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Do Anti-wrinkle Cosmetics Really Work?

The arsenal consists of creams, facemasks and peelers in packaging that promises nothing short of a miracle. Yet so far//, the battle against the wrinkles that come inevitably with age has been fought mainly on the surface of the human skin.

The latest weapons, however, are primed to work from within.

Numerous manufacturers are lining up pills and potions designed to get under the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, with the aim of smoothing out those unsightly lines, enhancing a natural sun tan or simply helping to counteract the scourge of cellulite.

Werner Voss, who heads the Dermatest Institute in Muenster, Germany, has no time for any of these new-fangled creations. "They are simply worthless," he states emphatically, a sentiment echoed by dermatologist Getraud Kremer who practises in Berlin.

"You can't beat sport and a healthy, balanced diet," she says, dashing hopes that tablets could prove as effective in toning up the skin and firming the figure as an energetic jog around the block.

Despite the reservations though, both experts believe oral cosmetics in tablet or capsule form have a role to play in slowing down the processes that make human skin grow older.

Women going through the menopause frequently suffer from very dry skin, points out Kremer. In such cases, anti-ageing compounds which combine vegetable hormones with traditional yeast and vitamins can be very effective. These vegetable estrogens enhance skin hydration, increasing its capacity to retain water.

As yet there have been no scientifically sound examinations into the effectiveness of remedying wrinkles with this kind of capsule preparation although the individual substances, which make them up have been extensively probed.

A study published this year by scientists at the renowned Charite Clinic in Berlin focussed on two particular substances, beta-carotene and lycopene. The first is found natu rally in carrots, spinach, raw watercress, peppers, broccoli and spring greens while lycopene is an antioxidant found mainly in tomatoes.

Both are used to control the so-called free radicals, which lead to premature ageing of the skin. The body usually derives adequate supplies of beta-carotene and lycopene from eating fruit and vegetables.

Using laser technology, the researchers were able to prove that generous consumption of the right fruit and vegetables does contribute towards making the skin appear young and smoother. The phenomenon is being utilised by foodstuffs giant Nestle and cosmetics concern Oreal who have teamed up to produce a range of nutritional cosmetics called "Inneov."

Their latest innovation is a product designed to prepare the skin for exposure to the sun and intensify the tanning effect at the same time. Kremer warns hopeful consumers though that simply swallowing the creation will not render the user immune to the sun's potentially harmful rays.

Beta-carotene can also be found in the nutritional cosmetic products of another anti-ageing specialist, the German company Christine Schrammek based in Essen. The firm offers three different preparations graded for greasy, dry and prematurely aged skin. The list of ingredients reads a little like a shopping list for the grocers. "All the ingredients are edible," assures owner Christine Schrammek-Drusio.

Despite the hype, consumers should not expect miracles from any of the nutritional cosmetic supplements. As Werner Voss warns: "Between 90 and 95 percent of the ageing process is related to genetic factors - there's not much you can do about that."

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