Is my wrinkle cream aging me?
December 5, 2012 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my early 20s and my skin is getting worse by the day. Can wrinkle creams make wrinkles worse?

I started freaking out about my "premature" fine lines (upon looking closely at other people my age, I think they were pretty normal) a while ago and a few weeks ago started using a night moisturizer and eye cream daily and a retinol cream (Philosophy Help Me) a few times a week.

In the past couple weeks my skin has been getting worse by the day. I got redness and peeling from the retinol which is expected, and my forehead lines seem to be getting better, but the lines under my eyes seem to be deeper every morning and I've spotted new ones creeping out down to my cheek. I am starting to look OLD and freak out.

WTF is going on? I am getting seriously upset by this and borderline obsessive since I feel at this rate I'll look 50 by the time I hit 25. Does aging really hit you this rapidly or is the Help Me messing me up? Should I keep it up with the retinol or cut it out?

I am 23, white, have dryish skin that was amazingly clear until I started this stuff. I wear Neutrogena SPF moisturizer every morning and don't get much sun anyway.
posted by vanitas to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am getting seriously upset by this and borderline obsessive

No faster way to a worried look about your face than to worry about how your face looks.
posted by carsonb at 12:48 PM on December 5, 2012 [10 favorites]

I bet that your skin just looks more wrinkled (but isn't actually wrinkled) from being dried out and irritated by the products you've started using. I'm going to guess the culprit is the retinol product you're using. Visible peeling and redness should really NOT be "expected" from retinol-- I have never experienced that myself even though I have really sensitive and pale skin that freaks out at the sight of an irritant. Plus, if it's winter where you live then cold dry air is probably making your skin even more dry. I'd drop the retinol completely or switch to something much more gentle. I use ROC Retinol Correxion Sensitive night cream and, as I said, it does not make my skin irritated at all.

Another consideration: are you drinking enough water and eating enough fat? Those are also things that could influence how naturally dry and sensitive your skin is.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

NO! You're not supposed to be getting lines and wrinkles in your early 20's.

Go to a dermatologist and have him/her evaluate your skin.Why are you using retinol? You don't need it.

Stop with the goop on your face. Step back. Stop obsessing.

When your skin calms down, get some Clinique.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Are you using a good sunscreen? Retinoids increase your sensitivity to the sun (as in, the sun can damage your skin more easily, especially before your skin is used to the retinoids).

If you are going to use any retinoid, you MUST use a good, photostable, broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eye creams are often pretty heavy and greasy - they may be messing up the delicate skin under your eyes. I just use a gentle moisturizer (EarthScience SPF 15, found at your co-op) or else just my sunscreen.

I don't think retinol is a good idea if your skin is already dry.
posted by Frowner at 12:52 PM on December 5, 2012

I would suggest that you see a dermatologist, who can tell you what's normal and abnormal about your skin. The derm can also help you work out a routine that will protect your skin best.

In the meantime, stopping the retinol sounds like a good idea.
posted by troika at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2012

Sorry I didn't read carefully enough; can you tell us more about the Neutrogena SPF you use? 15 isn't enough, and not all sunscreens are photostable.

This is my favorite website for information about sunscreen; there is also a lot of information about retinoids.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2012

You're 23. WTF are you using wrinkle cream for. Throw that shit out and use something with a good sunscreen for the day and something lighter and sunscreenless for the night.
posted by elizardbits at 1:03 PM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I use an SPF 30 moisturizer (don't have the bottle with me so I don't know the exact formula). I also live in the Pacific Northwest and work indoors so I get very little sun exposure to start with. I embraced the pale look as a teenager so I've been avoiding sun exposure for nearly a decade.

I started using the retinol because I *do* have visible fine lines and want to prevent things from getting worse, since they apparently work as a preventative measure.
posted by vanitas at 1:05 PM on December 5, 2012

No, wrinkle creams should not make wrinkles worse in and of themselves, but the wrong products can wreak havoc with any skin.

I second seeing a dermatologist, but in the meantime, get a gentle cleanser, use twice a day, and follow with a light moisturizer. Also drink enough water. Check out Paula's Choice for gentle skin care.
posted by tatiana131 at 1:18 PM on December 5, 2012

This isn't normal for retinols. I've been on them in one form or another for eight years (due to a skin condition) and they've worked as advertised for me. It could be that you have dry skin in general, or it could be a reaction to any of the new things that you've started.

I'd stop all of them and see what happens. Depending on how you feel after that, try adding back in the night cream by itself for like...a month? Then the Philosophy cream, for another month, then the eye cream (because it sounds like the new lines around your eyes are the thing that's really worrying you.)

In general, try to only start one new thing at a time. It makes it easier to track results and reactions.

Also, given this time of year, your tending-towards-dry skin, and the dryness that you can get from a retinol, it wouldn't hurt to run a humidifier in your bedroom at night, if you live in a place that has cold and dry winters.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:19 PM on December 5, 2012

Oh yeah, and go see a dermatologist. They're good at this sort of thing.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:19 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

And what has a dermatologist told you about your skin condition? Seriously, before you start mucking about with it, CHECK FIRST.
posted by wkearney99 at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

I use prescription Retin-A and it's amazing, but I did go through a period of some redness and peeling. Also, I am considerably older than you are.

