Background: Photoaged skin is characterized by coarse and fine wrinkles. The mechanism of wrinkle formation appears to involve changes to components of the dermal extracellular matrix. Topical treatment with all-trans retinoic acid (RA) can repair photoaged dermal matrix; this is regarded as the 'gold standard' against which repair agents are judged. To date, little is known regarding the ability of over-the-counter 'antiageing' products to repair photoaged skin. Objectives: We used a modified occluded patch test to ascertain whether topical applications of cosmetic 'antiageing' products are able to repair photoaged human skin. Methods: Commercially available test products [basic moisturizer, 'antiageing' cream containing different active complex levels (6% active: lipopentapeptide, white lupin peptides, antioxidants, retinyl palmitate; 2% active: lipopentapeptide, white lupin peptides, antioxidants)] were applied under occlusion for 12 days prior to biopsy and histological assessment in photoaged volunteers (n = 9). RA was used as a positive control. Results: In agreement with previous studies, the patch-test study revealed that RA produced significant fibrillin-1 deposition in the papillary dermis (P <0.01) but had little effect on procollagen I or matrix metalloproteinase-1 expression. The 6% total active complex formulation, however, increased the deposition of fibrillin-1 and procollagen I (P <0.01, P <0.05, respectively). Conclusions: This study indicates that in an in vivo 12-day patch test an over-the-counter cosmetic product can induce changes in photoaged dermal extracellular matrix, which are indicative of repair. © 2007 The Authors.