Collagen and elastin are two of the biggest players in achieving healthy-looking skin. They are among the most abundant proteins in the body responsible for strengthening, stretching, and supporting the skin structure. These substances are why skin looks plump, youthful, and healthy when you’re younger. Think of collagen as the scaffolding that gives structure to our skin; elastin fibers are like rubber bands wrapped among the scaffolding to help the skin stretch and then snap back quickly.
Studies have found that collagen production peaks between 24 and 35 years old; after that, you lose about one percent of collagen per year, resulting in loose skin, fine lines, and wrinkles. But a healthy lifestyle can help slow down collagen loss: Apply SPF every day, don’t smoke, eat a balanced, plant-rich diet, prioritize sleep and stress management—and follow a consistent skincare routine that includes a product that contains ingredients to improve elasticity and collagen production, says Roberta Del Campo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. These formulas help firm, tighten, and smooth the skin. To be clear, tightening creams won’t get rid of loose skin, but they can help. They also help prevent further laxity.
Keep reading to learn more about skin-tightening creams, including how they work, what to look for when shopping for them, and the best options to try.
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What ingredients should I look for in skin-tightening creams?
The goal of skin-tightening creams is to increase collagen and elastin production, says Howard Sobel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin. One of his favorite ingredients for firming and tightening the skin is retinol, which he says is the “gold standard in skincare” for its ability to increase collagen production.
Another word to to keep an eye out for is peptides; these proteins are the building blocks of collagen and elastin, says Del Campo. “Peptides are tried-and-true ingredients that increase elastin production in particular.” Antioxidants, niacinamide, and growth factors are also beneficial in firming and tightening the skin, says Naana Boakye, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology.
Do skin-tightening creams actually work?
Yes, skin-tightening creams are effective, but they aren’t permanent. “Ideally, you want to start using one before there is a significant loss of skin elasticity,” Sobel says. “It can help slow down laxity but won’t eliminate it.” Apply a cream daily and know that it takes about eight weeks to see an increase of collagen production. And remember that lifestyle plays a large role in how your skin ages, says Boakye: “As long as the individual doesn’t smoke, obtain an excessive amount of sun, or have a diet rich in sugars and processed foods, then these creams are beneficial.”