Top 10 Anti-Aging Skin Care Ingredients

1. Retinoids

No ingredient in Dermatology multitasks as well as Retinoid.  We hear so much about retinol and Retina-A and how great they are for us, but what’s the difference and what do they do? Both are part of a large group of over 2500 chemicals called retinoids, all of which are related to Vitamin A.  Retinol is a topical, over-the-counter retinoid, while prescription retinoids include tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A) adapalene (Differin), and tazarotene (Tazarotene).

Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A.  Do not assume that more is better when it comes to retinoids.  For nonprescription retinoids, more important than the percentage alone, is in the delivery system and package stability, (Retinol degrades heavily in the presence of oxygen and light), and other ingredients that retinol is paired with.  If using a prescription retinoid, start slowly and follow the manufacturer’s directions; many people start too quickly, experience negative side effects (redness, flaking, and peeling) and then give up.

Retinol’s benefits include:

  • An increase in cell turnover leading to smoother brighter looking skin
  • Repair of cellular structure damage gradually in the epidermal cell, as well as, in the dermal collagen and small blood vessels resulting in tighter skin; fewer wrinkles.
  • Shrinkage of oil glands, which helps to reduce pore size and diminish scars.
  • Stimulates production of new collagen leading to a thicker, plumper epidermis.

The important thing in a retinol preparation is to look for a concentration high enough to be effective.  As well, the packaging should be air-tight as retinoids are highly unstable when exposed to light.  Prescription retinoids, while very effective, can also be highly irritating and cannot be tolerated by many individuals.  Retinol, which can also be irritating, tends to be better tolerated by most individuals.

Retinols should be introduced into a skin care regimen gradually and cautiously.  Caution should be exercised when exposed to sunlight as retinols increase the sensitivity to sunlight.

The best way to get the cell renewing benefits of retinol without prescription-level side effects is to use over-the-counter version like Rodan & Fields Night Renewing Serum. 

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2. Hydroquinone

Discovered in the 1950’s hydroquinone is often referred to as a bleaching cream.  In fact, it doesn’t bleach the skin.  It works by inhibiting an enzyme responsible for production of melanin, a skin pigment.  Though other skin lighteners are available, most dermatologists still regard hydroquinone as one of the gold ingredients in skin care.  This organic compound, found in blueberries, cranberries and other fruits and vegetables, is the only FDA-approved way to lighten skin discolorations.  And while it is available over-the-counter or with a prescription from your doctor, don’t book an appointment with a dermatologist just yet.

The 4 percent by-prescription-only variety can be more irritating than the 2 percent found in over-the-counter products, without guaranteeing better results.  Two percent hydroquinone works extremely well when combined with exfoliation and sun protection.

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3. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid helps connective tissue plump.  It works by binding to moisture.  It helps skin repair and regenerate itself 50% of Hyaluronic acid is found in our skin.  It works below the cellular level of the skin, and it is what nourishes and hydrates the collagen.

As we grow older the body loses it’s ability to maintain the concentrations of Hyaluronic Acid in the skin.  Hyaluronic acid acts as a space filler by binding to water-keeping the skin wrinkle free.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the workhorse ingredients in skin care.  It is backed up by a considerable amount of clinical research that demonstrates its benefits, which include:

  • An increase in collagen synthesis, which helps to thicken the skin and may help to diminish fine lines and wrinkles.  Antioxidant activity, which reduces skin damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules).  It also helps us to withstand exposure to sunlight and boosts the effectives of sunscreen.
  • Boosts the effectiveness of Vitamin E., which is important in protecting our cells’s membranes.
  • An effective de-pigmenting agent at concentrations of 5 percent or higher.
  • An improvement in the appearance of sun damaged skin.
  • Thickens the skin and helps to keep it hydrated.

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) can break down and become ineffective, as well as potentially harmful if not formulated properly.  Oral supplementation of Vitamin C is also very beneficial.

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5. Alpha Hydroxy Acids: (AHAs)

The use of agents including malic, mandelic, lactic, or glycolic acid have increased in popularity in recent years due to findings regarding their positive effects on sun-damaged skin.

Alpha hydroxyl acids tend to be naturally derived from milk and fruit sugars.  They work by exfoliation, or encouraging the shedding of old, damaged surface skin cells.  This process invigorates skin and allows a newer, fresh layer to grow in its place.  Studies have shown that wrinkles, blotchy pigmentation, rough skin and other symptoms of overexposure to harmful sun rays improve with daily AHA treatments that are used for at least a few months, for results.

The main side effect of AHA is that it may cause irritation of the skin.  Darker skinned individuals may be prone to scarring, especially with glycolic acid.  For that reason, individuals with darker skin may want to consider alpha hydroxyl acids such as mandelic or malic acid, which tend to be much safer for use with darker skin.

Blemish Skin Line from Rodan & Fields

6. Vitamin E

Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E is a highly effective antioxidant.  It works to protect the membranes of the cells, lipoproteins, and many other bodily structures considered to be “oily”.  Vitamin E is effective when taken both orally or applied topically.

It seems to help protect the skin, particularly from age spots and scarring and it also boosts the skin’s natural moisture-retaining mechanisms.  Vitamin E is also known as (alpha-tocopherol).

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7. Green Tea

Is now being added to many topical skin care products.  We know the powerful role drinking tea plays for a healthy body, so it was only natural to see effects topically.

The benefits of green tea may be attributed to their constituent polyphenols, a subclass of flavonoids, found in many plants.  Green tea possesses powerful antioxidant activity, reduces inflammation, and can reduce the harmful effects of sun exposure.

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8. Peptides

Peptides are protein fragments that have been shown to have some beneficial effect on skin.  Though number of peptides have been shown to have skin beneficial effects, two in particular deserve further attention-copper peptides and palmitoyl pentapeptide 3 (also called Matrixyl).

Copper peptides were discovered to help heal tissue when applies to lesions and wounds.  In addition, they’ve been shown to reduce the formation of scar tissue while also stimulating the production of more fresh skin.

Studies have shown that peptides can be used to regulate the exchange and growth rates of skin layer cells, limit potentially harmful oxidation, and even create an anti-inflammatory environment that ensures optimal healing conditions.

9. Collagen

Collagen is vital in maintaining the skin layers and structure.  It gives skin it’s firmness.  The amino acids, proteins of (Glycine, Proline, Alanine and hydroxproline) are the main constituents of collagen.  It is vital to prevent skin sagging.  Collagen peptides are applied topically and now available by orally, supplementation.

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10. Sunscreen

We can rave about the latest anti-aging skin care ingredients, but most skin care specialists would agree that without protection from UV rays they’d be all be a big waste of time.  There is no other facet of skin care that comes close to the importance of UV protection since sun exposure is responsible for approximately 90% of adverse skin conditions commonly associated with aging.

When choosing a sunscreen, it’s important to select one that will deliver protection against both UVA and UVB rays.  Though UVB rays lead to burning and tanning, it’s the UVA rays that will cause wrinkles, age spots, damaged skin and some types of skin cancers.  Just as important as a sunscreen being broad spectrum is its photostability or ability to remain stable when exposed to sunlight.

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