May 1, 2009 -- Britons are queuing up at Boots, a popular U.K. pharmacy chain, to purchase a new anti-aging cream that scientists claim is the first clinically tested over-the-counter cosmetic proven to reduce wrinkles.
It remains to be seen whether Americans will get in line at their drug store to purchase the product to be released by Boots here later this year.
American dermatologists said the study confirmed what they already knew about the active ingredient -- a derivative of vitamin A -- found in Boots No 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum, which has long been known to reduce wrinkles and is already found in several over-the-counter products sold in the United States.
Following preliminary studies about a similar Boots product's efficacy publicized in a 2007 BBC documentary, that skin cream reportedly sold out in one day.
Boots will not say when you will be able to buy the cream or for how much it will retail in the United States. A similar product, Boots No 7 Refine and Rewind Intense Perfecting Serum, which also contains the ingredient retinyl palmitate, is currently available in the U.S. at Target stores and sells for $21.99.
The market for anti-aging cosmetics is booming, with some creams that promise to reverse the signs of old age retailing for over $500.
La Prairie Cellular Radiance Cream costs $570 at Nordstrom and includes bits of precious stones, but no studies have been published on its efficacy.
Cosmetics in the U.S. are a $2 billion industry and anti-aging face creams make up a considerable piece of the market. In 2008, some $655 million worth of anti-aging face creams were sold, according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.
Investing in facial creams could prove a wise move for the company. The growth in skin care products was driven primarily by face products in 2007, according the research firm.
According to Professor Chris Griffiths at the University of Manchester, scientists have known that vitamin A-derived products, like the prescription strength Retin-A, can reduce wrinkles.
His study on the Boots product is significant, he said, because "it is one of a few, or the first, on over-the-counter anti-aging products which were found to improve fine wrinkles in photoaged skin."
"Photoaged" refers to damage – fine lines, wrinkles and spots – caused by exposure to the sun.
According to the study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, "very few over-the-counter cosmetic 'anti-ageing' products have been subjected to a rigorous double-blind, vehicle-controlled trial of efficacy."
Griffiths said other OTC products with similar ingredients would likely yield similar results in the lab.
Unlike the initial study featured in the 2007 documentary, this latest study was double blind, meaning two groups of people were given a cream to apply every night for six months without knowing whether they were using Boots No 7 or a placebo of plain moisturizer.
In the trial, 49 women and 11 men aged 45 to 80 with typical sun damaged skin, were given one of the two products at random. Neither the volunteers nor the scientists knew who received the real drug.
After six months of nightly use, 43 percent of those given the product saw an improvement in their skin versus 22 percent using the moisturizer.
Though the research was funded by Boots, Griffiths insists the results would have been published regardless of the results.
Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at New York University, said the results of the study were not a real surprise.
Vitamin A derivatives, like retinyl palmitate are found in many over the counter drugs available in the U.S., many of which work similarly and are inexpensive.
"There are plenty of comparable products here. No one has to go to England," Day said.
Day said Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream, which contains retinol and Olay Professional Pro-X Deep Wrinkle Treatment, which contains retinyl propionate would likely yield similar results in users.
The Neutrogena product sells for around $14 and the Olay cream for around $40 on drugstore.com.
"Vitamin A is one of most tried-and-true and studied ingredients. I recommend it everyone who can tolerate it," she said.
"The sun accelerates the skin's natural aging process. Vitamin A minimizes the damage. It helps skin cells turn over in more normal healthy way," she added.
Some cosmetics experts, however, are skeptical of the Manchester study because Boots funded the research.
"Studies are great and vital to understanding how skin works and what helps skin work better, but not all studies are created equal and study is not definitive of anything, and a study paid for by the company selling the product is ALWAYS circumspect. It's not that the study may not be valid, but the bias is present from the beginning and that must always be taken into consideration," wrote Paula Begoun, author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," in an e-mail.