Skin Care Myths: Antioxidants Treat Wrinkles

Antioxidants will reverse your wrinkles. This is a common misconception.


Antioxidants can help prevent wrinkles by soaking up harmful free radicals that damage your collagen.

Wrinkles result when collagen is damaged by ultraviolet radiation. Antioxidants, regardless of how potent they are, cannot alter existing collagen that is damaged. Antioxidants therefore do not treat existing wrinkles.

In terms of topical creams, only products that can cause growth of new collagen such as tretinoin (like Renova®, Retin-A®, and Tazorac®) can treat existing wrinkles.

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18 thoughts on “Skin Care Myths: Antioxidants Treat Wrinkles”

  1. I have recently seen quite a few ads for tablets that contain(?) collagen or that boosts collagen when one takes it. Is there any merit in such products?

  2. Hanner-
    The only topical products that can “boost” collagen are topical retinoids such as Retin-A or Renova. Applying collagen to your skin would have no effect (except maybe as a nice moisturizer). Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question, dr Benabio. I love your blog – I have subscribed through Bloglines – and I have alerted a few friends who are now regular readers as well!

  4. I’ve been using .5 retin-a under my eyes for about 3 months. I would like to know if I can really expect my lines to be much improved, and how long will it take.
    Thanks Doc!

  5. Hanner-
    Thank you so much. Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you.

    By three months you should notice results; however, you should still continue to see improvement over time.

  6. Thanks Doc! I appreciate you taking the time to answer. Of course using Retin-A, I’m expecting miracles! I do know this is not realistic, but I can wish………………

  7. It is so ridiculous that people keep on believing that anti-oxidants reverse wrinkles, when in fact they don’t. People should concentrate more on preventing wrinkles, which can be as easy as applying sunscreen and keeping your skin moisturized. Most things available in stores only reduce the apperance of wrinkles, once you stop using them, they return.

  8. Marie-
    You will likely be surprised at how effective Retin-A is.

    Eye Wrinkle Cream Guru-
    Good points. I agree with you. Sunscreen and sunglasses are key.

  9. Well said, I’ve bookmarked your site. You’ve earned a new reader!

  10. Is a moisturizer supposed to used before the Tazorac cream , or after the Tazorac has been of for awhile? Thanks!

  11. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, has been shown to cause growth of new collagen.

    “Topical vitamin C: a useful agent for treating photoaging and other dermatologic conditions.”

    “Interaction of vitamins C and E as better cosmeceuticals.”

  12. @Ayo Studies show that vitamin C (which is an antioxidant) can induce collagen synthesis (which would treat existing wrinkles). Unfortunately only the L-isomer of vitamin C is active and it is it nearly instantly oxidized to its inactive form when applied to the skin. (Quality vitamin C products quickly turn brown when exposed to air). Getting active vitamin C to penetrate the skin to have any observable effect has proved difficult.

  13. L-ascorbic acid starts to oxidize upon exposure to air and water, but it takes weeks for it to be oxidized to the point where it is no longer useful. And if the vitamin C is stabilized by vitamin E and ferulic acid it can last even longer. In vivo studies in humans have shown that vitamin c reduces wrinkles. This is all in that review article “Interaction of vitamins C and E” linked above.@Dr. Benabio

  14. @ayo L-asorbic acid is oxidized very quickly upon exposure to air. In fact, if a vitamin C cream doesn’t turn brown right on the tube, then it is not active vitamin C.

    Combining vitamin C with vitamin E and ferulic acid is an excellent way to help stabilize these antioxidants and make them much more effective. I think these will be common ingredient in next generation sunscreens.

    There are lots of nice reviews (like the ones you list); however, there is a derth of good clinical studies showing that topical vitamin C actually improves wrinkles in practice (Perhaps the Hubert, et al Exp Dermatol 2003, but are there any others?)

    Most people wrongly believe that their topical antioxidant cream is improving their wrinkles — I don’t know of any product available on the market for which that has proven true (the ubiquitous impressive before and after pictures not withstanding).

    Do you know of a vitamin C product that people can buy that has been shown to improve wrinkles? Thanks for taking the time to comment and provide links.

  15. @Dr. Benabio True, vitamin c has nothing near the amount of research that tretinoin has. But its collagen-stimulating abilities have been established time and again both in vivo and in vitro to the point where it would be very improbable that it actually doesn’t grow collagen. FDA clinical trials would be ideal, but I don’t think that they are necessary for practical purposes. All that’s needed is a decent amount of evidence that a product is effective and safe. Perhaps the fact that vitamin c isn’t as well established as tretinoin should make it plan B if someone doesn’t react well to tretinoin.

    Skinceauticals and Cellex-c are well regarded companies that make vitamin c serums. They were both developed by scientists who were pioneers in topical vitamin c research and they both have in-house studies backing up their stuff.

  16. I have been using the Made from Earth Olive Night Creme for the last 4-5 years as my night cream. I am 42 years old and have virtually no wrinkles. I always moisten my face first with a spritz of water then emulsify the Olive Night Creme in the palm of my hand. It spreads easier all over face and neck. I also like to put it in my hair (small amount) after washing while still wet, then it combs out easily and makes my curls softer and shinier. It works great on dry hair (tiny amount rubbed in palms of hands) as defrizzer and shine booster. I also enjoy it as a hand/cuticle cream and lip balm. you can also use it as a female moisturizer or lubricant.

    I love that it has no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Remember, honey is naturally antibacterial. I am sold for life! It is expensive at whole foods, but I sometimes see a deal on their website. I love this stuff and the jar does last quite a long time.

  17. Well I’m depressed it sounds like these fine lines on my forehead are stuck there and I’m only 35. So I guess there’s no point in any of this anti-aging stuff unless I want to use Retin-A which is very irritating and irritates my skin. Looks like it’s a face lift instead lol.

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