Americans spent more $800 million last year on anti-wrinkle creams, according to Mintel, a research company. But is it money well-spent? Consumer Reports ShopSmart tested to see if creams can make fine lines and wrinkles disappear the way a skilled photographer can.
Photographer Cathy Pinsky often uses computer software to help people look their best.
"I'll use Photoshop to minimize the wrinkles, take out some of the crow's feet and my clients are thrilled," said Pinsky. "They just love that."
But you can't just click away wrinkles in real life. Consumer Reports tested to see how well anti-wrinkle creams work.
"We tested seven products with a really wide price range, from $8 to $80," said Jody Rohlena, a ShopSmart editor.
The creams included big names like L'Oreal and Lancome, as well as Equate from Wal-Mart and the CVS store brand.
"We used an outside lab and a total of 79 people," said Rohlena. "The test took 12 weeks. The people applied two different creams in the morning, one on each side of their face."
The lab took before and after photos. Then Consumer Reports sensory panelists examined the results, more than 600 photos in all.
Panelists also evaluated the creams to assess how they feel on your skin and how they smell.
"All of the products smelled pretty good and they didn't leave much of a tacky residue behind, but they didn't make that much of a difference," said Rohlena.
After 12 weeks, only one cream did a little better than the others: Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra-Lift. But it only helped about half the people in the test. The results were not very dramatic.
"The thing with wrinkles, once you get them, they're very hard to get rid of," said Rohlena. "So the best thing you can do is prevent them in the first place."
To do that, stay out of the sun as much as possible. And wear sunscreen as well as a wide-brimmed, tightly woven hat when in the sun.
Consumer Reports says drinking plenty of water also helps keep your skin looking healthy. And it's important to moisturize your skin day and night. But you don't need expensive anti-wrinkle creams to do that.