Fact Checked

What is a Firming Face Cream?

Angela Brady
Angela Brady

A firming face cream is an emulsion of water and oil combined with various other ingredients that may combat the signs of aging in the skin. To qualify as a cream as opposed to a lotion, the mixture must contain 60 to 75 percent water and 20 to 30 percent oil, with the emulsifiers making up the difference. The high oil content is why a cream is heavier than a lotion, and may clog the pores of those with naturally oily skin. Aging skin, however, often benefits from a high oil content because dryness is a major reason why sagging and wrinkles are so visible.

As skin ages, many changes occur. Skin that has been exposed to the sun has also been exposed to free radicals that can damage skin by inhibiting cell turnover, which results in dryness and discoloration. The body's production of collagen and elastin slow down and skin loses elasticity, resulting in lines and sagging. Sluggish circulation causes loss of muscle tone, which also contributes to sagging. There are several ways in which a firming cream affects the skin, and results can generally be seen in four to eight weeks, although the effects usually don't last once the treatment is stopped.

Firming face creams are often designed to boost the production of collagen, helping to make the skin smoother.
Firming face creams are often designed to boost the production of collagen, helping to make the skin smoother.

A quality firming face cream contains antioxidants, which protect the skin from free radicals. Free radicals are everywhere, both inside and outside the body, but the majority of free radical damage is caused by sun exposure and smoking. Free radicals damage skin cells by "stealing" electrons, which slows cell turnover. Antioxidants inhibit the free radicals' ability to do so. Antioxidants commonly found in a firming face cream include vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate), coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), ascorbyl palmitate, and alpha lipoic acids.

Firming face cream ingredients may include retinol.
Firming face cream ingredients may include retinol.

Humectants are another common ingredient of firming cream. They work by drawing moisture from the air into the skin, which combats natural moisture loss. Common humectants found in a firming face face cream include niacinamide (B3), glycerine, idebenone, and dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE). Dimethicone is commonly used in less-expensive creams to simulate the smooth feel of moisturized skin, but is only a silicone derivative, and not an actual humectant.

The most popular and successful brands of firming face cream contain ingredients that stimulate the body's natural synthesis of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are responsible for elasticity and the smooth "plumpness" of young skin. Common face cream ingredients that act as "collagen boosters" include vitamin E, niacinamide, retinol, ascorbyl palmitate, and neuropeptides.

Sometimes, a firming face cream will also contain ingredients called "smoothers," which act as surface fillers, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Common smoothers include omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, idebenone, and niacinamide. Most popular firming face cream ingredients are versatile, acting on the skin in several different ways. Some ingredients, like DMAE, also claim to improve facial muscle tone to combat sagging, but this has not yet been scientifically proven.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone heard of passion fruit for firm skin? I read an article about how beneficial passion fruit is because it has something called linolenic acid in its seeds. Linolenic acid is supposed to make the skin more flexible and restore its moisture levels which makes it firmer.

I actually enjoy having passion fruit as a snack and I know it has a lot of vitamin C. I wonder if the good properties of the fruit transfers well to cream products. I would be really interested to know. I think I might purchase a face cream with passion fruit extract and see if it will help with my wrinkles. Nothing seems to work for them.

Would you recommend it?


Avocado oil and grape seed oil is great too. They also help fight against free radicals. A lot of organic brands have firming creams with these ingredient. I am using Kiehl's right now, I have their firming face cream and eye cream with avocado. Even though organic creams are not as expensive as some of the other creams, they are made with all natural products and I think my skin absorbs them better.

And you don't necessarily have to buy a different firming cream for your face, eye and neck. You can use the face cream for your neck too. I always see older women who have really tight and beautiful faces, but their neck has wrinkles. I want to avoid that in the future, so I am also applying my face cream on my neck during my night routine.


What an excellent article! My face cream has a lot of these ingredients. I know that it has vitamin A, E, and coenzyme Q10. It also has seaweed extract. I heard that seaweed is really good for skin because it is an antioxidant and it has minerals that together help the skin heal. I love face creams that have naturally firming ingredients like that.

I especially look for these ingredients, but I also look for some ingredients to avoid. I try and avoid products that have parabens, triethanolamin, ceteareth-20 and mineral oil. I have heard negative things about them. Parabens, triethanolamin, ceteareth-20 may be carcinogenic. Mineral oil doesn't let the skin breathe and throw out toxins. So that will actually make wrinkles and sagging worse.

I think we need to read ingredients lists carefully when we buy skin products, especially firming face creams. These creams are made to be absorbed into our skin so that they will work. That's why it should have all good ingredients in it!

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    • Firming face creams are often designed to boost the production of collagen, helping to make the skin smoother.
      By: Alila
      Firming face creams are often designed to boost the production of collagen, helping to make the skin smoother.
    • Firming face cream ingredients may include retinol.
      By: Robert Kneschke
      Firming face cream ingredients may include retinol.