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Do Skin Creams Hold Up To Their Promises?

Diminish fine lines. Get a glowing complexion. Say bye-bye to dry skin. Some skin creams promise the world, but can these scientific ingredients deliver?

Beauty companies invest millions of dollars into research in the hopes of uncovering the next big thing when it comes to skincare. And with good reason: the skincare industry is a multibillion-dollar business and women have shown to be willing to pay and try just about anything to reverse the hands of time. Case in point: Botox. Getting injected with a little Botulism to get rid of wrinkles would have not long ago sounded insane. Today, it rakes in over $.31 billion annually in the U.S.

And when it comes to topical skincare, there is a seemingly endless number of products with the new must-have, do-all ingredient. Take Glamoxy Snake Serum. Despite the sexy, catchy name, the serum from Rodial contains no snake ingredients, but rather a neuropeptide named syn-ake (get it?), which promises to freeze muscles and lift the face, much in the way the deadly venom of a viper would, while also plumping the skin thereby hiding fine lines and wrinkles.

While over at Avon, Activin and what the company has discovered about the skin protein is something they're banking on. Activin is a skin protein that helps heal wounds, part of which involves a boost collagen levels. Avon has created a proprietary ingredient Activinol, which uses two phytochemicals (amorphophallus and sesbania) to produce more activin, which, thanks to the boost in collagen, will supposedly result in smoother, firmer skin. According to the company's studies, based on consumer perception, 73 per cent of women in the study felt their skin looked and felt reborn after three days of use.

Another player in the market, Shiseido, is focused on their findings about serpin B3. This protein in the skin has been shown to be at increased levels in dry, UV-damaged skin (and for people with certain conditions such as squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, lungs and esophagus, and for people who suffer from psoriasis). Serpin B3 accelerates the skin's aging process, and to battle this? Shiseido has created a molecule that inhibits the levels of serpin B3 in the skin, thereby improving dryness, damage and overall skin condition. Shiseido claims that this molecule, called Skingenecell 1P, delivered in high concentration to the skin, will result in restored skin cells.

From healing proteins to inhibiting other proteins, how can one make heads or tails of what works? In the case of serpin B3, although she notes it's an interesting direction in skincare to be trying to inhibit something in the skin ("we are usually adding ingredients to the skin"), Toronto-based dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki believes it may be too early to jump on the bandwagon. "This has been shown in some small basic science studies by cosmetic companies -- no large studies. Until more research is done, retinol and Vitamin C are still the most proven (when it comes to improving the skin's texture) with multiple studies behind them; not studies done only by the company that represents the molecule," she says.

Which is, of course, sound advice when it comes to any of these products and their claims. Look for large scale, unbiased studies before plunking down your hard-earned dollars for the latest new cream or serum to hit cosmetics counters. Be sceptical and wary -- but don't fret too much over your purchase, or you may only develop more worry lines, which will only scurrying right back to the beauty counter for the next new wrinkle-fighter once again.

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