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do firming creams work?

Do Firming Creams Work?

There are some specific results that people are seeking from a regular skin care routine. “Skin firming”, “Skin tightening”, “Skin toning” and “Skin plumping” are all extremely popular effects that people would like to achieve with their beauty products. But what do they really mean, and are the best skin tightening treatments something you can achieve at home? 

  • Skin firming can typically mean that a product can help people’s skin appear more taut or firm and not undesirably loose
  • Skin tightening can mean that a product will help loose and saggy skin appear lifted with a pleasing shape.
  • Skin plumping can mean that skin has a rounded and soft appearance with more volume. 
  • Skin toning, in this context can be used interchangeably for any of these. With this category of products, this is not referring to using a “face toner” which is a different kind of beauty product. That kind of skin care product is used in a beauty routine to prep facial skin between a washing step and a moisturizing step to help your moisturizer penetrate more deeply. 

There are a lot of different ways to refer to essentially the same effect, so in this article I am going to refer to products that do these things as “firming creams”.

Why Do People Want Firmer Skin? 

All kinds of bodies are beautiful and it’s important to say this out loud. Bodies are shaped many different ways and this should be celebrated. 

But sometimes you’d like to improve your appearance in order to look and feel your best, and that’s a great goal as well. How we feel in our body can be different from day to day, including the condition of your skin, how much fluid your body is retaining, how fat is distributed and how muscle is toned. All of these are normal and can fluctuate even over the course of a single day. 

Having more firm and even skin is one of the ways your body can feel its best. It’s okay to seek out skin firming treatments such as topical creams or massage to help yourself feel pampered and cared for. When skin is more toned and smooth it can enhance the appearance of your entire body. However it’s not just about treating your skin itself, because this can also mean that your body is getting enough nutrients and your fluid levels are balanced.

do tightening creams work?

What is Skin Made Of?

To answer this question, let’s talk about the building blocks of skin. 

Collagen and Elastin are like the molecular bricks that make up your skin. A couple of things to note about these are:

  • Collagen and elastin molecules applied topically or directly to your skin are too big to penetrate skin to help strengthen the collagen and elastin contained in your skin. 
  • They can still have a moisturizing effect, though.

Ceramides are like the glue or mortar that holds the bricks together. A few things to know about these are:

  • They’re used in many popular moisturizing and healing body products
  • They’re well-tolerated by every skin type since they are such an integral part of everyone’s skin
  • These molecules CAN penetrate skin and help strengthen when applied topically in a beauty product
  • Jojoba Oil is 96% ceramides! That’s one of the top reasons it’s such a great skin healing carrier oil.

Hyaluronic acid (pronounced hi-ah-lew-ron-ic acid) is a gooey, slippery substance that your body produces naturally. Scientists have found hyaluronic acid throughout the body, especially in eyes, joints and skin. This substance helps your joints work smoothly, it help prevent pain from bones grinding against each other. Hyaluronic acid is also very good at retaining water. A quarter-teaspoon of hyaluronic acid holds about one and a half gallons of water. That’s why hyaluronic acid is often used for treating dry eyes. It’s also used in moisturizing creams, lotions, ointments and serums as it helps skin stretch and flex and reduces skin wrinkles and lines.

Why Does Skin Weaken Over Time?

There are a lot of factors that can weaken skin. 

1. Your body naturally stops producing as much collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid over time

skin aging diagram collagen and elastin

2. From sources of oxidation: 

  • Stress
  • Pollution
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet
  • Skin inflammation
  • Chronic body inflammation
ceramides diagram aging skin

How can this be stopped or reduced?

  • A healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Collagen-stimulating substances that tell skin to rebuild itself
  • Wound-healing substances that help repair skin
  • Moisturizers to help the skin retain moisture and protect it from enviromental stressors

Do Firming Creams Really Work?

The answer is yes, most firming creams really do work. But you need to keep using them to combat external wear and tear. If you are looking for a way to tighten neck skin, your face or other stubborn spots, it’s not an overnight process, but it also isn’t an impossible task. 

Your body also needs nutrients taken in via food, drink, or supplements to have the materials available to help build up your skin from the inside out.

You can apply nutrient-dense ingredients such as natural butters, oils, waxes, and botanicals that contain many different healing substances that help with skin regeneration.

There are no miracle cures, but there’s a lot you can do to give your skin the love and care it needs to help it keep looking its best. 

What Active Ingredients Actually Help Firm Skin?

In beauty products there are several categories of active ingredients that can help firm skin. I have chosen some of the most popular and effective ingredients to talk about in each category below. 

Ingredients high in Antioxidants help destroy free radical molecules on the skin that may cause damage

  • Vitamin A helps with cell turnover to reveal fresh skin and strengthen skin.
  • Vitamin C helps boost the production of collagen in skin.
  • Vitamin E helps skin heal quickly.
  • Polyphenols such as those in shea butter, green tea, and turmeric help protect the skin.

