They call to us from gleaming counters with promises of dewy complexions and renewed radiance. Nearly every month, there seems to be a new...

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They call to us from gleaming counters with promises of dewy complexions and renewed radiance. Nearly every month, there seems to be a new collection of potions that claim to smooth away wrinkles, fade brown spots and bring back that elusive youthful glow. Try me before you go in for Botox or Restylane or a face-lift, they seem to say.

We asked a dermatologist not affiliated with a beauty company to give us an honest assessment of the claims and ingredients that entice some of us to spend hundreds of dollars each year on products touted as miracle workers.

Do they really work? “I’m asked this question at least 10 times a day,” says dermatologist Sunil Dhawan, a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

They work, the doctor says, but in a very limited capacity. The reason: Most beauty products use a smaller concentration of the effective ingredients so that skin irritations are minimized. That means the effectiveness is also lessened.

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“Most of these companies make good products. The issue is that they don’t do much if your skin is in need of something more aggressive,” he explains. “It’s a good place to start, but eventually, the over-the-counter products might not be enough.”

Dr. Dhawan’s tips:

• Use a sunblock with an SPF 30 or greater, rain or shine, winter and summer.

• Before you head to the cosmetics counter, ask yourself what you’re trying to tackle: Wrinkles? Dullness?

• For wrinkles, a skin-care regimen should include products that contain Retin A, Vitamin C and glycolic acid.

• For uneven skin tone caused by hyper-pigmentation, use a cream that contains hydroquinone. Most products contain 2 percent hydroquinone, but most doctor-administered lines contain 4 percent.

• Don’t be dazzled by claims that sound miraculous.

• Once you commit to a product, follow directions and use it consistently.

If you still want to try some over-the-counter products, here are a few of the latest that may — or may not — make a difference.

Lancome Absolue Premium Bx, replenishing cream with SPF 15, $108 for 1.7 ounces, Nordstrom.


Claim: “Sets the new standard in skincare to fight visible effects of age and hormonal changes.”

Key ingredients: Pro-Xylane, a molecule that “restores essential moisture deep in the structure of skin’s surface” and Bio-Network — wild yam, soy, sea algae and barley — which “helps enhance performance for visible rejuvenation.”

Patricia Wexler, M.D., No-Injection Wrinkle Smoother, $45 for 1 ounce, BigelowChemists.com and select Bath and Body Works stores.

Claim: “For frown lines … combination of ingredients relaxes the muscle tension that results in creases and furrows with frequent expression. … Improves the appearance of existing lines.”

Key ingredients: “Gaba Forte relaxes wrinkles while Argireline Peptide smooths lines.”

Joey Double Chin Firming Treatment Patch, $25 for four, drugstore.com.

Claim: “Clinically proven to firm the area of the chin as well as minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles within 30 minutes. Specially formulated to help to boost skin’s collagen.”

Key ingredients: “Ginkgo Biloba Extract, Humulus Lupulus Extract (Hops), Wheat Germ Extract.”

N.V. Perricone Alpha Lipoic Acid Face Firming Activator, $100 for 2 ounces, Sephora stores.

Claim: ” … the NTP complex lifts and contours the skin with immediate visible results … the alpha lipoic acid and gentle alpha hydroxy acids work to minimize enlarged pores, while reducing the appearance of scarring and discolorations in the skin.”

Key ingredients: ” … two powerful antioxidants: Vitamin C ester and alpha lipoic acid, both of which reduce the threat of free radicals and the visible signs of aging.”