Anti-ageing creams: making or destroying

Twenty-eight-year-old Shamsa Uwera is distressed about her body. From a size eight in her early 20s to a massive size 14 with unsightly marks in all the wrong places, she would trade anything to return to her ‘sexy’ self.

Twenty-eight-year-old Shamsa Uwera is distressed about her body. From a size eight in her early 20s to a massive size 14 with unsightly marks in all the wrong places, she would trade anything to return to her ‘sexy’ self.

“My face has developed wrinkles. I can’t wear a short-sleeved top because of the cellulite under my arm. My thighs and back of my knees are covered with hideous stretch marks. I literally live in trousers. I have tried different products without success and now I am at the brink of depression,” she laments.

Shamsa is not alone. Many women are uncomfortable in their skin. In their world, most other women are beautiful, and they are not.

This can be quite depressing. A lot of times, the problem is just skin-deep. Some women will go to extremes to buy products that will solve their problem from pricy imported medications, to surgery and natural herbs despite the money they may have to part with. Some men have also been caught in the hype.

Our brothers and sisters neighbouring our country in the east, have largely been associated with this.  With the best marketing taglines, splashed louder on the products than the staggering price, anti-ageing products are branded with: 99 per cent spot-free in weeks, good-bye cellulite, non-bleaching, alcohol-free, and on and on.  

Dermatologists say that anti-ageing ointments work according to the genetic makeup of the skin.

Some creams contain steroids which at first, create the impression of beautiful, glossy skin but, eventually, destroy the skin. It is best that one checks the contents of the cream before buying it.

The notorious culprit of all and one that people especially women should be implored; to watch out for is hydroquinone, which is a steroid. It bleaches skin by killing skin pigment cells. It, therefore, inhibits the production of melanin, the substance that gives skin its colour. Eventually, it may cause skin disorders, from dermatitis to skin cancer.

Anti-wrinkle creams could help reduce the appearance of ageing, but they are generally not permanent wrinkle removers. They either help remove the dead outer layer of the skin or hydrate the skin and plump it up, giving the appearance of removing wrinkles after about 30 days.

But, once you stop using the product, the wrinkles return. This guarantees ongoing use of the product, which can become expensive. 

Botox cream which is found in pharmacies around in particular can deal the skin a devastating blow and has ghastly after-effects. Maureen, 40, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confesses to using the product, with good results: “I began using anti-ageing creams when I was 30, but after three children, I graduated to Botox. It works just fine though it is very expensive. Once you start, you are making a lifetime investment”.

A woman would have to spend a fortune on Botox in order to regain her youthful appearance, though it is effective for only six months.

Collagen is equally popular. It is a form of protein that holds the body together and is very important for the external tissues as it makes them firm and strong. Collagen decreases wrinkles.

Under pressure to look attractive, ladies often jump into the beauty-at-any-cost bandwagon under self-prescription. This, dermatologists warn, is dangerous because it introduces unwanted chemicals to the body, thus changing the make up of your skin.

Your genetic make-up, determines how you age and at what rate. Genes control the generation of proteins in your skin. These proteins naturally protect the skin from the adverse effects of external influences such as a harsh environment.

But in the natural ageing process, the skin suffers loss of radiance, dehydration and fine lines.

The DNA responsible for ageing is located in the sex chromosomes, with fathers determining their daughter’s genetic makeup and mothers that of their sons. Thus, a woman should examine her father to determine how fast she is likely to age, before using anti-ageing creams.  

Recent results have unveiled that environmental and chronological ageing, once thought to be mutually exclusive are closely related, because how susceptible you are to ageing depends on your genetic make-up and your environment.

In your adult life, about 20 per cent of your skin’s ageing is genetic while the other 80 per cent is environmental. Exposure to sun is the number one cause of ageing skin, so you can compensate for the inconveniencies of unlucky genes by protecting yourself from the vagaries of the sun.

Skin care, should be embraced from a tender age. In the case of sunscreens, parents are advised to apply it on their children when they are going out to play, so the skin is nurtured from a young age.

It needs to be used daily, as long as you are going out in the sun. But if you are using a sunscreen, do not use a moisturiser or foundation as it could damage the skin.