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Anti-wrinkle cream miracles debunked by scientists

Woman with wrinkle cream on her cheek

Do you use anti-wrinkle creams in the belief that all that collagen is smoothing away the signs of age? If so, it might be time to rethink what goes into your cabinet, because scientists say they just aren’t worth it.

Are you easily blinded by ‘that science bit’ in beauty ads? Considering we spent £32m on eye-care products in 2008, it’s safe to say that we’re falling for the marketing patter.

But scientists have now spoken out en masse to debunk the claims once and for all. They say that cosmetics companies claiming that collagen creams will smooth out wrinkles and cheat the signs of aging can’t possibly work.

Collagen claims are false

These companies commonly claim that skin absorbs their products when, in fact, collagen molecules are far too big for this to happen. Instead, they sit on the face’s surface until they’re rubbed off or washed away.

Not only are scientists saying these claims are codswallop, they’ve also voted them their biggest pet hate, in a survey by charity Sense About Science.

So should we all bin our favourite top-notch beauty products in favour of cheaper basics? If you couple the scientists’ opinions with our research, that might well be a sensible conclusion to draw.

Which? smoothes out the wrinkles on eye cream

Last year we tested 12 anti-wrinkle eye creams ranging in price from £3.21 to almost £49. After comparing 1,807 photos of 139 eye areas we discovered that the cheapest product worked just as well as the more expensive ones.

Dr Tamara Griffiths of the British Skin Foundation was involved in our research. ‘We need to have realistic expectations,’ she said. ‘A pricier eye cream can equal better packaging and more luxurious ingredients, but won’t necessarily work better.’

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. While I’m happy to spend less on beauty products, there’s something reassuring about turning to a pot of cream for hope when I’m feeling less than my best. But I guess that’s exactly the problem – these claims prey on women’s (and, increasingly, men’s) fears of ageing.

A pot of cream isn’t as expensive as surgery or as time-consuming as changing your lifestyle. It’s quick, easy and relatively affordable, and while there’s even a glimmer of hope that it will work, cosmetics companies will continue to cash in.

Profile photo of chris

All sensible people already knew this.

The evidence is visual and been discussed at length on TV and the papers for some years.

As a scientist – we all laughed our socks off at that ridiculous ‘oxygen in the bubbles perfusing the skin’ advert. What a lot of old pony.

This stuff is basically the new improved version of snake oil, being sold by the corporate charlatans.

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That’s interesting to hear Chris – still shocking that these ads make it onto our screens when it’s seemingly so accepted in the scientific world that it’s all rubbish.

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Thanks for the insight Chris, it’s actually made you our Comment of the Week. You’ll be featured on our homepage for a full seven days!

Bleep Blorp Bloop says:
5 years 19 days ago

The scientific world goes largely unnoticed…if were as publicized as cosmetics, the world would probably be a much better place…and a lot less stupid.

4 years 11 months ago

I work in the industry, there are many products available, all claiming to work. The very fact that people believe that it works makes it work. They lift thier heads up and look the world in the eye because they believe they are doing the best for themselves and show that. Attitude is beauty not products.

Elizabeth says:
4 years 10 months ago

I logged onto your report when I discovered that a face cream ‘for mature skin’ – I had been given a sample and liked it – retails at £97 for a 50ml pot!! The company website gushes about how the cream acts deep in the skin’s surface (see what they did there?) to help skin ‘regain youthful substance, firmness and radiance’ etc. Why are they allowed to get away with this puffery? Thank you for your report.


Thankyou for writing and article to make people start waking up to the crazy lies of advertising!

My mum still cleans her skin with good old soap and some basic mousturiser…. And her skin is wonderful at age 60.

People might be surprisingly happy if they go back to basics and stop living like sheep-like consumers… Believing everything on TV!


Thankyou for writing and article to make people start waking up to the crazy lies of advertising!

My mum still cleans her skin with good old soap and some basic moisturiser…. And her skin is wonderful at age 60.

People might be surprisingly happy if they go back to basics and stop living like sheep-like consumers… Believing everything on TV!

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Has anyone got news/views on collagen tablets. Supposedly helps arthritis Skin joints etc. They sound so convicing. Surely with our strict laws the vendors would not make false claims. Trading standards, fair trade agencys would be down on them like a ton of..!Simular to strict rules on car sales. Home improvements companys quack doctors etc. Richard

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Type the words collagen and quack into Google and you will probably decide to save your money.

Collagen is fibrous protein found in many human and animal tissues. If you eat it, it will be broken down to amino acids, albeit not very efficiently compared with proteins in meat, fish and cereals. Though arthritis involves damage to tissues containing collagen, I am not aware that dietary collagen is going to be of any direct help, other than as a fairly poor source of protein.

As a serving suggestion, I suggest collagen with snake oil. :-)

Trading Standards cannot cope, especially thanks to the growth of Internet sales.

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It would be interesting if Which? could survey foundation creams: not magic snake-oil rejuvenating cons, nor to suggest a Best Buy, but just a comparison of how well the expensive heavily-advertised beauty brands shape up against the affordable high-street products sold by Boots, Superdrug, etc.

The FT weekend magazine “How to Spend It” (which I normally detest) published an interesting detailed survey of some of the glamorous foundation creams in the May 5 2012 issue. Written by Anna-Marie Solowij, “Tech Cover” discusses expensive foundation creams from Chanel, Estée Lauder, Yves Saint Laurent, etc. Although quite detailed, it is clearly not a fully neutral independent survey. The nearest to a bog-standard generic cream mentioned, is the Selfridges product.

A survey by Which? please: let us know if there is any advantage at all in paying more for a well advertised brand.


Great article about collagen skincare products – I’ve always felt that a decent moisturiser is all you need. However, I have taking marine collagen as a supplement, and I do feel some difference in my joints – a bit less creaky I think.

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As long as you believe that pills will be useful they may work even if they contain no active ingredients. This is known as the placebo effect and helps sell a lot of supplements.

Jennifer HH says:
3 years 6 months ago

I hate feeling that I’ve been conned, especially when it comes to my skin.

I research all products before parting with my cash and regularly review products on beautypedia, which are a useful and indeed eye openening educational resources.

I discovered this through a magazine and most people who are seriously interested in beauty will have heard of the book ‘Dont go to the cosmetics counter without me’. Don’t buy the book, beautypedia is a free online resource containing all of the reviews and is constantly being updated.

They have tested just about every product on the market from every day brands such as No.7 and Vaseline etc to the high end £250 a tub Estée Lauder miracle creams, and even more… Mostly it’s US market but the majority of brands are available in UK.

It focuses on the active ingredients and promotes basic creams with simple actives that are beneficial to skin rather than the made up ‘patent pending’ boswelox type ingredients.

It’s been a money saver for me and may make you look at the world of beauty with a new found awareness.

Above all I believe in using products that I have tried and tested and find work for me, which is a combination of products ranging from £1 to £50, because they have an effect that I am pleased with. If it doesn’t do it for me I’ll stop using it! Easy.


Everyone is talking about derma rollers which supposedly plump out the skin.I wonder what “Which” would say about them?Anyone tried them?

garnetquagga says:
9 months 29 days ago

They’re probably in the same category as the weight loss belts that supposedly vibrated the fat off you.