With friends and family traveling abroad and the increasing availability of imported “Daigou” products available online, consumers in China are increasingly looking globally for the best cosmetic products to protect their skin. To keep our skin looking young longer, preventing wrinkles is essential. MingJian, together with ICRT (International Consumer Research and Testing) consumer organization partners in 10 countries across Europe and Asia, conducted the largest and most comprehensive test of anti-wrinkle creams ever, with some surprising results.
Which is the best?
On the top
The best performing product was not the most expensive nor the most famous one, but rather the least expensive product in the test group from German discount retailer Lidl that costs just ¥65. Their in-house label, Cien Crème de jour Q10, produced by Win Cosmetic laboratory in Germany, received top honors thanks to its excellent moisturizing effectiveness and its good anti-wrinkle capacity. Even if the test volunteers were a little bit skeptical about its time of absorption (which is longer than others), Cien Q10 is recommended and received our MingJian Best Buy award. If your skin is very sensitive, another product may be the best choice for you as it is free from allergens. Overall, in addition to the Cien Q10, there were 6 products that received MingJian’s Recommended designation.
Spending more, getting less
On the other hand, while the most expensive product analyzed (Renodigm EX Dual Care Cream from Korean brand Sulwhasoo retailing for over ¥1000) demonstrated a better approval by women on the use test, its moisturizing and anti-wrinkle effectiveness are only average. In fact, all of the creams costing more than ¥700 had test results in the lower half of the ranking. Stempower, from Japanese brand SK-II retailing for ¥740, while exhibiting excellent moisturizing efficiency, had limited anti-wrinkle effectiveness.
At the bottom end of the spectrum there were 3 products with poor ratings for anti-wrinkle efficiency, with no demonstrated impact; one of those belongs to a French brand. In total five products were designated Don't Buy as they either had no impact on wrinkle reduction and/or were less effective moisturizers than even the inexpensive generic lab control.
One would expect the same model of cream to perform the same, regardless of where it is made. However, that is not necessarily the case as we found with the Nivea Q10. The version sold in Asian markets, which is made in Thailand, and one for the European market, made in Germany performed very different in our tests. While the version made in Germany had among the best moisturizing effectiveness in our test, the Thai-made version had only average effectiveness.
On the labeling we looked for dangerous elements including endocrine disruptors (EDCs) and parabens. Endocrines in particular are elements that affect the hormone system. For this reason EDCs are dangerous for pregnant women because they can impact the development of the fetus. Secondly, parabens are common preservatives used mainly in cosmetics industry that can have allergic reaction, particularly connected with sun exposure. 9 of the products were found to contain EDCs and 12 contain parabens.
How we test
The test involved more than 1000 women, between 30 and 70 years old, evaluating 33 different types of anti-wrinkle creams from 27 brands across 11 countries (3 in Asia and 9 in Europe). Each product has been tested by at least 30 women, both smokers and non-smokers. The method observed was the application of the product twice a day just on half of the face for 4 weeks (on the other half a standard lab moisturizer cream has been applied, to better compare the final result). It was a “double blind” test whereby the labels and containers of both the lab cream as well as the test product were covered. After a month, they came back to the laboratory, where specific exams have been taken to better understand the effectiveness of the creams.
The data have been taken and analyzed before and after the treatment by a top European cosmetic lab. The measurements have been carried out using specific, expensive and ultimate technology as FOITS (Fast optical in vivo topometry of human skin), which takes a 3D image of the skin showing the contours for measuring the anti-aging effect and corneometry to measure skin hydration levels to value the moisturizing effectiveness. These two tests were fundamental to get the most accurate and, most of all, the most objective results.
Two other aspects analyzed were labeling and use test. The first one was important for the final evaluation, because not all the creams explain clearly their composition or their usage. The panel test has been taken at the end of the 4 weeks. Filling in a questionnaire, the participants expressed their satisfaction, for example considering the usage: some creams can be stickier than others or they can need more time to be absorbed.
On the overall result, efficacy weighed 75%, considering 50% for the anti-wrinkle effect and 25% for the hydration, the use test regarding women’s impression cover 15% of the general result and labeling 10%
Finally, some tips on where to find the best prices on cosmetics across Asia and Europe. As stated, Cien is certainly the cheapest product, but the country where it is possible to find it at the lowest price is Belgium. There consumers can buy 50 ml of cream for just €2,29 instead of €9 imported online in China. In general, prices were highest in Asia, China followed by Hong Kong and South Korea. Pricing is much more reasonable in Europe, with France generally found to offer the best bargains.
Delusion and prevention
The test showed that what consumers are led to believe about face creams by marketing in relation with their price is generally wrong. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money to buy a good product that works correctly, as the Cien Q10 result clearly show. Often advertising is misleading and it tends to promote ingredients and qualities that are not reflected in reality.
Another important aspect that the experiment reveals is that after one month, women who took part at this program were not totally satisfied about any of these products. None of them totally reduces wrinkles and crow’s feet. A cream is a cosmetic, not an esthetic surgery, and it acts just on the surface of the skin, the epidermis. In order to keep a young and bright skin, prevention is essential: a good diet, a good life style, not smoking and trying to avoid sun exposure.