Historians now believe that Ponce de León wasn’t looking for the mythical “fountain of youth” when he landed in Florida 500 years ago. But the legend of a magical wellspring that would restore the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters had persisted for centuries and persists to this day, as we continue to search for the pill, cream, lotion or potion that will help us look younger longer.
“Miracles don’t come in jars,” says Dr. Judy Hu of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. “But there have been scientifically sound advances – both at the cosmetics counter and in the doctor’s office – in anti-aging skin care. The key to effectiveness for the consumer is to know what will work and to have realistic expectations.”
The signs of aging skin – wrinkles, sagging, discoloration – are caused by the natural aging process and by external factors like the sun, pollution and smoking, which slow the regeneration of skin cells and the production of collagen, the naturally-occurring substance in connective tissue that keeps skin plumped and line-free. As cells fail to regenerate and collagen decreases, the skin loses tone and elasticity, forms fine lines, wrinkles and sags. Anti-aging products and treatments aim to repair damage already done and prevent further deterioration. “Many of these formulations are designed to stimulate the production of collagen or counteract the effects of its loss,” says Dr. Hu. “Others accelerate the turnover of cells in the top layer of skin.”