Do Firming Creams Work?


There's little regulation in North America about what can go into skincare products and what can be said about them. So most cosmetic companies are going to try and sell you the world with their next serum, cream or treatment. No one deserves to waste time and money trying skincare products that don't fulfill their promises. That's why today we'll look at skin firming creams and answer the important question, "Do they work"?


First, a little background. Let's start with what skin firming creams are!


What is a "firming" cream?

A "firming" cream is a product designed to tighten and smooth skin that is loose, wrinkled or sagging. It "firms" the skin or makes it look more taught. Because our skin behaves differently on different parts of our body, firming creams are often created for a specific area - like the arms or neck. They work on the skin's surface. They noticeable lift, but not removing excess skin or fatty tissue.


Now you're wondering, "how does it work"? Don't worry, we've got your back.


How does it work-the full science behind it?

Firming creams target two components of our skin: collagen and elastin. Collagen gives skin structure, like framing in a house. Elastin gives skin bounce. Like an elastic, it's the ability to stretch and return to its original shape.


No surprise here - our skin produces less collagen and elastin as we age. Skin begins to decrease production at about age 25. But many factors can speed up the decline. For example genetics, UV exposure, smoking and pollution.


The less collagen and elastin available, the more our skin starts to loosen, sag and look crepey. Firming creams combat these signs of aging. At best you're getting a temporary fix, not a permanent solution.


Pregnancy and significant weight loss are two other reasons people have skin crepiness or sagging skin. In these cases as compared to "typical" aging skin on the face or neck, a firming cream will not be a miracle worker. A skin tightening cream will not completely erase stretch marks.


Ingredients that are often used


There is a VERY well-known vitamin A derivative called retinol. It's proven to promote collagen production. Most firming creams target collagen, because it helps maintain firm, plump skin. Retinol supplements collagen that breaks down as we age.



Firming creams use antioxidants to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are cells that are missing an electron. As they search to find an electron, they destroy healthy skin cells along the way.  Collagen and elastin are often the victims of this free radical scavenging. This is why its beneficial to include powerful antioxidants in a skin firming cream. They protect and repair damaged skin cells.



This one is simple. Collagen is made from three polypeptide chains. By adding peptides to your firming cream, you are helping your skin to produce collagen. This is critical in keeping skin firm and youthful-looking.


Shiitake mushrooms

Ancient Chinese tradition says that shiitake mushrooms have many anti aging benefits (1). They contain the powerful antioxidant L-ergothioneine, which prevents cell breakdown. This ensures more viable collagen and elastin to support skin structure and bounce.


What do these creams actually do?

For the stomach

Pregnancy and significant weight loss are two other reasons people have skin crepiness or sagging skin. In these cases as compared to "typical" aging skin on the face or neck, a firming cream will not be a miracle worker. A skin tightening cream will not completely erase stretch marks.


For the face

Face tightening creams work... but not like cosmetic surgery. Active ingredients firm skin on the face and improve skin texture. These results are temporary. The best time to use a firming cream on the face is in the morning to create a smoother base for makeup application.


In general, firming should not be your #1 concern for a face cream. Focus on effective hydration and antioxidant protection from environmental stressors. After all, sun damage destroys elastin which is what leads to sagging.


For a double chin

Firming creams will do nothing to change a double chin. A "double chin" is an extra layer of fatty tissue underneath the lower jaw. This is not necessarily a sign of being overweight. It sometimes appears with age as skin around the jaw and neck loosen.


Firming creams work on the skin's surface. With a double chin, there's often too much excess skin for a topical to be effective. The only option for a permanent change is cosmetic surgery. Discuss with your doctor if considering any type of cosmetic dermatology. 


For breasts

A cream that specifically targets loose skin on/around the breasts is... marketing. Like the eye and neck areas, skin around the breasts is thinner and prone to wrinkles and crepiness. So while you should include this area in your anti aging skincare routine, you do not need a unique product to do so.


