Does your skincare stop working over time?

Awoman’s relationship with her beauty products is an emotional one. Fall in love with a fragrance in the heady flush of youth and it’s hailed as your signature; settle on the perfect shade of foundation and it’s hard to move on. But anti-ageing creams? We are as faithful to those as we are to Farrow & Ball paint shades, changing our minds at the whiff of a shiny new trend or ‘it’ ingredient. In a recent study of consumer behaviour, Avon was surprised to discover that 55 per cent of UK women switch creams after just a few months. Why? They believe that the products stop working. But is this so? And how can we keep our wrinkles at bay without continually trading in one expensive moisturiser for another? One way, say the experts, is to keep your skin cells guessing by rotating your ingredients – a bit like carb cycling. Heck, if it’s good enough for our fat cells…

Do anti-ageing creams really plateau?

According to Avon, yes they do. ‘We set out to prove whether this was a psychological belief or science-based,’ explains the brand’s director of global research and development, Anthony Gonzalez. ‘The standard trial on anti-ageing molecules is no longer than 16 weeks. Therefore, we took the industry’s most proven anti-ageing molecule, retinol [aka vitamin A], and tracked its effectiveness over a six-month period.’ His team concluded that there is, indeed, a tipping point. ‘What we discovered is that the benefits of retinol on skin cells peaked after one to two weeks of use; this is when the skin produced its highest amount of collagen for smoother, firmer-looking skin. While the youth-boosting benefits aren’t lost, tests showed that the initial surge in collagen production starts to stall once the cells adapt and get used to the application of retinol.’

How retinoids work in your skincare products

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Can one product keep on working for life?

Yes, it can – if you trick your skin into submission, says Gonzalez. ‘The issue was not in the effects of the ingredient itself but in the skin cells’ adaptiveness to the ingredient over time – just as our fat cells get used to a reduced calorie intake, or our muscles adapt to lifting a certain weight.’ Armed with this knowledge, scientists at Avon undertook a further six-month study, rotating retinol with another proven ingredient, phytol, every seven days. They found that collagen production increased by 100 per cent compared to using retinol alone. ‘By switching ingredients on the skin in the same way as interval training or carb cycling, the skin cells were kept in a continuous anti-ageing action,’ explains Gonzalez.

Avon Anew Reversalist Infinite Effects Night Treatment Cream is the brand’s first foray into ‘rotational technology’: a double-ended vial dispenses one formula containing phytol, a plant extract that preps and replenishes skin; and one formula with retinol, to brighten skin tone and smooth wrinkles. Each end is designed to be used for seven days at a time, for up to 28 days.

However, according to scientists at L’Oréal, rotation isn’t the only way to sustain benefits. Also out to beat the plateau effect, L’Oréal put its star anti-ageing molecule, Pro-Xylane, to a blind independent six-month test, measuring its ability to improve wrinkles, texture, sagging and pigmentation over time. The results of the study, which tested the product on 5,762 women in the UK, showed an improvement in fine lines ranging from a four per cent reduction in crow’s feet in month one to 18 per cent after six months. The upshot? Its anti-ageing hero, Revitalift Laser Renew Day Cream, containing three per cent Pro-Xylane, now also has twice as much adenosine (which boosts collagen and elastin) than before.

When should you and your skin cream take a break?

If you’re smitten with your existing skin cream yet you want to avoid the plateau effect, you can simply give your skin a short holiday. ‘The best way to get the most out of your skincare regime is to have an annual plan,’ advises A-list dermatologist Dr Frances Prenna Jones. ‘I recommend that the average woman use her staple antiageing cream for around four to five months. Then, step things up with a retinol product for two to three months to clear skin tone and reduce wrinkles, followed by a two-month holiday, whereby you use something soothing and replenishing before you go back to your regular cream.’

When cycling ingredients, Prenna Jones says night-time is best as the daytime should be reserved for protection and hydration: ‘Go for something more holistic with lots of antioxidant protection during the day and reserve your corrective actives for night.’

Dr Jones’s own Fix Holiday cream combines calming camomile with antiinflammatory sage and clever sirtuins (a kind of protein) that switch on the skin’s repairing processes, giving cells more longevity. ‘One of the best times to give your skin a holiday from your anti-ageing cream is straight after the summer months when you’ve been exposed to more UV light than usual, or when you’ve just finished a course of retinol treatment,’ she says.

Atoshi George, senior skincare scientist for the L’Oréal group, says seasonal changes, such as a cold weather snap, are a good time to add a booster to your regime to rebalance skin. ‘Pay attention to your skin and when it changes; sometimes, we think our skin is getting used to a certain product, but it may be that the weather conditions and environment are dictating your results. When winter comes, you don’t ditch your whole wardrobe, you merely include a few warmer pieces that complement what you’ve already got. The same is true for your skincare regime. If you’ve been travelling a lot or the weather has suddenly changed and you notice your skin is dryer than usual, you may simply need a booster such as an intensive mask for a short time until your skin returns to its optimum state. Then you can go back to your normal routine.’

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