antiwrinkleDo you know much money people spend their gold and silver (and paper) on over-the-counter anti-wrinkle cream in an effort to reclaim their youth?  Believe it or not, consumers spend billions of dollars each year on such creams and lotions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. We tried counting up all of the various anti-wrinkle concoctions being sold and our computer collapsed from exhaustion.  We settled upon the official count of “A LOT”. But creams like ‘Pura Bella’ are among the worst of the LOT because they charge so much for so little.  In short, it is a rip-off of the worst kind.

Most all of these creams successfully moisturize the skin, making it appear more supple and healthy.   However, many of these creams, lotions and vitamin supplements go even one step further and claim to reduce wrinkles or slow down aging.   Yes, they are taking on the laws of nature.  So the question is whether these anti-wrinkle creams really combat aging and whether they are worth the often stratospheric price charged.

There appears to be consensus among experts that most cases skin creams are harmless, although they are not likely better than moisturizers like Vaseline or Cetaphil that sell for less than a 10th or a 100th of the price.   Consumer Reports frequently tests anti-wrinkle skin creams and are consistently “underwhelmed”.   In 2012, the reputable consumer testing group tried out 7 skin creams and recommended none of them.   It found that retinoids, or vitamin A derivatives, (Retin-A) remain the only proven topical prescription remedy for wrinkles. But there’s a big difference between prescription and non-prescription retinol products.   Pura Bella cream is a very weak non-prescription…..but being offered at prescription prices.

Is Pura Bella a Scam?

We say it is for two BIG reasons:  1. The website is reluctant to tell you what they are charging you for this cream and 2. Its advertising claims are highly questionable.

First, go to one of the many websites offering to sell Pura Bella cream.   We chose this one, which seems to be somewhat official.   But you really can’t tell as they don’t have an official “pura bella” URL and there’s no information about the company selling the product on any of the websites.    The closest that we found is this website, which is based in Columbia  (because it has a .co domain).   So already, you need to be careful because even though the websites claim that the product is made in the USA,  it appears the company’s website is based in a South American country, well outside the legal research of U.S. authorities.

As to the accuracy of the advertising claims, its website claims that Pura Bella is a: “sophisticated Anti aging product specially developed to enhance skin hydration and firmness, which greatly diminishes obvious effects of getting older like Wrinkles and Fine Lines.”   Note that it doesn’t list the active ingredients anywhere on its websites and doesn’t indicate how much retinol is included in the cream.   Because it is a non-prescription cream, there is going to be very little “retinol” or, more correctly, Retin A in the cream.

Makers of the over-the-counter creams and gels don’t have to say how much retinol their products contain, and in the short term, the products might not be as effective as tretinoin. According to WebMD,  it takes about 3 to 6 months of daily use to notice a difference. With prescription retinoids, a patient might notice smoother, more even-toned skin in as early as 6 to 8 weeks.   But beware that prescription Retin-A based-creams can be 100 times” potent as the retinol-containing products sold without prescription.  One of the problems is that the retinol found in over-the-counter products changes to retinoic acid when you put it on your skin and is less effective.

Now, about the price.  While some Retin-A prescription creams can be somewhat expensive, the generic trentinoin creams are not expensive at all while others generally run for about $60 for a 20-gram tube or $130 for a 45 gram tube.  Pharmacies located at Costco, Sams Club or other discount pharmacies will charge less.   Compare this “100 times stronger” prescription option to Pura Bella.   We found 1 oz jars sold on Amazon for $67.   There are 28 grams in an ounce……so Pura Bella is being sold at a price that is shockingly close to a prescription version of Retin-A!

What is the price that you pay for Pura Bella through one of their distribution websites?   In order to find out, you need to log in with your name, address, phone and email.   Without that information, they won’t give you pricing information.  That is perhaps the most alarming part of the Pura Bella sales techniques;  if they won’t tell you about the price, the company that offers it or the active ingredients then you should not be buying their product.

Another red flag:  if you look for a review of this product, you are deluged with lots of fake review or “scam” sites that simply direct you to the main sales site or offer some pablum talking about how the product is highly rated or recommended.   (such as, and other affiliate websites posing as reviewers)   The marketers for this service paid to have these fake sites thwart any customer looking for real reviews.   It is also a tactic to obscure any customers who have posted complaints or alerts about fraudulent claims.  Any products that have lots of these affiliate websites should be avoided.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual as to whether to use a skin-care product that contains a known cardiotoxin and has chosen not to publish safety studies. We recommend that if you want to potentially spend/waste your money on high-end skin care products that you consult the Cosmetics Database to look up the ingredients in products to check their toxicity levels.   There, you can find low-toxicity alternatives at a fraction of Pura Bella’s cost.   Ultimately, the best — and lowest cost — strategy to combat wrinkles (and aging, in general) continues to be:

  • Wear sunscreen
  • Don’t smoke
  • Treat your skin well
  • Eat healthy
  • Manage stress.

Try these first time-tested and very low-cost strategies…………and only after that should you consider anti-wrinkle cream. If you go that route, you might as well pay for a prescription-strength retinol cream.  As for Pura Bella, well, we can only say “caveat emptor” and “good luck”.