Looking younger for less: It's in the ingredients

Cheaper sunscreen may do the same job as more expensive anti-wrinkle creams

Published On: Aug 08 2013 11:02:08 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 08 2013 11:53:41 PM EDT
ORLANDO, Fla. -

Most low-priced sunscreens contain the same active ingredients as expensive anti-wrinkle creams, a Local 6 survey found.

The survey compared the active ingredients in every SPF 15, 30, and 45 brand and generic sunscreen on sale at Wal-Mart with the active ingredients in so-called anti-aging moisture creams, like products made by Lancome and Elizabeth Arden. 

A mix of five active ingredients, Octisalate , Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, and Homosalate, were found in similar volumes in both the cheaper sunscreens and more expensive anti-aging products. 

The Local 6 survey was prompted by a report in The Annals of Internal Medicine which published a study showing that people who use sunscreen daily slow the aging of their skin.  The study, conducted by Australian researchers, is the first of its kind, and the first to show that sunscreen, alone, can protect against skin aging.  Researchers worked with 900 white people ages 25 to 55.  Some were instructed to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 15) daily for four years, while others were told to use it at their discretion. 

At the end of the study, the subjects’ skin were put through intense examination and compared.  Researchers found that those in the daily use group were less likely to have skin aging after 4.5 years than those in the discretionary-use group.   The study concluded that regular sunscreen use does slow skin aging in healthy middle-aged men and women.

Then why pay more for anti-wrinkle creams if most of them contain the same active ingredient sunscreens as cheaper sun block products?

“There is probably not a huge difference,” says Florida Hospital dermatologist Dr. Tace Rico.  She says consumers do not have to spend over a hundred dollars on a designer brand of anti-wrinkle cream to get the same anti-aging effects as sunscreen.

Even Octinoxate, the ingredient found in the $129 bottle of Elizabeth Arden Prevage, is just another sunscreen, Rico says.

But the doctor points out that some of the inactive ingredients in a product like Prevage can have temporary beneficial effects. 

“Sometimes they have things in it like dimethicone that fill in fine lines, but just temporarily, so they give you a nice look when you’re putting it on,” she says.

Prevage contains dimethicone; it also contains shea butter which helps moisturize dry skin, as well as urea which helps exfoliate top layers of dead skin.

“That might give you a bit of mild rejuvenation,” Dr. Rico explains.

The anti-aging element, however, in Prevage is the sunscreen.

And not all sunscreens are created equally.

“What’s even more important than buying a sunscreen is making sure the sunscreen says on it UVA and UVB, broad spectrum.  Broad spectrum is the most important thing,” the dermatologist says.

The combination of ultra violet light protection, which is labeled as broad spectrum, is the only solution, Dr. Rico tells Local 6, that can help prevent photo damage and the progression of photo aging.  If chemical sunscreens cause allergies, irritation, or other health issues, the doctor suggests using physical blockers like zinc or titanium dioxide.