Valerie Monroe
Photo: Jonathan Skow
Q: How do firming body lotions work?

A: A colleague of mine here in the office claims that she gets a tighter bottom when she applies firming body lotion. One of the reasons I'm fond of her is that, among her many other lovely qualities, she is a terrific optimist. I say, if you think your bottom looks better and that makes you happy (and why wouldn't it?), more power to you. Keep using the stuff. But in the sometimes dark and often skeptical world of Ask Val, firming lotions are good for one thing only: moisturizing. That will improve the appearance of the skin temporarily, says Arielle N.B. Kauvar, MD, associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. The antioxidants added to some of these formulas may help reduce collagen breakdown but will not stimulate new collagen and skin thickening, Kauvar says.

Bottom line: Though firming lotions can plump up your skin with moisture, there's no scientific evidence that any of the ingredients produce long-term effects.