Summary Background Tretinoin is considered the benchmark prescription topical therapy for improving fine facial wrinkles, but skin tolerance issues can affect patient compliance. In contrast, cosmetic antiwrinkle products are well tolerated but are generally presumed to be less efficacious than tretinoin.
Objectives To compare the efficacy of a cosmetic moisturizer regimen vs. a prescription regimen with 0·02% tretinoin for improving the appearance of facial wrinkles.
Methods An 8-week, randomized, parallel-group study was conducted in 196 women with moderate to moderately severe periorbital wrinkles. Following 2 weeks washout, subjects on the cosmetic regimen (n = 99) used a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 moisturizing lotion containing 5% niacinamide, peptides and antioxidants, a moisturizing cream containing niacinamide and peptides, and a targeted wrinkle product containing niacinamide, peptides and 0·3% retinyl propionate. Subjects on the prescription regimen (n = 97) used 0·02% tretinoin plus moisturizing SPF 30 sunscreen. Subject cohorts (n = 25) continued treatment for an additional 16 weeks. Changes in facial wrinkling were assessed by both expert grading and image analysis of digital images of subjects’ faces and by self-assessment questionnaire. Product tolerance was assessed via clinical erythema and dryness grading, subject self-assessment, and determinations of skin barrier integrity (transepidermal water loss) and stratum corneum protein changes.
Results The cosmetic regimen significantly improved wrinkle appearance after 8 weeks relative to tretinoin, with comparable benefits after 24 weeks. The cosmetic regimen was significantly better tolerated than tretinoin through 8 weeks by all measures.
Conclusions An appropriately designed cosmetic regimen can improve facial wrinkle appearance comparably with the benchmark prescription treatment, with improved tolerability.