Monday, April 18, 2011

Does Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Work? Depends on What "Work" Means

Ready for the grand reveal? Actually, according to my poll results, 56% of you don’t need it at all: The right side of my face received the anti-aging treatment. Twenty-nine percent of you couldn’t tell, and only 15% of you guessed incorrectly. And according to the results of my Visia face scan—kindly performed by Sabina Kozak, the spa director at Sensitive Touch, a medical spa in NYC—my wrinkles really have decreased on the right side of my face:


The Visia scan also told me I was in the 47th wrinkle percentile for 34-year-old women.
Does Kaplan have a course for improving this?

So obvs we should all be swarming the drugstore in search of Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair, right? Not exactly. The other measures from my Visia face scan (thanks to The Beauty Brains for the tipoff about the Visia imaging system, which aids in analyzing your skin's condition) suggested that I had poorer texture on the treated side of my face—hardly a surprise, given the flakiness and peeling I had about two weeks in. So you’re making a devil’s deal—reduced wrinkles for heightened sensitivity—and you might not ever know whether it’s worth it (unless, of course, you conduct a Highly Scientific Experiment like a certain intrepid beauty blogger).

But fine, whatever, some of us will put bat blood on our face if it’ll just slow down the cruelle hands of time, right? So look at my photo again:


Let’s be honest: The difference is minuscule. It’s not something you’d notice were you not looking for it—or, for 29% of you, that you'd notice even if you were (not to mention the 15% who thought I'd treated the other side of my face). In fact, I found it impossible to properly document, because the only way I myself noticed was when I would smile wildly at myself four inches away from the mirror. Then I could tell a legitimate difference in the depth of wrinkles under my eyes and the number of fine lines splayed out on either side of my nose. But unless I spend my life grinning fanatically to increase my wrinkles so that onloookers can tell how decreased they've actually become, no really, it's a moot point. (I might begin to garner a reputation as extraordinarily cheerful and/or as a maniac, which would either shave a few years off or add them on, depending.)

But here’s the thing: Undoubtedly, the cream “worked.” It’s justified in its claims of "fading the look of stubborn...deep wrinkles." (Though its other claims, of “brightening skin tone” and “improving texture” were unproven--do you see any difference in tone? I don’t, and neither did Kozak at Sensitive Touch. In fact, in just looking at close-up photos of my face, she guessed I’d been treating the left side of my face, because of its smoother texture—and this is a person who improves people's skin for a living.) But I recall a back-and-forth I once overheard between two coworkers of mine, in surveying the skin care basket at a beauty sale: “Oh, vitamin C cream, that sounds nice,” one said. The other replied, “Yeah, but does it work?” She said it with a cynical, resigned tone, and years later I keep hearing her voice when I’m contemplating some new skin potion. With, say, mascara, it’s easy to tell if it “works”: Are your lashes darker than they were before? Yes? It's working. Logically the same would apply to skin care: My fine lines were indeed diminished, however slightly, so unequivocally we can say it works, right?

But if the phrase “hope in a jar” is any indication, I’m not alone in illogically wanting a product to “work” in ways it simply can’t. It wasn't so much that I wanted my wrinkles diminished; I wanted the radiance I had in college, when all I had to do was roll out of bed to have the glow that now only comes with a good night’s rest, healthy diet, and exercise. At 34, I’m only beginning to enter the anti-aging sector of the beauty market, and I’m learning what a rabbit hole it could easily become. Because if this cream is the best over-the-counter cream there is, and it "works" but doesn’t work-work, the next step is to see a dermatologist for the prescription-strength version. That cream will work but probably not work-work; then Botox cometh. And then a chemical peel, and then laser resurfacing, and then what’s left but going under an actual knife in order to find what will really, finally, truly work-work?
 

I wonder if part of the disappointment of the anti-aging market is that it's a misnomer. It doesn't anti-age you; it ages you smarter, that's all. The right side of my face does not currently look younger than my left side; it just looks maybe a little less stressed out or better-rested, like one half of me was doing face yoga while my vampiric, type-A, humorless, haggard side, who is also probably a heavy smoker and named Charlene, was paying visit to the taxman.

I had another realization through this experiment, one that has less to do with how the cream made me look and more with how we look at one another. People had a much higher rate of guessing erroneously when in person as compared with people who voted online and could scrutinize the “data” without feeling uncomfortable. (Workplace tip: Kneeling in front of your coworkers’ desks and asking them to play Fountain of Youth with you is super-awkward, but you become BFFs real quick!) Not only that, but the people who knew me best—close friends, longtime coworkers, even my boyfriend—were the most likely to choose wrong.

