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Is it genes that keep Helen Mirren looking so good?

August 2017

woman putting cream on her face in the mirror

Helen Mirren is all over the media, showing how good a person in her more senior years can look. So it came as a shock when she recently commented that she doesn’t think her face moisturiser does much at all.

As the face of skincare brand L’Oreal, her comments must have come as a bit of a disappointment…
“I’m an eternal optimist ,” Helen said. “I know that when I put my moisturiser on it probably does f---  all, but it just makes me feel better. I’ve always said to L’Oreal as well that I will only do what makes me feel better.”

For the millions of women over 40 and the increasing number of men too who religiously put on their face cream morning and night, this is all a bit unsatisfactory.

With the huge investments made by leading chemical and cosmetic companies, surely face cream today really does make a difference?

LaterLife has found that a lot of creams hide behind long sounding impressive words that in fact generally cover fairly mundane ingredients. The words aqua and humectants which sound excellent and powerful really just mean water and moisturiser!

Under the moisturiser category, glycerine and lactic acid are commonly used because they attract water and help skin retain moisture. When you real about emollients, these are often simply fatty acids that can soften and soothe the skin. Occlusives are simply barrier creams that offer extra protection to the skin and are often petrolatum or lanolin based, simply leaving a film on the surface of the skin to seal in the moisture.

Useful ingredients we are sure, but not magic solutions.

Another aspect is the “instant effect” advertised strongly by some brands.  Generally, as soon as moisture is absorbed by the skin, it will puff up, reducing the appearance of lines for a while. The “instant affect” will in fact be provided by any good moisturiser.

The benefit of peptides is well heralded in face creams but could also be an area where there may have been too much hype. Peptides are made up of amino acids and are fundamental building blocks of skin. Without peptides, the skin can deteriorate with a loss of texture and the formation of wrinkles. Increasing the supply of peptides can help revitalize these building blocks and send a signal that new collagen needs to be formed.

Collagen is a protein that helps give skin its strength and elasticity, so the formation of new collagen could help in keeping skin young looking and supple.  But neither of these will at the moment produce full protection against the development of lines.

Interestingly smoking creates free radicals which can attack the collagen already in skin, so giving up smoking can be an important aspect of keeping wrinkles at bay.

But right now all the long names and exciting new developments in face cream have not been proven to seriously diminish the long term development of facial lines and wrinkles.

Generally it seems that the depth of our lines and wrinkles will be due to our inheritance; genes play an enormous role.  On top of that, experts are unanimous that having good sun protection on the face is the best thing possible to slow down the development of lines. Dr Tamara Griffiths at the British Skin Foundation says there is very robust scientific evidence that sun exposure is the cause of many of the changes we associate with looking old, such as coarse wrinkles and sallow texture.

Obviously medical research needs to concentrate on curing all the dreadful diseases that play so much havoc with our lives; but hopefully in the not too distant future a serious solution will be found that will keep us looking really young and wrinkle free right into old age. But, despite the claims of certain brands, this solution is not with us at yet!


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