Regardless of age, most people are interested in products that will keep their skin looking young for as long as possible. And those who are already dealing with signs of “aging” (which are really signs of sun damage; skin that is not exposed to the sun does not “age” as much as the skin that is exposed to the sun), such as wrinkles, discolorations, sagging, and uneven skin texture, want to use products that minimize, prevent, or entirely eliminate these undesirable features, while at the same time turning back the clock and repairing damage.
There is only so much a cosmetic can do to provide results and no skin-care product can even remotely work like or take the place of botulinum toxin, dermal fillers and other professional treatments like PRP, despite the assertions of the cosmetic companies. But, there are many products available, some prescription and some over the counter, with ingredients that have research-supported evidence of producing noticeable, sometimes cumulative, improvements in skin.
The primary ingredient to prevent aging is, of course, a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater. When applied liberally, daily, and before your skin encounters daylight, as well as reducing the amount of time your skin is in direct sunlight, SUNSCREEN IS YOUR BEST DEFENSE AGAINST WRINKLES, DISCOLORATIONS, LOSS OF FIRMNESS, and DULLNESS.
Some of the more trendy, anti-aging ingredients are not on this list. Examples are various growth factors, stem cells, DMAE, GABA, coffeeberry, kinetin, minerals, wild yam, and peptides. These ingredients may have some benefits, but have minimal to no research to support them.
These are alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) that work to “unglue” the outer layer of dead skin cells, helping to increase cell turnover by removing the built-up layers of skin, allowing healthier cells to surface. Exfoliation helps reduce skin discolorations and gives a smoother texture, improving skin function. Glycolic and lactic acids also have water-binding properties beneficial for improving dry skin. Research also demonstrates that use of a well-formulated AHA product can increase collagen production. Removing built-up layers of dead skin cells improves skin texture and color, unclogs pores, and allows moisturizers and serums to be better absorbed. They improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, dry skin, and thickened skin caused by a variety of things, including abnormal cell growth, smoking, and heavy moisturizers. However, removing this layer of thickened, abnormal skin from the surface means that the fresh skin underneath is more vulnerable to sun damage, so again, daily sunscreen is required. AHA’s are safe and effective in concentrations from 5% - 15%. Specialty AHA “peels” are usually 35%.
Salicylic acid, also known as beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) works similarly to glycolic and lactic acids (AHA’s), but BHA is better for those people dealing with oily skin, blackheads and acne. BHA has four benefits: 1) exfoliates the surface of skin (like AHA’s), 2) penetrates through the oil in the pore, because it is lipid soluble, and exfoliates the lining of the pore, unclogging debris that can lead to acne, 3) BHA has antibacterial properties, therefore it can kill the acne-causing bacteria, and 4) has anti-inflammatory properties to help in skin repair. Just like a well-formulated AHA product, ongoing use of a salicylic acid exfoliant will improve skin’s appearance in numerous ways, whether blemishes are present or not. For wrinkle reduction, salicylic acid increases collagen production, smoothes superficial lines, reduces redness and diminishes sun-induced skin discolorations. Salicylic acid is available in concentrations ranging from 0.5 – 2%. Specialty BHA peels are usually 20%.
Retinol is a topical Vitamin A that is converted to the active form retinoic acid inside the cell. Retinols are beneficial cell-communicating ingredients and an antioxidants, helping skin cells become healthier by increasing the amount of skin support substances. Vitamin A is found in the form of retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinaldehyde. In prescription products, it is in the form of retinoic acid, or tretinoin. In addition to being a cell-communicating ingredient and antioxidant, retinol increases skin’s collagen production, resulting in firmer skin with an improved texture and enhanced barrier function. It should be strongly considered by those who desire to keep their skin in top shape through the years.
Prescription retinol products, such as tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova), tazarotene (Tazorac), or adapalene (Differin), are highly recommended if you are dealing with wrinkles and acne. Those dealing with wrinkles, breakouts and sun-induced skin discolorations could consider TriLuma, containing retinol, hydriquinone and a mild steroid.
Caution: Not everyone can tolerate retinol daily, as it may cause redness and flaking; however, this can be mitigated by using a lower strength or by applying the retinol product less frequently.
One of the most well-researched vitamins for skin, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has multiple benefits for forestalling the signs of aging. It is available in many forms with ascorbic acid being the most common (although it is the least stable, so opaque packaging to ensure potency is a major concern). Stabilized forms of Vitamin C include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, L-ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucosamine, and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate.
Efficacious amounts of topical Vitamin C (typically 2 – 15%) increase collagen production, including dermal collagen, which is significant for wrinkle reduction, reduce the appearance of skin discolorations, strengthen the skin’s barrier response, enhance skin’s repair process, reduce inflammation, and help skin better withstand exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin E is another potent antioxidant, its most biologically active form being alpha tocopherol. It works in several ways to protect cell membranes from oxidative damage caused by the sun and smoking. It works in powerful synergy with Vitamin C, which can regenerate “spent” Vitamin E molecules. This synergy relies on using stabilized forms of both vitamins and packaging that limits their exposure to light and air.
Vitamin E protects the top layers of skin from early stages of sun damage, increases the efficacy of sunscreen ingredients, reduces the formation of free radicals from UVA rays, prevents the peroxidation of fats (a leading source of cell membrane damage in the body), and reduces the trans-epidermal water loss from the skin, which strengthens the skin’s barrier function. These mechanisms lead to skin that is better able to defend itself from damage that leads to visible signs of aging.
Chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone or octinoxate work by converting UV light to heat energy before damage to skin can occur. Nonchemical sunscreens (which include only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) work by deflecting UV light before it can penetrate and cause damage to skin. Regardless of which sunscreen you use, you must be sure that at least one of the following ingredients is present to ensure that you are getting sufficient protection from UVA light: avobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, Mexoryl SX (ecamsule), or, outside the United States, Tinosorb.
Daily application of a sunscreen (whether it is in a moisturizer or foundation) rated SPF 30 or greater is critical to preventing new wrinkles and keeping existing lines from deepening each year. Ignoring this fundamental principle and focusing instead on anti-aging claims on product labels invite more wrinkles, skin discolorations, and potentially skin cancer.
NONE OF THE OTHER INGREDIENTS MENTIONED WILL WORK AS WELL FOR YOUR SKIN IF YOU IGNORE THE IMPORTANCE OR ARE NOT DILIGENT ABOUT APPLYING SUNSCREEN DAILY.
Ongoing use of an effective, broad-spectrum sunscreen allows skin to reap maximum benefits from anti-aging products. Skin is also better able to repair itself, has a stronger immune response, and will maintain its firmness years longer than it will for those who disregard sunscreen protection or, even worse, continue to tan, whether in the sun or in a tanning salon, and a tanning salon is much worse for your skin than getting a tan from the sun.
Sunscreens that provide sufficient UVA protection and include antioxidants and other skin-supportive ingredients will fortify your skin with what it needs to remain healthy and younger appearing.