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Dr. Denese New York Advanced Firming Facial Pads ($35, amazon.com) promise smoother skin over time. With glycolic acid, peptides, and retinyl palmitate, it won’t work on the moderate to severe wrinkles, but it will help smooth skin.
Glycolic acid is the most widely used of the alpha-hydroxy acids.
While glycolic acid in products aren’t as strong as those found in the dermatologist’s office — think up to 10% at home compared to up to 70% in office. Nonetheless, glycolic acid works to thin the strateum corneum (the outermost layer of skin), exfoliating the skin (Dermatological Surgery). This helps to increase cell turnover, smooth small wrinkles, and boost the fibroblast production of collagen (Dermatological Surgery, Dermatology). It also works to treat skin damaged by UV-irradiation because it helps to reduce the sort of matrix degradation sent out by keratinocytes (Experimental Dermatology).
But the amount that you find in products, you won’t get the kind of incredible results that help moderate to severe wrinkling. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found that participants saw better results with 0.05% all-trans-retinoic acid (a retinol) than with either 2% lipoic acid or 10% glycolic acid (Dermatology).
Peptides Palmitoyl Ogliopeptide and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7
Peptides are a hot ingredient in skin care. While there’s some concern that they’re too large to penetrate the skin, but studies show that they work. So while we’re not sure exactly how, they’re working effectively in the skin.
Palmitoyl Ogliopeptide does a great job of stimulating fibroblast production of collagen. It works over time, and is best used about twice daily for six months (Dermatologic Therapy). One minor controversy? Palmitoyl Ogliopeptide down-regulates elastin expression. On the one had, elastin expression increases with age and grows in a disorganized fashion, so it might be beneficial to stop the disorderly growth. But ingredients that increase elastin expression have also been shown to firm skin, so we don’t know the answer yet.
Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 may reduce some of the damage done by the environment, UV-irradiation, stress, and other pro-inflammatory factors because it reduces interleukins, which are inflammatory cytokins (Clinics in Dermatology). In one study, those cells that were affected by these conditions saw an 86% reduction in interleukins when they were treated with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7. Aside from this, there are few studies looking into what this peptide does.
Retinyl Palmitate is a form of retinol and palmitic acid that’s about 20 times weaker than retinol. Subsequently, it must be put into formulations in higher concentrations than retinol in order to be effective. While it won’t necessarily do as much heavy lifting, it will help to smooth and firm skin. And, to the benefit of this product, retinyl palmitate can be used with alpha-hydroxy acids because of it’s neutral to acidic, something around 5.6 to 7 (Journal of Investigative Dermatology).
One note: retinyl pamitate degrades quickly — usually about a month after opening — so it’s important not to keep this product in your medicine cabinet for too long (Journal of Cosmetic Science).
Personal Use and Opinion
Dr. Denese New York Advanced Firming Facial Pads didn’t sting or burn when I used one on my face for the recommended time, 30 to 60 seconds, despite having experience some past burning with glycolic acid. I found them to be refreshing — though a bit on the wet side — and they left a slight tacky feeling on my face after use.
Dr. Denese New York Advanced Firming Facial Pads are good for finer lines and wrinkles, but not for moderate to severe wrinkles. They might irritate skin during an adjustment period, which is totally normal and won’t last long. But for that reason, it’s best to start using them twice a week and work up a tolerance.