There are thousands of anti-aging creams, lotions and serums sold in department stores, drugstores and on the Internet – all promising to prevent, reduce or reverse the signs of sun damage and aging. But how do you know what to buy and whether to believe their claims?
The answer is – it depends on what’s in the jar. The efficacy of any anti-aging product depends in large part on the active ingredient(s) in the formula. These active ingredients act on the skin’s ability to regenerate itself, improve the condition, texture, and tone of the skin.
Depending on the condition you are trying to improve or the result you are trying to achieve, look for the following active ingredients in your next product for the best results:
Topical Retinol. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and one of the first antioxidants to be widely used in nonprescription wrinkle creams. Retinol is less potent than the prescription grade vitamin A derivative like Tretinoin, a topical treatment approved by the FDA for treating wrinkles. Retinoid and retinol creams can cause redness, irritation and peeling as it works to improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles, so it’s best to start with a lower strength cream (.025% or .05%) and gradually progress to something stronger. The FDA advises that pregnant women should avoid vitamin A derivatives because they may increase the risk of birth defects. Also because retinol and retinoid creams increase sun sensitivity, daily sun protection is very important.
Resveratrol. A red-wine compound praised for its anti-aging properties, resveratrol is popular in skincare formulas designed to reverse the signs of aging. Resveratrol is one of the most powerful antioxidants that soothes inflammation, protects the skin against environmental damage and fights premature aging.
Hydroxy acids. These popular ingredients are effective at dissolving dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and stimulating the growth of new cells. Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and poly hydroxy acids are synthetic versions of acids derived from sugar and sugar-containing fruits. Because hydroxy acids increase your susceptibility to sun damage, daily use of sunscreen is recommended.
Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that occurs naturally in the body to help regulate energy production in cells. Over time, personal levels of CoQ10 diminish, resulting in a diminished ability to produce collagen, elastin, and other important dermal molecules—leaving skin susceptible to damaging free radicals. Products containing CoQ10 help prevent the loss of elasticity, resulting in a firmer skin. Other studies show that an application of CoQ10 before sun exposure helps protects against sun damage.
Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is an ingredient that treats hyper-pigmentation (uneven skin tone) and is commonly found in products designed to lighten the skin. It is available over the counter in strengths of 2% or less – prescription strength products contain 4-10% hydroquinone, a powerful treatment that can only be prescribed by a physician. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production of melanin pigments in the skin (the pigment that gives skin it’s color). Because the chemical lightens skin by reducing melanin, it simultaneously increases exposure to UVA and UVB rays deep in the skin. This increases skin cancer risks due to UV exposure, in addition to the carcinogenic effects of the chemical itself. While hydroquinone is effective, careful consideration should be made before using products containing this ingredient.
Tea extracts. Most tea extracts are powerful antioxidants, but green tea extracts seem to be the most effective and are popular in wrinkle creams. Green tea extracts deliver four main benefits to the skin, which might explain their popularity in skin care products; they are rich in antioxidants, protect against carcinogens and UV rays and act as an anti-inflammatory. Green tea extracts exhibit stronger antioxidant protection for human body than vitamin C and vitamin E. Green tea extracts are generally more effective than black tea extracts due to the better preservation of catechins (antioxidants found in tea).
Copper peptides. Copper is a trace element found in every cell in the body. In skincare products, it’s combined with small protein fragments called peptides. Copper peptides enhance wound healing and cell regeneration. It also stimulates production of collagen and may enhance the action of antioxidants. Copper peptides are also know to firm, smooth, and soften the skin quicker than many other anti-aging ingredients. Clinical studies have found that copper peptides also remove damaged collagen and elastin from the skin and scar tissue because they activate the skin’s system responsible for those functions.
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol). DMAE is naturally produced in the brain – it is essential for proper mental functionality. DMAE in skin care products shows a remarkable ability to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Kinetin. Kinetin is a class of plant hormone that is important in cell division. Since the early 1990s, it has been tested for its anti-aging effects in human skin cells. It is promoted as a key ingredient in a number of skin care formulations for its ability to reduce wrinkles and fine lines and deliver other anti-aging skin benefits without causing skin irritation.
L-Ascorbic Acid. This is the only form of vitamin C that you should look for in your skin care products. There are many skin care products on the market today that boast vitamin C derivatives as an ingredient (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl palmitate, for example), but L-ascorbic acid is the only useful form of vitamin C in skin care products. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that is proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen – studies have shown that vitamin C helps to minimize fine lines, scars, and wrinkles.
Hyaluronic Acid. This substance occurs naturally in the body, however, as we age, the level of hyaluronic acid diminishes. Skin care products with hyaluronic acid are most frequently used to treat wrinkled skin. Skin care products containing this ingredient are often used in conjunction with vitamin C products to assist in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid is known for its ability to “reverse” or stop aging.
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