. For Temporary Skin Tightening
Though the skin tightening effect is what most people are looking for in a firming cream, the effect is regrettably temporary. It’s literally like putting starch on fabric; and many of the temporary tighteners are starches. Look for cornstarch, hydrolyzed soy flour, hydrolyzed wheat protein, etc..
Starch is a natural polymer or combination of many sugar monomers. Working in similar fashion to natural starches are synthesized polymers. These include acrylates, acrylate crosspolymers and lauryl methacrylate.
Astringents are another class of temporary skin tightener. They work by removing oils and soap residue from the skin, leaving the skin smoother and tenser. Examples are alcohol, propylene glycol, witch hazel, and salicylic acid. Astringents are generally drying. If you already have dry skin, you may want to avoid firming lotions that contain them.
Anti-edema ingredients are yet another type of temporary skin tightener. They tighten the skin by reducing abnormal swelling and inflammation within the cells. Examples are aminophylline, caffeine, chamomile, centella, grapefruit, ivy, laminaria (seaweed) and rosemary.
B. Both Temporary and Restorative
Probably the most popular, but also most under-rated, skin care ingredients are good moisturizers. Many people don’t realize that the benefits are not just temporary. Keeping the skin well-hydrated not only feels good temporarily but also supports the skin’s matrix against collapsing with the passage of the years.
Recent studies suggest that skin moisturizers also accelerate the recovery of irritated or injured skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ and its first line of defense. The skin acts as a physical barrier against infection and injury. In a study from the Department of Dermatology, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden, a moisturizing cream was tested for its effect on damaged skin with excellent results, including far less water loss and enhanced barrier recovery.
Better, more effective moisturizers are developed every year. Current top picks are: hyaluronic acid and other glycosaminoglycans; and imidazolidinyl or diazolidinyl urea. Other excellent moisturizers are collagen, elastin, glycerin, glycogen, glucose, polysaccharides, amino acids, cholesterol, lipids, ceramides and lecithin.
The above are all Natural Moisturizing Factors or NMF’s. For maximum benefit, NMF’s need to be combined with emollients such as silicone, lanolin and other animal oils, mineral and plant oils (shea butter, cocoa butter, petrolatum), cyclomethicone, cholesterol, stearates, mystirates, palmitates or triglycerides.
C. Turn-Back-the-Clock Restorative: The Polypeptides
Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3 (PP-3), Palmitoyl Tetra- (or variously Tera-) peptide-3 (PT-3), and Neuropeptides are truly active anti-aging ingredients. PP-3 stimulates the growth of new collagen and elastin to plump out wrinkles and dimpled skin from within. PT-3 stops and reverses glycation damage, thereby lifting the skin and refining body contours. Neuropeptides have been developed that do the work of PP-3 and PT-3 combined, as well as hydrate and fight inflammation that accelerates the skin’s aging.