Product Review: N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator

Skin Care

N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator ($120.00, claims it is a fine line reducer and pore refiner. According to, N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator “contains five times the percentage of alpha lipoic acid anti-inflammatory potency to fight fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores; five times the amount of sodium hyaluranate to bind vital moisture to the skin; two times the level of glycolic acid to help speed up cell renewal and smooth the overall texture of the skin; and a 17 percent increase in DMAE to help firm and tone the appearance of the skin.” (Percent increases over what, I am not sure, but high concentrations nonetheless, as indicated by the ingredients list.)

What does glycolic acid do for the skin?

Glycolic acid is the most common of all the alpha hydroxy acids. Glycolic acid treatments advance cell turnover and exfoliate the top layer of the skin. This is important in fighting aging, as cell turnover is reduced by up to 7% every ten years. Glycolic acid treatments have been found useful in decreasing small wrinkles and increasing collagen production as well. Due to the high ranking of glycolic acid on the ingredients list, and the fact that this product is sold over-the-counter, it is most likely that the concentration of glycolic acid in this product is 8-10%, which should be very effective in fighting small lines and improving skin smoothness.

In addition, despite its drying reputation, glycolic acid and other alpha hydroxy acids are actually hydrating. In fact, LacHydrin is a prescription drug with the alpha hydroxy acid lactic acid that is FDA approved to treat dry skin. The other emollient ingredients in this product, including isopropyl palmitate and sodium hyaluronate, should also make this product more hydrating.

What does alpha lipoic acid do for the skin?

The N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator contains a high concentration of alpha lipoic acid, an ingredient that has been demonstrated to be absorbed into the skin of hairless mice (Lupo). According to Podda et. al., alpha lipoic acid is reduced to dihydrolipoic acid, in which form it is an antioxidant. According to H. Bietner, alpha lipoic acid has a very important role in enhancing the uptake of coenzyme Q10 in the reduction of fatty acids. However, it is not known if alpha lipoic acid applied topically can affect coenzyme Q10 absorption. At any rate, 5% lipoic acid cream tested by Bietner on 33 women (average age: 54.4 years) for 12 weeks found that their fine lines were reduced, and their skin smoothness was significantly increased.

However, alpha lipoic acid does not provide additional photoprotection, unlike some other antioxidants. A 2004 study by Lin et. al. found that, although vitamin C and vitamin E (15%L-ascorbic acid and 1%alpha-tocopherol, such as that found in Skinceuticals CE Ferulic) increase photoprotection, adding 5% lipoic acid to the vitamin C and E antioxidant complex did not increase the amount of photoprotection. As such, alpha lipoic acid should not be considered a network antioxidant that synergistically enhances the power of other antioxidants.

Is the product more effective than Retin-A? What about other retinol creams?

Don’t throw out your Retin-A cream for this product (unless, of course, you are pregnant or nursing, in which case you should not use Retin-A anyway). Although the results from alpha lipoic acid, glycolic acid and Retin-A are similar, according to a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study, it was found that 0.05% all-trans-retinoic acid (such as that found in Retin-A) was more effective than 2% lipoic acid or 10% glycolic acid in treating signs of aging. Although the exact percentages of lipoic acid and glycolic acid in the N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator are not known, it is likely that similar percentages of lipoic acid and glycolic acid are present. Further, although 0.05% all-trans-retinoic acid was not compared to a combination of lipoic acid and glycolic acid, there is more research backing Retin-A. According to dermatologist Mary Lupo, use of Retin-A results in cellular and molecular improvements which include decreased wrinkling and roughness, lightening of lentigines and melasma, decreased corneocyte adhesion and epidermal hyperplasia, increased Langerhans cells, increased collagen, elastin, and angiogenesis. However, retinol-and retinyl palmitate-containing products, which are commonly found in cosmeceuticals, exhibit about 1/20 the potency of Retin-A, so the N.V. Perricone product is likely more effective in treating wrinkles and smoothness than most over-the-counter retinoid treatments, just not Retin-A.

Does DMAE increase facial firmness and decrease the appearance of wrinkles?

DMAE has been shown by Uhoda et. al. in 2002 to increase facial firmness in a randomized double-blind split-face study. More recently, this year, a study by Morrisette et. al. found that DMAE is effective against wrinkle formation because it causes vacuolar cells to expand, temporarily increasing skin fullness in the wrinkled areas. This differs from the original theory of DMAE efficacy, i.e., DMAE is chemically similar to choline, so DMAE stimulates production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Instead, DMAE seems to act by altering vacuolar cells, but does appear, based on this research study, to work.


Overall, the product appears strong, with anti-wrinkle and smoothing effects similar to those from Retin-A. If you are pregnant or nursing, this may be a good alternative to Retin-A (which pregnant and nursing women are advised not to use). Otherwise, if fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture are a problem, I would probably recommend seeing a dermatologist and getting a prescription for Retin-A instead of this product, as Retin-A has more research behind its efficacy, and is actually a bit cheaper. Overall, however, a good product. Product Rating: 8/10.

Ingredients in N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Thioctic Acid (Alpha-Lipoic Acid), L-Tyrosine, Dimethyl MEA (DMAE), Isopropyl Palmitate, Hydroxylated Lecithin, Triethanolamine, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Urea, Glycosaminoglycans, Ceteareth-20, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polysorbate 60, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Bisabolol, Zinc Sulfate, Dimethicone, Allantoin, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Pyridoxine HCI, Citric acid, Pantethine, Magnesium Aspartate, Zinc Gluconate, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, BHT, Tocotrienols, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopherol, Copper Gluconate.

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