My dermatologist says that Retin A (tretinoin) will eventually rebuild some collagen. This product is also effective at treating acne, blackheads, and minimizing pores.
There are some Retin-A/tretinoin products available over the counter and they are of lesser strength than the Rx versions. It is my understanding that the weaker concentrations will also work but the results will take longer.
Some of the better OTC products containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as MD Forte, Obagi Nu-derm, etc., act like a chemical peel over a long period of time and brighten the skin by exfoliating older skin cells and exposing the newer cells underneath. The “better” products – meaning they have enough AHA to be effective – are usually not available in most drug stores or department stores.
AHA concentrations need to be at least 8%; anything less is virtually useless in achieving the desired results. Most of the OTC AHA preparations found in drug stores contain less than 8% because the makers don’t want to face any liability issues. AHAs can be irritating to the skin (usually temporary), should not be applied to the eye area, and can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. Low end skincare producers don’t want to face lawsuits so they use a level of AHA that is unlikely to have obvious side effects. This results in a product that does not contain enough AHA to be effective, but it DOES contain some AHA so purchasers think they’re getting a good deal.
Topical vitamins can have a positive effect on skin and rebuild come collagen. However, some vitamins, like C, are not stable when exposed to air and sunlight. Even the so-called stabilized Cs will deteriorate, albeit more slowly. As with other products, concentration is important. Chances are you are not getting useful concentrations in the general commercial products that can be purchased at most drug stores and department stores. Again, most low end producers don’t tell you what the concentration is, so you have to find out for yourself.
And, heck, moisturizers, especially those containing light refractors (usually mica), will make you look better for at least a few hours.
As with all skincare products, it takes at least 3 months of continued use to see a substantial benefit, although some minor improvements might be noted after 30 days of use. None of these products provide permanent results; once discontinued you’ll gradually go back to square one.