If you are really this worried about it, see a dermatologist. She can put together a plan for what works for YOU. None of us are doctors and even if we are, we can't figure this out over the internet. Your wrinkle cream isn't aging you, but I also think you are too young to need all this stuff. See a pro who can actually tell you what WILL help.

Do you smoke? Get enough sleep? Get enough water and protein? Do you drink too much? There is a lot more to good skin than just creams. A doc can advise you.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It does sound like you have pretty limited sun exposure and reasonable sunscreen, that's great.

I disagree with the comments telling you to stop using retinoids entirely. I am 28; I haven't noticed any fine lines and I'm okay with lines anyway. But, they also help with acne, and there's research being done that suggests (though does not yet prove) that they may help prevent skin cancer.

The retinoid you are using is, according to this chart, a retinol, and about medium strength in terms of how strong it is (for OTC retinoids). Since you're having redness & peeling (and perhaps increased dryness), you could try going to a weaker retinoid - take a look at the top of the chart. Make sure you're using the product the right way. Once your skin adjusts to the weaker product, you can try the stronger product again.

Do you think the increased lines could be increased dryness? Could you switch to a richer moisturizer, layer moisturizers, etc? I have dry skin in the winter too, and I layer different moisturizers. Memail if you want to know what I use.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:21 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have what may sound like an odd recommendation to go along with "visit a dermatologist" (as well as maybe "get a blood test"). Please note I have mild psoriasis, so my brand of dry skin is likely a little different to yours, but I'm familiar with moisturizers of many sorts and mostly think they're scientifically crafted with marketing more than they are with useful properties. I've tried many, and there are only a couple I will use on the rare occasion I'm going to wear full makeup or be somewhere sunny. (I'm in Seattle, so...) There's always some problem with them for me.

So I actually use olive oil on my face some nights. Contrary to some popular belief, various oils are good for your skin, and olive oil is one of them. Don't put it on with your hands--what a mess--just dab some on a little cleaning pad and lightly wipe your face down. (Warning: Too much, and it'll get on your pillowcase.) Wash off any excess in the morning. (I like Neutrogena makeup remover towelettes.) My skin is smoother than it ever has been. Interestingly, at 25, I look a little younger doing this, too, which is an amusing and unintentional side effect. Now I have to deal with the realization that I was looking older.

As an aside, might I suggest you avoid beauty advertising a little more? It's impossible to completely eradicate it from your life, but it seriously can make you think you have more problems than you most likely do or make you obsess over something minor.
posted by iamfantastikate at 1:23 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was 21, I noticed that I had a tiny wrinkle at the side of my mouth. A smile crease. I had a wave of "well, this is it. This is the beginning of a slow decline," sweep over me, was sad for about a day, then went about my life as normal.

Today is my 27th birthday, and as I was looking at myself in the mirror last night, I realized that I still have that little smile wrinkle, same place, about the same size, but that's it. And a weird wrinkle has developed on my left earlobe, but I figure that's just one of those weird things.)

What I'm trying to say is, these things don't work on a linear scale. Just because you have n wrinkles today doesn't mean you'll have n+1 wrinkles tomorrow.

I'd cool it on all the products, though, just because it's a waste of money and life and you're gonna drive yourself crazy.
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

Dump your products if they're making your skin worse. Get some Cetaphil bar soap and lotion, which is gentle and not too expensive and available everywhere. (The non-antibacterial bar and the lotion with SPF 15 are both good.) This will help your skin recover from the damage you've done while you're waiting for an appointment with a dermatologist.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2012

I got redness and peeling from the retinol which is expected

See now this right here is why I think retinol is bad for people who don't otherwise have skin problems.

Stop putting all this crap on your face. Get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water. Eat something every once in a while. If you smoke, stop. If you are a heavy drinker or otherwise have bad lifestyle habits (the ickier end of recreational drugs, for example), stop. Wear sunscreen. Moisturize if you have dry skin.

That is really all you need to do. I promise you do not naturally look "old" or even really have actual noticeable wrinkles if you are really under 25 and lead a generally healthy life.
posted by Sara C. at 1:28 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would talk to a dermatologist, then do what he/she says. Then stop worrying.
posted by anonnymoose at 1:37 PM on December 5, 2012

Seconding iamfantastikate: if you have dry skin, a little bit of olive oil can work wonders. I have an olive oil & salt scrub that I made myself, and use it in the shower after soap on my body, and instead of soap on my face. The coarseness of the salt takes care of the dirt and exfoliates, and the oil makes my skin soft and smooth. I find I have much better skin now (i.e. no breakouts except right before my period--I do have fine wrinkle lines, and have for years, but they've mostly stayed the same since I first noticed them in my mid-twenties, and anyway they're from smiling and laughing, and I can't expect not to get them unless I stop enjoying myself!).

