Fact: There’s no secret ingredient, magical potion, or coveted lotion that’s going to magically turn back (or stop) the clock—but that doesn’t mean anti-aging products are a complete waste of your time.
First, you have to understand that taking care of your skin from the inside out (think diet, exercise, no smoking, drinking in moderation, ) is absolutely crucial. A diet filled with processed foods, a couch potato mentality, and partying like it’s 1999 on the regular cannot be concealed no matter how hard you try.
No Such Thing As a Quick Fix
There’s no such thing as a true topical quick fix, friends, yet anti-aging products can work to your advantage if you’re choosing the correct formulas for your skin type and are willing to be committed to see results.
To give you a little more confidence and optimism when crafting the perfect skin care regimen, here is some deeper insight on how specific ingredients in anti-aging products actually work.
When To start Using Anti-Aging Products
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, but the sooner the better, as anti-aging is about prevention more than it is correction as you want to slow down the development of a skin care concern before it gets out of hand.
Starting in your early 20s is completely acceptable providing you’re using products appropriate for your skin type and not overly aggressive. For example, a 21-year old doesn’t need a strong retinol product, but something with antioxidants is always a good idea as we’re all exposed to environmental stressors—and maybe even alcohol or cigarettes.
That said, between natural or synthetic, which are the best ingredients for anti-aging products?
Best Natural Ingredients for Anti-Aging Products
While retinol is considered one of the top anti-aging ingredients because it stimulates the production of new cells, the synthetic form (more on that later), can be a bit aggressive despite the results.
Using 100 percent naturally derived vitamin A will give you the same benefits (helps remove buildup from the surface of the skin; creates the appearance of a brighter, smoother complexion; tightens and firms your look; and promotes ageless beauty), but keep in mind that it will take longer to see results.
You only need a few drops, and don’t be alarmed if it leaves a temporary yellowish tinge on your skin.
As aforementioned, every skin type and age can benefit from using antioxidants. These powerhouses prevent environmental stressors from oxidizing (damaging) healthy cells, thus causing premature aging.
While there are far too many to name, many naturally-derived antioxidants also have additional benefits. For example, arbutin, licorice root, and viniferine brighten and lighten your look (a natural alternative to hydroquinone); and antioxidant-rich seed oils—chia, goji berry, and broccoli—firm and tighten your look while minimizing the appearance of expression lines and wrinkles.
While it may sound like it was created in a test tube, CoEnzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant that gives your skin a fresh and revived look.
Naturally-sourced vitamin C can help protect skin from environmental damage, eliminate the appearance of dullness, and diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Ascorbic acid (aka l-ascorbic acid), is the topical form of antioxidant vitamin C.
It’s found in many anti-aging products due to its ability to renew the look of beautiful skin. Since the stratum corneum (outer layer of skin) can make it difficult for vitamin C to completely penetrate, regular exfoliation is key in order to receive optimal results.
Often found in anti-aging eye creams, vitamin K overturns the calcium deposited in the skin’s elastin fibers, which hardens—this is what causes wrinkles to appear. Vitamin K also plays a crucial role in blood circulation, so it helps reduce the appearance of dark circles, too.
It seems as though you can find hyaluronic acid in just about everything these days—even cosmetics—and with good reason. The ingredient is a carbohydrate found innately in our body tissues. It’s known for being a hydrating powerhouse as just one gram of hyaluronic acid can hold six liters of water.
With that in mind, when applied topically, it also leaves your skin soft and radiant, while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s important that you choose a naturally-derived form of hyaluronic acid that’s comprised of smaller molecules—oftentimes the molecule is too large to actually penetrate the skin.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
AHAs are plant-based, naturally occuring acids derived from milk, fruit, or sugar. Due to the fact that they gently exfoliate dead skin cells without stripping vital moisture, they are a popular ingredient in many skin care products. If you want to go ultra-natural, look no further than your refrigerator!
Lemons, tomatoes, papaya, pineapple, and plain yogurt (a form of lactic acid under the AHA umbrella) can also dissolve the intercellular glue that’s holding on to dead skin cells, thus giving you a dull and rough complexion—the older we get, the longer it takes new cells to reach the surface.
The easiest way to utilize nature’s bounty is by making a mask. Just be sure to do a patch test first to ensure you don’t get a reaction—but slight tingling is completely normal.
Best Synthetic Ingredients for Anti-Aging Products
Retinoids are popular in anti-aging products because of their ability to reduce the appearance of dullness while brightening and lightening your look by inspiring rejuvenated skin. Just keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to experience peeling and redness, so start at a lower strength and gradually up your usage.
Also, just because it’s not natural doesn’t mean it will work overnight. It can take approximately six months (or longer) of regular use to see prominent results.
While glycolic acid can be derived from sugar crops, it’s not always naturally sourced.
Glycolic acid is a part of the same group of active compounds known as alpha hydroxy acids, though glycolic is considered more valuable because the molecules are the smallest, thus making it a penetrable ingredient that can effectively (and simultaneously) treat fine lines, decongest pores, and encourage revitalized skin via a chemical—not physical—exfoliation.
A high-quality glycolic will also firm and tighten your look.
Also seen in oral supplements and trendy sports drinks, arginine is an important component of collagen in the skin and keratin in the hair.
You’ll find synthetic versions of this amino acid in many anti-aging products that are formulated to improve the appearance of the skin while minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.
Peptides, chains of amino acids, are the foundation of proteins in the skin. Powerful communicators, peptides send signals to cells to ensure they’re functioning properly—to include determining which type of collagen (there are 23 kinds in your body) needs reconstruction. With that in mind, peptides diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, defy your age, and rejuvenate.
Of course, all of that doesn’t happen overnight as it takes some time for collagen to build, so patience is a virtue—and if you stop using them all together, you’ll lose the result.
Opt for Quality
Whether you go the natural or synthetic route or a combination thereof, it’s crucial that you’re choosing products that contain ingredients with a high level of quality.
Look for a high level of concentration (at the top of the ingredient list) and if it’s a brand you’re not familiar with, conduct a little research to determine how the ingredients are sourced and/or produced. Don’t waste time or money on products that will do little or nothing to benefit your skin.
“Free Radicals And Aging Of The Skin,” Pubmed.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1450595
“Vitamin C and Skin Health,” Oregon State University https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C
“Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule In Skin Aging,” Dermato Endocrinology, July, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/
“Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles?,” Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-retinoids-really-reduce-wrinkles