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What Face Creams Actually Work?

"It's the quality and quantity of a few specific ingredients and how often you use them that determines how effective they are."

We all want lush, vibrant healthy wrinkle-free skin, but with so many face creams on the market, it would be great to know which ones are effective and really worth the money. 

In today’s show Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist, takes you into the amazing world of face creams. Learn which ingredients to look for when shopping for the perfect face cream for you. Plus learn how you make your own at home!

Video Highlights

  • 04:00: Effectiveness of face creams depends on the quality and quantity of certain ingredients
  • 06:31: Look at the ingredients list, and ingredient studies
  • 07:47: Face cream shopping ingredient list
  • 07:56: Retinol
  • 09:22: Vitamin C
  • 10:33: Coenzyme Q10
  • 13:18: Tea extracts
  • 14:23: Why some face creams and lotions are so expensive
  • 20:37: Homemade, natural, anti-aging face cream recipe
  • 29:02: Summing it up

Are Beauty Creams Really Effective?

It seems like all the face creams sold in department stores, or on the internet all make the same promises: reduce wrinkles, defy aging, prevent and even reverse the damage caused by the harmful rays of the sun. But are these claims accurate?

Some of these face creams are perhaps effective, at least in some ways, and others are more marketing hype than beneficial product. The reality is, the effectiveness of face creams depends on two specific things. Just like with oral supplements, it's the quality and quantity of a few specific ingredients and how often you use them that determines how effective they are.

One important note is that since over-the-counter face creams are not considered drugs or medications, they are not required to go through any kind of trials or research to prove how effective they are. These companies are allowed to go pretty far with their age-defying, hydro-boosting, anti-aging, and anti-wrinkle claims, without being required to back up their claims with real data or evidence.

So how do you know if it really works, or whether they are worth the often exorbitant price tag?

Well, just like with oral supplements, it's a good idea to start with the ingredient list, and then the ingredient studies. There are some really high-quality ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants, which have demonstrated the ability to neutralize free radicals that cause accelerated aging, and minimize and even help reverse the damaging effects of inflammation on your skin. These are the ingredients that should be included in a quality face cream. Here are a few of the better studied ingredients to look out for.

Ingredients that should be in your face cream

When you are face-cream shopping, this is what you should look for!


Retinol is the original anti-aging, antioxidant, and first natural antioxidant to be used in non-prescription, over the counter wrinkle creams. It is a compound found in vitamin A, which works by reducing fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen in the skin. Retinol also stimulates the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves the color of your skin. It fades the age spots, and softens and smoothes rough patches on your skin. Be patient when using retinol! Studies show retinol can take 3 - 6 months of regular use before improvements in fine lines and wrinkles are apparent. And best results can take 6 months to a year.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another super potent antioxidant that has been shown to protect skin from the damage due to sun exposure and age. Age and sun damage both cause our skin to lose collagen, which leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. Like retinol, vitamin C boosts the skin's collagen production, which helps the skin stay plump and smooth, smoothing out the fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C is not only critical to building collagen, it protects your skin too. It's a must in your face cream shopping. 

Coenzyme Q10

This enzyme occurs naturally in your body, and is found in every cell and every tissue, including those in your skin. This enzyme is really important for keeping all of your cells, inside and out, functioning properly. It's a super ingredient that plays a key role in cellular health, and as a strong antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, making it a must in your face cream. When we are younger, our bodies produce as much Coenzyme Q10 as we need! But production of this enzyme declines seriously with age, and also with stress. As the enzyme declines, our cells' ability to regenerate also declines. So as a result of declining production of Coenzyme Q10, the ability of our cells to regenerate and withstand stress declines.  The lack of this enzyme, especially as we reach our 40s, 50s, and 60s, results in lower ability to produce collagen and elastin. As we've already discussed, healthy collagen is what makes your skin firm, while Elastin gives your skin flexibility. The loss of collagen and elastin causes our skin to wrinkle and sag. The age-related decline in Coenzyme Q10 production also means your skin is more prone to damage by free radicals.