If you want to make salt scrub, it's super-easy. Get a small jar, pour half a cup of coarse sea salt in it, add some olive oil, mix it around with your finger until the consistency feels right, and add a couple drops of an essential oil you like. It takes me months to use up that much salt scrub, even if I use a little bit every single day, though I do find myself adding more olive oil every couple weeks just to even out the balance.

Also I want to second (or third, or fourth) what other folks have said: drink enough water and stay outta the sun and acknowledge that your skin (& anything else you can pick about any of us) will always be a little 'flawed' and your friends and lovers will love you because of and in spite of it--because that is what you look like, neither positively nor negatively--and that you owe it to yourself to do the same.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:42 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds like a period of dryer skin to me. Is there a difference in your exposure to AC? My daughter has been through a period with severe skin conditions (several at a time, not acne), and among those problems was her skin drying out because of her environments. She looked aged. Now after a visit to a dermatologist and a complex program of different creams and light therapy, she is back to her luminous self. Those "wrinkles" you have will go away.

Maybe you should spend some time in the nice moist Pacific outdoors - it helps my skin and hair to be out during winter, when the air inside is very dry.

And go to your nearest Kiehls store. They were originally a pharmacy, and still have really smart staff. Won't give products meant for old people to young girls. Heck, they would hardly give me an eye-cream at 49. But they keep my skin happy.
posted by mumimor at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2012

Peeling from retinol is, as you say, quite expected. It is not necessarily a sign that it's bad for you, but maybe you should start by the weakest kind if you really want to use it. I do recommend consulting a dermatologist about using these chemicals, but if you are seeking advice for skin care in general, be sure to pick a doctor who really specializes in it. You would be surprised how ignorant and optimistic a lot of the dermatologists can be when it comes to basic care.

Also, it is a common knowledge from where I come from (Japan) that if you use a moisturizer, it is imperative to use a cream or serum that is oil-based to trap the moisture and protect your skin. Moisturizing is only that, moisturizing, and if you leave it that way, your skin will dry out faster than usual (basic physics). I'm quite surprised to read often here that people only use moisturizer. Also, once popular scrubbing and peeling is now quite denounced in Japan, it just messes your natural cycle of skin formation and leads to thinner layers hence drying out your skin at the expense of your skin feeling "smooth".

As for wrinkles itself, don't worry wrinkles are not formed all of a sudden. Skin cells are very complex made from multiple layers, and it takes a long time and gradual aging for things like wrinkles to really set in the deep layer. It may look wrinkly on the surface when your skin is dried out, but once it's got its moisture back, it will disappear. So no, you're most likely not aging all of a sudden every day. So I would focus on moisturizing your skin properly rather than using retinol or using wrinkle reducing creams. If your skin is sensitive, use a good and basic squalane based cream after moisturizing.
posted by snufkin5 at 1:57 PM on December 5, 2012

Not saying you have worrisome wrinkles, because you probably don't. But I had quite obvious, crows-feetesque lines around my eyes by 15. They are still there and worsening now that I'm twice that age. It certainly does happen sometimes, to some people.The Retin-A I used for acne, did seem to keep them from progressing.

I definitely had redness and peeling at the start of my usage of Retin-A, but it wasn't horrific or anything. You should tone down the strength of the product you are using. And do NOT put too much on! Put the tiniest bit on!

On the other hand, it doesn't sound like anything was wrong with your skin in the first place. So maybe just knock it off entirely.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:54 PM on December 5, 2012

I'm 23 and I have some fine lines. When I talk about them my boyfriend is like "what are you even talking about." They have been there for 5ish years and haven't gotten any worse. My skin looks much better when I sleep well, drink enough water, and moisturize.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:45 PM on December 5, 2012

Ugh, stop using that crap ASAP!! It really can make your skin SO much worse, I used to work at a place that did organic facials and I'd heard lots of complaints.

I'm 31 next week and I hardly have an wrinkles... not to brag I think it might be a combination of genetics and lifetsyle. Don't smoke or eat too much crap. Also use a lot of unrefined coconut oil in your food AND apply to directly to your skin.Go see an aesthetician that works with natural products, you'd be amazed what they can do.

Also, you are probably freaking out over nothing, I'm sure no one but you can see those "wrinkles" at all.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2012

Are you putting on the retinol when your skin is wet or even slightly damp? That can greatly increase the irritation the product causes. If you read the patient insert with Retin-A it clearly tells you to wait 20-30 minutes after washing your face to apply it.

Don't waste your time at the cosmetics counter. See a dermatologist. They know about every product that Chanel or Clinique makes, plus they have access to the stuff that you need an Rx to get. They generally have better, cheaper options and the ability to give you a higher concentration of active ingredients.
posted by 26.2 at 12:20 AM on December 6, 2012

So: too lazy to book a dermatologist appointment, I cut out all the retinol and other bullshit and switched to plain Cetaphil face wash and copious moisturizer. I looked as good as normal in two or three days. I think because my skin is quite dry to start with the retinol just made the dryness out of control, making everything look nasty. Lesson learned: don't mess too much with your skin.
posted by vanitas at 11:37 PM on December 10, 2012

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