- With age, skin appears dryer, less elastic and more susceptible to wrinkling and injuries.
- In addition to natural aging, ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes photoaging.
- Moisturizers, cleansers and sunscreen can work together to fight the signs of aging.
- Active compounds such as antioxidants can protect the skin and help repair damage.
As we grow older, our skin inevitably shows the signs of aging: lines, deep wrinkles, furrows and changes in complexion.
While we cannot prevent aging, we can protect against the effects of the environment and slow down the emergence of these telltale signs through an effective anti-aging skin care routine.
How Your Skin Ages
As we age, all our organs—including the skin—experience a gradual decline in function. In addition to this natural process, our skin is exposed to the environment, making it susceptible to damage by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Excessive UV radiation exposure is the chief factor in premature skin aging. It damages skin collagen and inhibits the production of new collagen. This results in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and skin hyperpigmentation.
Compared to young skin–such as that of a 20 year old–mature skin appears thinner and paler. This is because skin naturally loses density with age. The epidermis, or outermost layer of the skin, decreases in thickness by over 6% per decade.
The lipid (fat) content in skin also declines with age, affecting the natural skin barrier function and reducing its water content. Thin, dehydrated skin is less able to heal itself and is more susceptible to injuries, blisters and infections.
With age, the rate of collagen production in the skin decreases and the degradation of elastic fibers such as elastin increases. This reduces the skin’s elasticity and contributes to the appearance of wrinkles.
Is Anti-Aging Skin Care Effective?
Some skin care products can slow the signs of aging by hydrating the skin, protecting it against UV radiation, and repairing damage to skin structure. However, it is not possible to completely stop the natural decline in skin appearance that occurs with age.
Ingredients to look for
A number of topical therapies have demonstrated efficacy at reducing the effects of aging on the skin. These include:
|Retinoids, carotenoids and tretinoin (vitamin A derivatives)||Antioxidants that can counteract the effects of UV-induced free radical damage and protect against skin discoloration or age spots|
Increase collagen production and reduce degradation to reduce wrinkling
Increase skin cell proliferation to increase density and smoothness
Improves skin blood flow
|Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)||Antioxidant|
Increases production of elastic fibers in the skin
Reduces wrinkles and furrows
|Tocopherols (vitamin E derivatives)||Antioxidants|
|Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)||Can increase skin thickness, elasticity and water content|
|Hyaluronic acid||Has moisturizing effects; can increase skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles|
Anti-Aging Skin Care Products and Their Purpose
Some skin care products can help protect against the effects of skin aging through various mechanisms. These products include cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreen.
Cleansers are products that clear debris and excess oil from the skin. While cleansers do not directly combat the effects of aging, they can help you maintain good skin hygiene, which in turn contributes to skin health.
As a bonus, some cleansers have moisturizing or hydrating properties, which help combat skin dehydration.
Toners add value to a skin care regimen by removing any remaining oil or residue after cleansing; this is particularly useful for people with oily skin. Toners also have firming effects.
For those with dry skin, avoid toners that contain alcohol as they will dry skin further; toners with moisturizing and soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, glycerin and hyaluronic acid are ideal choices.
Some toners contain AHAs such as glycolic acid which can exfoliate dead skin; this contributes toward revitalizing the skin and combating the effects of aging.
Moisturizers are essential in fighting the dehydrating effects of aging; dehydration accentuates wrinkles and fine lines, and weakens the skin. Moisturizers are available in a wide variety of formulations that contain different ingredients, but with the goal of providing the same results.
- Occlusives such as petrolatum, mineral oil and paraffin, are substances that form a fine film or seal to help trap water in the skin and it from evaporating
- Humectants such as glycerin and propylene glycol help attract water from the deep layers of the skin
- Some occlusives and humectants such as petrolatum and glycerin also work as emollients, moisturizing and protecting to make skin feel smoother
Photoaging refers to skin damage caused by exposure to UV radiation over a prolonged period of time. In addition to limiting unprotected sun exposure, sunscreen is essential in combating ultraviolet radiation damage.
Clinical trials have found that routine sunscreen use can help protect against UV-induced skin damage and skin aging. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, sunscreen use can decrease the occurrence of skin cancers.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends the use of broad-spectrum sunscreens with a sun protection factor or SPF 30 or higher, which should block about 97% of UV rays. Many dermatologists agree that there are diminishing returns above SPF 50, which blocks about 98% of UV rays.
For optimal protection, you should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure and every two hours.
Eye creams are specifically formulated for the delicate skin around the eyes, typically with the same active ingredients as those found in other skin care products, but are fragrance-free and in lower concentrations to avoid irritation.
Some eye creams incorporate caffeine to target dark circles and puffiness, as this ingredient constricts blood vessels. Eye creams work to reduce puffiness, dark circles and wrinkles such as crow’s feet.
Anti-aging serums contain concentrated active ingredients such as antioxidant vitamins and hyaluronic acid. Serums also have moisturizing and hydrating effects.
Serums are well-suited for delivering these ingredients as the smaller serum molecules are able to more efficiently penetrate deeper into the skin to achieve the intended effects.