Tea Extracts

Green, black, and oolong tea all contain compounds with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea extracts are more commonly found in wrinkle creams, and function as a powerful antioxidant that protects collagen production in your cells, and fends off the development of age-related lines and wrinkles. 

If you start by looking for these four ingredients, you'll be off to a good start in your search for face creams and lotions.

Why Are Some Face Creams and Lotions So Expensive?

Face creams and lotions range from $125 to $200 and there are even some available for such exorbitant prices as $1,200 per ounce! Why are these products so expensive, and does price matter when it comes to over the counter anti-aging skin care products?

There's no definitive answer, but most dermatologists and nutrition experts agree that for the most part, the super expensive brands are not much more effective than the more affordable lotions and creams. In other words, the price of the product does not necessarily determine whether the product fights aging and promotes skin health.

So if there's not a difference in effectiveness, what are you paying for when you buy high-end skin creams?

A lot of the cost in the cosmetic industry is related to packaging, advertising, and brand-name recognition. It is also determined by the contents of the cream, of course. Some ingredients may be expensive, take more time to formulate, or be less easily available. All of this will add to the cost, but often there's really nothing demonstrating that these expensive ingredients are more effective than some of the more affordable ones. However, if a commercial cream is super cheap, that's also a red flag! Really cheap or inexpensive creams often don't contain enough of any ingredient to be really effective and are probably loaded with chemicals and toxic synthetic fragrances.

The good news is, rather than wading through all your options in the stores, you can make an all natural, super effective, anti-aging face cream at home for a fraction of what you'd spend on store brands.

This is so easy to make, super inexpensive, and really effective! Everyone's skin is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all face cream. If you have oily, acne-prone skin, you have different needs than someone with super dry skin, so you may need to adjust this recipe to fit your individual needs.

This lotion is loaded with antioxidants! It fights inflammation, and leaves your face soft, hydrated, protected, and healthy. If you've been following us for any length of time, you know how deeply we believe in protecting your body from the harmful effects of inflammation. As we're always saying:

Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = A Healthier You!

All-Natural Anti-Aging Face Cream Recipe

This lotion contains six natural ingredients, which are:

  • Almond oil, which balanced out the skin tone and complexion
  • Organic coconut oil, which has been shown to have high levels of antioxidant activity
  • Beeswax
  • Essential oils. Choose any oils you like! Dr. Nancy uses Magnolia and Jasmine. Lavender and orange is another great smelling combination. 
  • White shea butter. This soft, creamy butter is derived from the seed of the African shea tree, and is very moisturizing for your skin, hair, and nails
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Always use a glass jar to prep this lotion (not plastic)! To your glass jar, add:

  • 1 Tblsp shea butter
  • 2 Tblsp beeswax
  • 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 20 - 30 drops liquid vitamin C
  • 2 Tblsp coconut oil
  • Essential oils

In a sauce pan, heat 1/2 inch of water over low to medium heat. After adding the ingredients to the glass jar, put the jar in the water and let it heat, stirring the ingredients with a spoon as they soften and liquify. Once it has all become a dark yellow liquid, take it off the stove.

When the ingredients are fully heated and you're ready to remove them from the stove, add 20 - 30 drops liquid vitamin E. Let it cool, and then use it! You now have a healthy, wonderful smelling, homemade face cream!

The Bottom Line

Face cream manufacturers can make any claims they want to, so make sure you look at the ingredient list before you buy! Many of these manufacturers also load up their products with harmful fillers and chemicals. Remember that research has shown again and agin that the price you pay for face lotion does not necessarily correlate to its effectiveness. What does matter when it comes to effectiveness is the quality of the ingredients that are used. Make sure your face lotion contains all natural sources of powerful antioxidants and inflammation fighters, like Retinol, Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10, and green tea extracts. 

Also, don't forget to take steps to be discouraging abnormal inflammation responses and providing defense against free radicals in your whole body, including following Dr. Nancy's anti-inflammatory diet and taking nature's powerful supplement, Smarter Curcumin.

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