“Body lotions are unfortunately not miraculous creams,” says Adrienne O’Connell, DO, medical director and president of Laguna Beach Aesthetics. “They mainly help to fill the upper layer of the skin, which can temporarily make the skin look tighter and smoother.”
Given that “skin tightening” tends to be used as an umbrella term, there are a few different skin concerns that may make you look for this type of product. Think: chills, relaxation, cellulite and stretch marks. Unfortunately, formulas are not necessarily built to meet all of them, so it is important to understand their limitations before investing – especially since most of them are not cheap. Keep reading about what professionals want to know.
How do body lotions work?
As Dr. O’Connell points out, most skin firming products tend to target the top layer of your skin, known as the epidermis. Although these formulas may give you a temporary look, to see lasting results, you will need to use ingredients that stimulate the production of collagen and elastin one layer down on the skin.
“You want to make the skin as firm as possible,” says board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “You do not want the skin to be necessarily [thick] because that’s the part that changes quickly every two weeks. “
Experts generally recommend combining over-the-counter products with office treatments for best results, but there are some ingredients that can hit this skin layer on their own. Retinol is considered the gold standard, as it is “one of the only active ingredients that has been shown to help thicken skin and prevent it from becoming thinner,” says Dr. O’Connell. Peptides can also help because they strengthen the skin to improve elasticity and firmness and “play a key role in directing our skin cells to produce collagen, reduce inflammation and even skin tone,” he says. Dr. O’Connell. He suggests combining these active ingredients with antioxidants such as vitamin C and CoQ10 (which fight free radical damage to prevent inflammation) for maximum effectiveness.
How skin tightening lotions affect various skin concerns
If wrinkles are your main concern, the skin on your body will probably benefit from the same techniques you use on your face. “Chemical exfoliators like glycolic acid will exfoliate and tighten the skin,” says Dr. O’Connell. Dr. Hartman recommends combining chemical exfoliators, which smooth the upper layer of the skin, with retinol, which stimulates collagen and elastin in the skin.
Will using this combination of ingredients completely reduce wrinkles? Probably not. But their regular application in combination with SPF can help soften existing lines, while preventing the formation of new ones.
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2. Relaxed skin
As a person gets older, the combination of gravity and reduced production of collagen and elastin in our skin can cause a fall on both the face and body. “Peptides help stimulate more collagen, which can lead to firmer, more youthful skin,” says Dr. O’Connell, adding that peptides are the “most effective” ingredient in tightening sagging skin.
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Certified dermatologist Deirdre Hooper, MD, uses this firming lotion to combat sagging hands and feet. “When I’m very good at using this product and using it daily for at least a month, I see an improvement in the quality of my skin as a whole,” he told Well + Good. “And I think that’s because of the ingredients that combine tons of local cosmetics. Most importantly, a mixture of peptides that is supposed to improve the firmness and elasticity of the skin and antioxidants and herbs that will be anti-aging and help prevent the process of further relaxation.
3. I shudder
“Irritated skin occurs when your skin thins and loses its ability to return to normal after stretching,” Andrew Ordon, MD, FACS, a California-based plastic surgeon, told Well + Good. “It tends to affect larger areas, as opposed to wrinkles, which are usually formed by facial expressions such as a smile, frowns or squinting. It affects the texture of the skin, resulting in loose, wrinkled areas, as opposed to a wrinkled crease or lines known as wrinkles.
Dr. O’Connell names retinol as the most effective ingredient for targeting shivering skin. “Retinol penetrates the middle layer of your skin, boosting the production of elastin and collagen to ‘tighten’ or ‘fill’ the skin,” he says. “It can also improve the texture and tone of the skin.” However, Dr. Hartman adds that there is so much that retinol can do, so your best bet is to combine a retinol infusion body lotion with an office treatment such as CoolSculpting or radiofrequency.
4. Stretch marks
According to Christopher Zoumalan, MD FACS, an ophthalmic surgeon, “stretch marks are considered a type of scar and although there is no visible incision to heal, stretch marks create tears deep in the skin.”
These “scars” affect both the color and the texture of your skin. To reduce discoloration, Dr. Zoumalan recommends the use of tranexamic acid, which has been shown to improve hyperpigmentation almost as effectively as hydroquinone (an ingredient that whitens scars banned from sale in the US) and arbutin, which is known for its brightening properties. For a smooth texture, retinol is (once again) a solid choice. But while these ingredients may help, they probably will not completely eliminate your stretch marks.
If you are looking for a more aggressive treatment, there are some options in the office that you should consider. “Deep-frequency lasers and deep regeneration lasers such as Fraxel, CO2 and microneedling can all stimulate the production of collagen and elastin fibers under the skin,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based certified dermatologist. “These are great tools for improving and minimizing the appearance of stretch marks and I have had great success treating many of my patients.”
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Many people believe that hydrating the skin is the key to reducing cellulite (which, incidentally, affects 90 percent of women throughout their lives). According to Dr. Hartmann, however, there is little value in this theory. The reason? Cellulite occurs when the skin spreads over fat cells and skin tightening creams will not do much because they do not penetrate deep enough to change the structure of the skin.
One way you can tighten your skin by strengthening the muscles below. “In the face, muscle tone is not so important as we use these muscles to eat, chew and express ourselves,” says Dr. Hartmann. “But in the body, the muscles are much bigger and can help provide a better structure.”
However, it is important to note that muscle tightening and the use of skin tightening creams are not guaranteed to get rid of cellulite. If this is something that is bothering you, a doctor’s treatment that includes radiofrequency, injections or contouring with heat and massage is the best way.
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