Face masks can serve multiple roles in your skin care routine. They can help exfoliate, unclog and firm up pores, and increase hydration.They are available in a wide range of variations to suit specific skin types and skin concerns. Some anti-aging active ingredients include AHAs, ceramides and retinol.
Skin Care Kits and Sets
Skin care kits are a collection of any number of skin care products sold together. Moisturizers and cleansers are the most common products found in these kits but some may also contain sunscreens, lotions, serums and masks.
Many of these kits contain products with ingredients that can play an active role in protecting against skin aging such as retinol, AHAs, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid.
Kits are usually cost-effective options; the drawback is not being able to choose individual products yourself.
How to Build an Anti-Aging Skin Care Routine
An optimal anti-aging skin care routine that is tailored to your lifestyle can help your skin stay healthier for longer.
A morning routine can help protect your skin throughout the day, while an evening routine should focus on repairing the damage your skin may have sustained during the day.
Morning skin care routine
An effective morning routine should include a cleanser, toner, moisturizer and sunscreen. During the night, sebum and dead skin cells may accumulate, clogging your pores – a gentle cleanser followed by toner will ensure your skin is refreshed and well prepared for moisturizer.
A morning moisturizer will serve to hydrate your skin and form a protective layer to prevent moisture from escaping throughout the day. Sunscreen is essential if you often find yourself in the sun.
Evening skin care routine
Your evening skin care routine should be geared toward helping the skin recover from the stressors of the day.
Cleanse to remove debris, accumulated oils and makeup; follow up with toner to eliminate any remaining residue. Choose an anti-aging moisturizer that contains active ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C, or AHAs to help your skin recuperate from the day and shed dead skin cells overnight.
If you prefer to use an overnight moisturizing face mask with active ingredients, you can omit the moisturizer.
Skin type matters
Your skin belongs to one of five main categories that require different solutions to optimize skin health. All skin types should apply sunscreen each morning before going outdoors.
|Skin Type||Description||Care Advice|
|Normal||Skin is neither oily nor dry; pores are not noticeable|
Soft, even texture with little to no flakiness.
|Maintain skin by cleansing and moisturizing|
|Dry||Dull, dehydrated appearance due to less oil production and the accumulation of dead skin cells|
Prone to inflammation, cracking and wrinkles
|Choose a foaming cleanser to hydrate and a cream moisturizer|
Use alcohol-free toners
|Oily||Appearance of enlarged pores, blackheads; greasy complexion |
Oily skin is more susceptible to pimples and acne
|Use a gentle clay cleanser and a toner to remove excess oils|
Choose a light moisturizer and avoid thicker creams
You can substitute the moisturizer for a rich serum as serums generally have a lighter consistency
|Combination||Generally oilier in the T-zone (nose and forehead) and drier on the cheeks|
Oil production may be affected by the season; dryer in winter, oilier in the summer
|An adaptive approach is best with combination skin type|
Choose products designed for oily skin on the T-zone and dry skin products for the cheeks
|Sensitive||Tends to be dry and prone to inflammation, itching and breakouts||Identify and avoid the products or ingredients that irritate your skin|
Choose gentle cleansers and moisturize often; do not overscrub or overexfoliate
Anti aging skin care in your 20s vs. your 40s
Skin care in one’s 20s should focus on establishing a routine that focuses on effective cleansing and moisturizing. Most importantly, this is the time to form good sun protection habits to avoid accumulated sun damage. Look for quality skin care products that are compatible with your skin type and concerns; use sun protection daily.
Skin tends to become drier with age, so you should focus on effective hydrating products in your 40s. Active ingredients such as antioxidants and hyaluronic acid can also play a more important role in fighting skin damage in this age group.
Other Anti-Aging Skin Care Products
Some products, such as oral supplements and home devices, claim to address wrinkles and fight the signs of aging.
A balanced diet that is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and low in fat and carbohydrates has been linked to better skin appearance.
The role of dietary supplements in combating aging in the absence of a specific nutritional deficiency is less clear. Some studies demonstrated a benefit for antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C and E, carotenoids and selenium, while others failed to demonstrate this link. More studies are needed.
Some professional devices that use laser, microdermabrasion and other forms of energy to stimulate skin collagen production can help combat wrinkles and fine lines. At-home machines may help improve the appearance of skin by exfoliation but data is lacking to conclude definitely that they help fight aging in the long term.
Natural Anti-Aging Skin Care Solutions
Many herbal formulations and phytochemicals (plant-derived compounds) contain high concentrations of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds such as flavonoids, AHAs and vitamins.
Plants such as aloe vera, ginseng, cocoa, citrus, tea and various other botanical extracts are believed to play a role in fighting photoaging of the skin. More studies are needed to characterize and test the efficacy and safety of these formulations
Skin aging is an inevitable process but it can be slowed down with a good skin care regimen. Moisturizing, cleansing and sun protection are the main elements of an anti-aging skin care regimen, as is consistency in adhering to this regimen. A well-balanced diet will also contribute to healthy looking skin.
Active compounds such as hyaluronic acid, AHAs and vitamins A and E, all have a place in anti-aging skin care. These ingredients work to moisturize, protect, strengthen or heal the skin.
By understanding your skin type and its particular needs, you can create an effective skin care plan to fight the signs of aging and maintain skin health.
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