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The Truth about “Firming” Creams

How to put your best face—and thigh—forward.

The Truth about “Firming” Creams
So you’re going on a beach vacation? And your body hasn’t seen the light of day in, what, three months? And if you’re anything like us, come this time of year, you’ve indulged in more Lindt advent calendars than there are days in the month, thrown your regular schedules, sleep, skin care, and gym patterns to the freezing winds (let’s be real, no amount of Moncler down parka is getting us to that 6:00 AM workout), and in general could probably use some rehabilitative TLC. So in lieu of taking the time to cleanse, you go for the easy fix: body and skin-firming creams—the miraculous whips that claim to smooth away cellulite and tighten the look of skin. But do they really work? In the name of less squats and more beachside sangria, we reached out to two pros to find out.


Do they work?

“There are skin-firming lotions and creams that work. In general, most are temporary and only last for several hours.” —Dr. Jeannette Graf, dermatologist; author, Stop Aging, Start Living

“Claims of ‘firming’ products often stretch the truth, and most dont actually contain ingredients that can really firm or tighten (lift) skin. In short, what they promise is beyond the reality of what skin care can do.” —Desiree Stordahl, Senior Research and Education Manager, Paula’s Choice Skincare

The real firming ingredients:

“Instead of seeking out a ‘firming cream, here are the types of ingredients you should look for to help your skin really appear firmer:

Products loaded with antioxidants and skin-restoring ingredients: These two groups of ingredients help to defend against environmental attack and help renew the appearance of firmness. Hyaluronic acid and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (found in green tea) are great examples, but there are many other excellent antioxidants and skin-restoring ingredients that can help.

Retinol and niacinamide can improve almost every aspect of your skin. Both are skin-transforming, superhero ingredients that can address almost every imaginable skin concern when it comes to the appearance of wrinkles, the loss and feel of firmness, and reviving the look of plump, youthful suppleness. These are incredibly beneficial ingredients to look for.” —Stordahl

Short-term firmers:

“The newest technology are polymers, which, once applied to the skin, stretch in different directions, [and] which, over a short period of time (five to eight minutes), actually firm and tighten the skin for a few hours. The downside [of polymers] is the texture is often sticky, particularly when applying makeup.” —Dr. Graf

Long-term firmers:

“The firming lotions and creams which have lasting benefits generally contain ingredients such as retinols, copper, peptides, and often contain humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin. These effects are typically lasting, since they have an additive benefit over prolonged use.” —Dr. Graf

Be consistent:

“The most important thing is to be consistent. You can’t apply a product one day and expect to see instant results. If you’re diligent about using the types of formulas listed above, your skin will improve over time, and you’ll be warding off further sagging to the extent possible with skin care. It’s not magic and it’s not plastic surgery, so keep your expectations realistic, but you really can help your skin improve.” —Stordahl

Get immediate results:

“For more immediate results, application of a mask prior to using these products enhances the benefits by increasing the level of active ingredients. Generally speaking, the thicker the product consistency, the more visible the firming effect during application.” —Dr. Graf

The favorites:

For sun protection:CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30—contains niacinamide and sunscreen in one. (And it’s only $15!)” —Stordahl

For the body:Paula’s Choice RESIST Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment melds retinol and other key anti-aging ingredients normally seen in facial moisturizers into a silky lotion that helps improve skins firmness.” —Stordahl

For the face:Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel contains hyaluronic acid and a bevy of antioxidants and reparative ingredients for youthful-looking skin.” —Stordahl
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