The truth about over-the-counter topical anti-aging products: a comprehensive review

Aesthet Surg J. 2007 Jul-Aug;27(4):402-12; quiz 413-5. doi: 10.1016/j.asj.2007.05.005.


The reader is presumed to have knowledge of the basic concepts of skin aging. After studying this article, the participant should be able to: Physicians may earn 1 AMA PRA Category 1 credit by successfully completing the examination based on material covered in this article. The examination begins on page 413. ASAPS members can also complete this CME examination online by logging onto the ASAPS Members-Only Web site ( and clicking on "Clinical Education" in the menu bar. One of the main objectives for an aesthetic surgery patient seeking consultation is a desire to look younger and reverse the appearance of aging. Most of these patients also use topical creams in addition to undergoing surgical procedures. Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-aging products are a billion-dollar industry to which even young patients who wish to prevent the aging process contribute. Many OTC products advertise dramatic results, but there have been relatively little scientific data to support these claims. We reviewed the literature on ingredients commonly found in OTC anti-aging creams. We conclude that although many different compounds are marketed as anti-aging products, studies proving their efficacy are limited. Vitamin C and alpha-hydroxy acids have been the most extensively researched products, and their anti-aging capabilities have been demonstrated in the literature. There have also been some promising studies on vitamin A and vitamin B derivatives. Moisturizers have been shown to increase skin hydration and improve the overall appearance of skin. Studies also indicate that pentapeptides can be effective in decreasing facial wrinkles and roughness. However, botanicals, which have become popular over the last few years, require significantly more research to formulate any positive conclusions for their topical application. As aesthetic surgeons, it behooves us to educate ourselves on the most common ingredients found in topical anti-aging products and their efficacy.