There is a dizzying array of topical creams, salves, serums, gels and treatments available.

Share story

They say we’ve got an app for everything under the sun, but it’s a shame there isn’t an app to reverse sun damage, or eliminate wrinkles.

We could all just sit (in the shade, of course) with no facial expressions.

Or we could try one of the several hundred products — cosmeceuticals — that promise to turn back the aging clock on our faces, or at least slow it down a bit.

The word cosmeceuticals was coined by renowned American dermatologist Albert Kligman in 1980 to describe “the marriage of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.” It describes those products falling somewhere between cosmetics and drugs that contain ingredients said to improve the skin’s function.

Compounds such as retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) and alpha or beta hydroxy acids have always been around, but in the early 1990s they achieved widespread popularity when cosmetics companies started mass-marketing them in products.

Two decades later, there is a dizzying array of topical creams, salves, serums, gels and treatments available to us, but does the fountain of youth really exist in a bottle?

The experts say the appearance of aging depends on how much time you’ve already spent in the sun, or how much time you plan to spend there.

Pharmacists Joan Lausier and Serpil Kislalioglu, associate dean and professor of pharmaceutics, respectively, in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Rhode Island School of Pharmacy, say the best defense is to use sunscreen.

So what’s a girl to do? Here are some tips from the experts on what you can do to maintain youthful skin and, if you’re lucky, what you can do to reverse the aging process.

Filling in the gaps

Fillers are a specialized treatment recommended for lines or wrinkles around the mouth or eyes. They add collagen and elastin back to the dermis, which is the fibrous middle layer of the skin. As people age, the loss of this layer contributes heavily to the formation of wrinkles and other signs of aging.

A substance called hyaluronic acid, occurring naturally in the dermis, is one of the main components of skin. As we age, it decreases, contributing to the loss of moisture and the creases that result, Kislalioglu said.

Dermatologists have simulated this natural substance and that’s a good thing because, while it’s being injected into the skin, it is biodegradable. Hyaluronic acid is found in Restylane and Juvederm, brand names of gel fillers.

Doctors will use a needle to apply the gel to fill the empty space just to the upper part of the dermis. They plump up the lines and creases and make them less noticeable. The skin looks younger and supple again. But one has to be careful; if it is not applied correctly, it can cause side effects, Kislalioglu said. Fillers can last as long as six months.

— Botulinum toxin A, the generic term for what most people call Botox, is not a filler, but a kind of muscle relaxant, said Dr. Marina Kuperman-Beade. A licensed dermatologist is the best person to inject you with it, though many plastic surgeons have learned to do so, she said. It relaxes the muscles and helps get rid of those 11s (frown lines), forehead furrows and crows feet, but it wears off after about three to four months, and has to be repeated to maintain the effect.

What’s new

Sunscreens containing antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, E, coenzyme Q10, keratin and/or green tea. These products not only protect your skin from the sun, but also help reduce some of the sun’s damage

Fractional laser skin resurfacing. This laser treatment — well-known brand, Fraxel — stimulates collagen production to reduce wrinkles and resurfaces rough, uneven or splotchy skin. Unlike with conventional laser therapy, the skin does not appear damaged, and recovery time is reduced. According to dermatologist Darrell Gonzales, of La Jolla, Calif., results can last up to 10 years.

Reach Lisa Vernon-Sparks at For more stories visit