I have a bit of an obsession when it comes to face creams. It stems from a time when I worked at a company where we got a lot of crazily expensive creams sent to us for free and I delighted in testing them all. But I didn’t just test them on my whole face, I applied one cream to one half and another to the other side, to see if there was any difference.
Sometimes there was, sometimes there wasn’t.
It’s easy to spend a fortune on face creams, thinking they’ll make you look younger, reduce those wrinkles and give you a glow — but haven’t you always wondered whether you’re really seeing a difference or just imagining it? The half-face method gives you your answers.
So for this test, I wanted to try a low-cost all-purpose cream versus a much more expensive full-of-interesting substances such as creatine (an organic acid that occurs naturally in our bodies) and Q10 (an antioxidant naturally found in the body too).
One study published in Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that creatine helped reduce the appearance of wrinkles in skin that had been sun-damaged. And there’s evidence that it helps replenish collagen stores and may protect against DNA damage, too. Similarly, Q10 has shown protective benefits too.
But these studies may very well show improvements on a molecular level, but what does that actually mean for how your skin looks? That’s what I wanted to find out.
To make a good comparison, it seemed ideal to use one company’s product against another product within their own range. After all, they would then put a similar amount of research and effort into the products.
All cosmetics companies have lower and higher priced moisturisers, and if you know which brand you like, it’s worth knowing whether it’s worth shelling out that extra cash for the pricier options. I have always loved the smell of Nivea but I haven’t used it as a daily moisturiser before, so chose that one.
First, I took a week off from ALL moisturisers. That’s dedication for you. My skin was dry and even looked more crinkly after that, especially because it was a dry time of year. A perfect blank canvas to test the moisturisers on.
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The contenders: Nivea All-purpose Cream for Face, Hands and Body versus Nivea Q10 Plus anti-wrinkle night cream
I took photos of my skin, especially around the eyes where I have the most fine wrinkles which I guessed would show the most effect, if there was one. Then, each night I applied the right side of my face with one hand, using the Nivea Creme All Purpose Cream for Face, Hands, and Body (£2.05 per 100ml) that comes in a tin; on the left side with my other hand I applied Nivea’s Q10 Plus anti-wrinkle night cream (£10 per 100ml).
I did not do anything special in the way of applying the moisturisers – I just slapped it on as I usually do, then moved my fingers around until it was all absorbed, more or less. The all-purpose cream was slightly more difficult to apply, I had to massage it a little more than the Q10 cream.
Not all wrinkles are due to ageing
The first morning, there was a notable difference between the all-purpose Nivea skin and my Q10 Nivea skin. On the all-purpose side, the cream seemed to be fully asborbed; on the night side, it still felt slightly sticky or like there was still a layer of something there. If I smoothed my fingers upwards on the tin side, my fingers glided over the surface; on the night cream side they got stuck. Personally, I preferred the less sticky feel.
The sticky feel is likely down to the extra oils that are in the Q10 cream—it contains hydrogenated coco-glycerides (from coconut oil), butyrospermum parkii butter (otherwise known as shea butter), macadamia ternifolia seed oil, hexyl cinnamal (an oil found in chamomile), and geraniol, also an oil. The all-purpose cream contains paraffinum liquidum, a mineral oil, lanolin (a lubricant), as well as geraniol. It also contains Eucerit, which is made up of lanolin, an emulsifier which allows oil to mix with water, enhancing skin absorption.
After a week there was absolutely no difference in how my wrinkles looked, fine or otherwise, on either side of my face. Two weeks later, it was the same. Three weeks, four weeks, five… still no difference. I studied the photos of my eye wrinkles searching for any sign of a difference between the before and after, but if there was a difference it was on such a molecular level that I would have needed a microscope to see it! I asked people to tell me which side of my face looked younger, more elastic, brighter, anything - I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t tell the difference. Both sides looked the same as ever.
How to get your glow back
There was, however, another big difference between the two creams, aside from the sticky feeling and cost: how my skin felt. The Q10 side felt softer. Much softer. To make sure it wasn’t my subjectivity making me think it was softer I asked every Tom, Dick and Harry to close their eyes and touch both sides of my face to tell me which, if any, felt softer. Every single person I asked said the Q10 side was noticeably softer.
So, in conclusion, should you shell out four times the price for a moisturiser so your skin feels softer? That’s down to you and your needs. My skin is quite dry, so that extra softness was nice. But I think I will experiment next with a low-priced cream containing shea butter and see if that has a similar softening effect. The high price of the Q10 cream seems to be for the creatine and Q10 and I really didn’t see any effects from either. While those substances may well have benefits after a long period of use, while researching this article I also discovered that raw salmon (such as in sashimi, for example), as well as tuna and sardines, contain useful amounts of creatine and Q10. Given the results of this test, I think I’d prefer to save my money and invest in heart and skin-healthy cold-water fish to eat!