Looking at pictures of my squinty eyes on a screen, you can parse out that maybe the fine lines on the right side are a bit finer. But when looking at me—a live, breathing person, one emanating energy and eagerness and friendliness and curiosity and maybe a little bit of awkward nerves—I think people weren’t able to be as objective. Not that my aura is so dazzling (I do eventually tire of the applause, you know), but rather that my humanness—just like theirs—was so present as to overshadow any individual facet of me.

Which is to say: Nobody wants to look that closely. The only times I’m scrutinizing someone’s face is when I'm intrigued by the person, so anything I find is going to be a treasure, or a clue to their inner lives. In the past week I’ve discovered a glimmer of silver eyeshadow on a low-key colleague I always thought eschewed makeup, a scatter of well-concealed pimples on a friend who’s desperately unhappy at her job, and an old-fashioned beauty mark on one of the most casually glamorous women I know. I’m paying attention to their faces and finding these things, assets and drawbacks alike, because the people captivate me. If I’m lucky enough to captivate someone else to the point where they’re mapping my face, I have to trust that they will see my lines as what they are—evidence of nearly 35 years on this planet. Whether a person thinks I look "aged" or haggard versus well-lived and vibrant will depend upon what they think of my presence, not the lines around my eyes.

So, will I keep using this cream? Well, I probably won’t buy it (I got this bottle for free, a perk of working in ladymags)--but I’ll finish the bottle. And in all honesty, the next time I go to my dermatologist for a cancer check
(which you should do, pronto—I did on a whim and it turns out I had precancerous cells, so get your butt in there, missy), I can't promise I won't ask for a Retin-A prescription. Yes, much of what I've written here has refuted the net effectiveness of age creams. Yes, I still want in. 

Even after knowing that people can only tell the difference when pressed, even knowing that I can only tell the difference when exaggerating my wrinkles, even having loosely proved that my human presence is an effective mask for any “fine lines” I might have: The option is there, every night, available. Were I to opt out entirely, I feel like I’d be giving up on the part of me that wants to establish myself as radiant and vibrant. I do the things that actually keep me as radiant as I can be: I eat my veggies, I do my yoga. But those take time, and dedication. And I am, after all, only American: There is a part of my brain resistant to all sense, and that part tells me that maybe a 60-second fix really will help. For 60 seconds every night, I can dab a bit of lotion onto my fingers and pretend like I have a quick pass to "aging gracefully"; for those 60 seconds each night, I have a quiet, divine ritual that reminds me I have a long life ahead, and that this small talisman might help me through it. For 60 seconds each night, there’s a part of me that believes I have access to the sort of older woman I look at and hope to become—and for the tentative now, the only barrier to entry is the occasional twenty-dollar bill, spent on a wishful act of magic, a moment of alchemy, a silent prayer that I have some dominion in the woman I will be in ten years, in twenty, in forty. 

Hope in a jar.



24 comments:

  1. Fun experiment! AND I was right! I know me some wrinkles. But seriously, both sides of your face look youthful and lovely. As for the creme itself, meh. I say get the rx retinoid. Only downside is that you can't tan your face in sun nor can you get eyebrows waxed. Upside; majorly noticeable diff in quality of skin, glow, vibrancy and fine lines. I love it. I actually was thinking about you - I bought a hella expensive magazine - "New Beauty" for beach, and after reading it I wanted to get surgery to remove the bags under my eyes as well as botox - to preventatively treat my wrinkles. I am a sucker for good marketing.

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  2. New Beauty is awesome! Pricey but only comes out seasonally, so I kinda see why, and I like that it's at least targeted and chock full of info!


    Autumn, ultimately, you're right--there are so many paths to "aging gracefully" besides face cream, like eating right, drinking lots of water, doing exercise, being relaxed...there are also face cream, facial massage, retinoids...lol. But for some facial imperfections, while the results of creams an the like are not surgical, they do make a difference! Moisture levels, collagen levels, relative thinness or thickness of the skin, cell turnover rate, etc all affect how our skin looks. If your skin is just slightly slow at turning over, then something that isn't as strong as Rx strength would work fine for you to increase brightness and improve texture.

    The Roc and Oil of Olay anti aging products get RAVE reviews. Check em out.

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  3. Cameo, I didn't know you couldn't get your brows waxed if you were on a retinoid. Egads! I thread, wonder if that's the same thing? And I'm reading your magazine blog entry right now...

    Eden, stay tuned--I'll be doing something similar with an all-natural cream. And I do love me some Oil of Olay--their regenerating serum just feels great on my skin.