Moisturizers: there are three different kinds that help your skin

  • Humectants such as aloe vera and hyaluronic acid draw water from the air into the skin to help lubricate and prevent damage.
  • Emollients such as natural butters place healing substances and lipids back into skin to encourage healing. This is how ceramides work to restore skin. 
  • Occlusives such as beeswax help to create a protective barrier and repel damaging substances from outside the skin. They also help moisture stay inside of the skin.

Retinoids help the skin renew itself by encouraging cell turnover, or purging of old skin cells in favor of newer, fresh ones. This is something that declines naturally over time. This also encourages skin to create more collagen. 

  • Rosehip oil is one of the top natural sources of retinoids
  • Bakuchiol (an extract from the seeds of Psoralea corylifolia, a plant grown in India) is a gentler plant-derived alternative to prescription retinoid creams

Wound-healing substances help the skin heal faster and promote collagen production.

  • Cica, also known as tiger grass, centella asiatica or gotu kola, is a very popular ingredient that encourages blood flow, helps skin heal faster, encourages collagen production, and calms irritation.
  • Rosemary extract encourages skin to regenerate and reduces healing time.
  • Hyaluronic acid also plays a key role in tissue regeneration, specifically in repairing skin.

Peptides are the building blocks of protein that help strengthen skin when applied topically. These products are typically on the higher end, but they work well with little to no irritation.

  • Minerals such as copper, magnesium, or zinc bind to peptides and help them penetrate skin more effectively. For example, copper peptides have been a popular anti-aging ingredient in skin care and makeup products for the last few decades.
  • Fermented ingredients help your skin produce more peptides. A great example of this is high-end fermented rice products that have become very popular in the beauty scene.
  • Oats, lupine flowers, hibiscus flowers, and sunflower oil naturally contain peptides.

Hydroxy acids help renew skin by getting rid of old and damaged skin cells to be replaced with fresh new ones

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA): help increase cell turnover and promote collagen production. These are deeply moisturizing and also very popular as a skin-firming treatment.  

  • Lactic acid comes from dairy and is a popular product for quickly and deeply moisturizing skin.
  • Glycolic acid is one of the top skin-firming ingredients and is derived from sugar cane.
  • Mandelic acid comes from almonds and is gentle and well tolerated by most skin types.

Beta Hydroxy acids (BHA) help increase cell turnover and collagen, along with being great for oil regulation. 

  • Salicylic acid is derived from willow bark and is the most popular BHA. It works very well for oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Sometimes, citric acid can also be used as a beta hydroxy acid. This is derived from citrus fruits. 

As I described above all of these ingredients are effective when used over time and with continued use can help you get firmer, smooth and healthy looking skin.

Natural Ingredients for Skin Firming

I personally love using natural products for firming my skin because many of them have multiple benefits that help keep your skin smooth and healthy. For example, shea butter is high in antioxidants, has all three moisturizing factors (humectants, emollients, occlusives) and contains collagen boosting and wound-healing substances. 

dark spot cream with shea butter

Another very popular butter I like using for skin tightening is cupuacu butter. Cupuacu is a fruit crop native to Brazil. It is in the same family as cacao, which is the fruit from which chocolate and cocoa are made. Besides having a very high antioxidant value, it contains skin-firming plant fats, amino acids, and an exceptionally high vitamin and mineral content. Not only is it packed with nutrients, but it’s also something of a super-moisturizer, able to hold 400% of its weight in water when applied to skin. This process helps contribute to its skin renewing properties and makes it a great ingredient in skin firming and moisturizing creams.

Recipe for a Natural Body and Face Firming Butter

Here is a simple recipe for a natural beauty butter that can promote firmer skin. 

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz Shea butter
  • 3 oz Jojoba oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 cup of dried Hibiscus flowers or 1 oz Hibiscus essential oil
  1. Infuse your carrier oil of choice with dried hibiscus flowers, using this method. If you’d prefer to skip this step, you can substitute 1 oz of Hibiscus essential oil instead.
  2. Melt your shea butter in a double boiler setup.
  3. Add your hibiscus infused carrier oil (or carrier oil and hibiscus oil) to your melted shea butter.
  4. Refrigerate until 50% solid if you’d like to whip this into a whipped body butter, or 100% solid if you’d like to use this as a body balm.
  5. Use anywhere you’d like to see enhanced skin tightening: stomach, arms and legs, face, neck, and more.

Want to buy a ready made product? Try our skin firming Bum Bum Cream, made with raw shea butter and cupuacu butter, one of Brazil’s most popular skin firming ingredients.

If you’ve been wondering “Do tightening creams work?”, I hope this blog has helped answer some questions as to how active ingredients can help achieve that result. As always if you have any questions or feedback please comment below.

Author: Natalie, DIY Skincare Enthusiast