We recommend using your skin firming neck cream on the neck, collarbone, chest and in between/around the breasts. This will help firm up crepiness and support skin texture.


As an alternative, apply your body lotion all the way up to your breasts and chest. Regular body creams (i.e. no active ingredients to firm) add hydration which is key to preventing crepiness.


For the neck

Products for the neck are where these creams do their best work. And our necks do need the extra help! Necks show signs of aging quicker than our face. Unlike a face cream that will focus on your skin type (dry, normal, combination, oily), a neck cream will do two things:


  • Moisturize. The skin on our neck has less oil glands than the rest of our face and body. This means it is prone to dryness... which means visible lines and wrinkles. Neck creams are formulated to effectively moisturize the delicate skin on our necks.


  • Firm + Lift. Neck creams contain active ingredients to tighten crepey skin. You will feel it working as the product's film immediately firms the skin on your neck. This is a temporary treatment, best used in the morning under sunscreen.


For the arms

For the arms (and the legs), body firming creams are designed to target crepey skin.


Quick refresher: crepey skin is thin and crinkled. It gets its name from crepe paper (think party streamers). It's common on arms and legs as we age. So common that we devoted a whole post to review the best lotions for crepey skin on arms and legs.


To improve crepey skin on large surface areas, a body cream focuses on moisturizing. Hydrated skin is healthy skin, and you'll never get smoother skin if its bone dry.


Crepe paper like skin is natural in older adults. It's a combination of declining collagen production and decades of sun exposure. Crepiness also develops when a person experiences a drastic weight loss in a short period of time. A firming cream will not be enough to treat sagging skin in this situation. You should consult your healthcare provider.


Our final take on this and we recommend

The truth about firming creams matters. No one deserves to waste time and money on products that won't work!


We recommend that you avoid products with claims like:

  • "tones thighs"
  • "firms butt"
  • "clears cellulite"


These are the results of strength training and muscle growth, not a skin cream. Steer clear!


On the other hand...


If you accept that these creams can temporarily make skin appear smoother and more taut and cannot permanently reverse large areas of sagging skin, adding one to your skincare routine is worth a try.


And finally, here's some firming skincare advice. Prevention is always the best treatment!


  1. Use vitamin C. It's proven to boost collagen production. Check! Plus it's one of the only naturally-derived ingredients that penetrates the skin barrier to work its magic in the deeper layers. Vitamin C is best used in the morning, as an antioxidant base layer to your sunscreen. Which leads us to the next tip...
  2. Wear sunscreen. Like we said earlier, one of the main causes of skin aging i.e. collagen and elastin breaking down is UV radiation exposure. It is so important that you wear a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen for daily sun protection. This will preserve collagen.
  3. Moisturize with natural oils. It’s just as important to hydrate your skin as it is your body. (Here’s your daily reminder to drink your water!). Natural options like coconut oil, hemp oil and argan oil are the best options. Hydration is key to ensuring healthy cell functioning, including those important collagen and elastin cells. And moisture keeps skin soft, smooth and wrinkle-free.
  4. Add a retinoid. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and it's the other ingredient that everyone agrees is critical in producing more collagen in your skin. To balance your C in the morning, use retinol at night underneath your moisturizer to let the healing happen while you sleep. Prescription retinoids are also available at stronger percentages.


Don't forget your neck. It's a mistake to stop your skincare at your chin. Our neck and chest show signs of aging more than our face! Pretend its v-neck season all year, and be sure to treat, moisturize and protect your face, neck and chest.


Most importantly, go to the mirror right now and tell yourself you are amazing. You are now and you always will be, because


You Are Loved.



Jennifer Grant with Hemp Roots


Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri.  Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO



(1) Laporta, O., Gonzalez, L., Comas, J., & Delgado, R. (2017). The skin care elixir of life. South African Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Review, 44(6), 12–14.