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  4. I prescribe to the Dr. Bronner's suggested method that is on the side of the soap: the best two cosmetics are enough sleep and clean skin. Granted...you know, he's a man...SO, veggies, yoga, natural sunscreen and moisturizer are also my stand-bys. I find that Neutrogena product suspect because the spokesmodel is Diane Lane. My fi rst thought when I saw the commercial was "what, no she was born that way." Love the blog.

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  5. that's why Philosophy named its cream as "hope in a jar"!

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  6. Candace and Crueltyfree, thank you for reading!

    Candace: I never actually made it through reading the whole bottle--it makes me dizzy! But I do agree. I've been eating a lot of carrots lately too and admit that part of me is curious to see if it gives me a "natural tan" b/c of all the beta carotene...

    Crueltyfree: Ha! I didn't know they named one of their creams that! I like the blatancy of it, sort of a comment on itself.

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  7. I guessed right! I use a very inexpensive moisturizer and no wrinkle cream...I wonder though if a person used it for 20 years if the difference would be more visible. I love your discovery that most people don't actually look that closely.

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  8. Terri, I can totally envision Neutrogena paying off someone to do that for 20 years!

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  9. Amazing as always! Is this how they test most beauty products?

    I've heard (and believe) that sunscreen is a good way to beat wrinkles so long as you start as early as possible. However, I've stopped using mine until I can find a replacement that doesn't have oxybenzone in it. Bleh.

    --Courtney

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  10. Ha, that would be totally awesome if Neutrogena had this corps of women walking around with a half-face of fewer wrinkles!

    Yeah, sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. And, honestly, genes. We hear it all the time but I feel like we all still want the magic potion instead of something so simple. (Heh, if I were REALLY dedicated I'd start using sunscreen on half my face and check in here in 20 years...)

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  11. I'm 84 years old and do have wrinkles! They are not very bad as I have always moisturized. But all I want to do is softened them, especially around the mouth. I have been using Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle repair for a week. There is a very slight difference. I've got a long way to go to really make a report on the results. It is senseless to use this product if you are young and barely show signs of aging skin!

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  12. Hi, R. Bedinger! Thank you for reading! And yeah, it isn't the best example, given that I'm 34 and have been reasonably careful about sun protection for my whole life (and had the luxury to do so--my great-grandmother, as described by my mother, was deeply wrinkled by 60 because she was only one generation away from being a pioneer). I hope that you're pleased with the results of the product--and that you appreciate your wrinkles as I hope those around you do!

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  13. I became more conscious with my skin when I saw that wrinkles are starting to form on my face, of course I panic and immediately searched for an anti aging treatment. But unfortunately, I’m still on the process of finding the right cream for my skin, do you have any suggestions to my dilemma?

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  14. Thanks for sharing your experience, in my opinion rapid results can only be achieved by dermal fillers, botox or related treatment methods.

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  15. Well, that only means that the skin cream you've used is effective. But I think you could find some natural beauty products right at your own home, without paying too much. No matter what I'll try both methods and skin care.

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  16. neutrogena rapid wrinkle repair what a scam it always let my face feeling gritty and sandy even after washing the net day before reapplying, I still felt the gritty feeling on my face. As far as working, it didn't do a thing for me after using a whole tube faithfully

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  17. neutrogena rapid wrinkle repair what a scam it always let my face feeling gritty and sandy even after washing the nect day before reapplying, I still felt the gritty feeling on my face. As far as working, it didn't do a thing for me after using a whole tube faithfully

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  18. After running out of my old moisturiizer, I wanted to try something new. I did some research and decided to try the Lady Soma Renew Serum. I had issues with my pore size, blemishes and some fine wrinkles. After using the Lady Soma Serum for only one week, I noticed a SIGNIFICANT change. I have very sensitiv skin and I love that I did not have any kind of reaction. I have an overall glow to my face, no blemishes or breakouts and those fine wrinkles are seriously smoothing out!

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  19. I used neutrogena rapid wrinkle repair for a couple of days and it made my skin worst then before, the glow of my skin was gone, my face was getting dryer and I had to apply lot's of sunscrean to put some moisture to my face. Defenitelly waste of money,don't buy it

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  20. I don't understand why people use this stuff or all any of these other non effective anti-wrinkle treatments that you can buy offline. Just pay the money once and have some laser resurfacing done.....

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  21. Dr D.M Mahajan is an doctor having 20+ years of experience in the field of Dermatologist and cosmetic surgery. Find out more info for Wrinkles Treatment in Delhi

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  22. Plastic Surgery Miami...........I don't have the budget fo laser resurfacing, so Ido what I am able to do. Maybe one day. Different realities.

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  23. Great !!! This is so phenomenal!!!That is very impressive information! I love it. You really did a super job with the Skin Care! I use to do buy online Skin Care as its time saving.

    Survival Skill for Physical Fitness

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