In the 10 years I’ve been a beauty expert on Cityline, arguably the most common question I get from viewers is about anti-aging products. It’s no wonder. Flip through any fashion magazine and you’ll see dozens of skincare ads for anti-aging products that list ingredient names and clinical study results. “Eighty-six percent of women in our study said their skin felt softer and younger.” “Eighty-three percent of women who tried this product said they would buy it again.” And, the most popular: “Ninety-one percent of women saw a reduction of winkles.” It’s difficult for the experts to make sense of these claims and to objectively review the formulas from an editorial point of view. I’ve interviewed scientists, skincare experts, dermatologists, makeup artists, research executives, doctors and education managers. And throughout all these interviews, I’ve found a handful of skincare truths. Here is the truth about anti-aging products.
1. You can’t stop skin aging
In reality, there is no true anti-aging skincare. That’s because aging is a natural part of life. If you are alive, your skin ages. When beauty companies talk about anti-aging, what they are really talking about is slowing the signs of aging on our face. The bulk of the research done in labs around the world is how to improve collagen production as we age, how to reduce hyperpigmentation, and how to increase luminosity. Researchers do this by finding active ingredients that work within cells to encourage healthy cell development and repair.
As we age, our bodies start to slow down. It takes longer for our skin cells to turn over. This means the amount of time that it takes a brand new skin cell to be created deep within the skin to develop and come to the top increases. The time it takes for skin to repair damage takes longer as well. So scientists look for active ingredients that encourage the body to speed up this process.
2. UV is the biggest threat to skin
We are all taught at a young age the dangers of going out in summer without proper sunblock. I remember in public school sitting through health class where the teacher scared us silly with photos of melanoma and skin cancers. And while these remain a serious health issue, UV rays present a much wider threat to skin health. UVA and UVB rays are responsible for up to 85% of the signs of skin aging: wrinkles, loss of eleasticity, uneven texture, sun spots, dulness, etc. The truth is environmental issues play a much bigger role in how skin ages than genetics. What surprises most people is that it isn’t just sun damage from beach vacations that damages skin. It’s the daily exposure from walking to your car, sitting outside during lunch or running errands that contributes to the skin damage. This is why the most valuable skin care product you can buy and use is daily broad spectrum. It’s more powerful than the most expensive anti-aging cream.
3. Stress & smoking
A smoking habit will age your skin up to 10 years. That is a fact that a prominent dermatologist told me years ago. She specializes in treating skin cancers and refuses to see any patient that smokes. It is that serious. Smoking actually depletes Vitamin C reserves and creates an enzyme and breaks down collagen. This leads to deeper wrinkles. What is new is the effect stress plays on skin aging. Chronic longterm stress elevates the ‘flight or fight’ response and can weaken skin’s ability to repair itself. Researchers are delving into this area right now. Shiseido’s recent Ultimune launch is one of the first steps in this new field of study by working to improve skin’s immunity. The smartest thing you can do for your skin and body is to stop smoking and find a way to manage your daily stress. Your skin will look better for it.
4. The gentle approach
Celeste Lutrario, VP of Research at Burt’s Bees is one of the smartest skincare scientists I’ve ever interviewed. She worked for Avon, Chanel and Arden developing skincare formulas before joining Burt’s Bees. So she understands both synthetic and natural approaches for skin products. She says the more she learns, the more she understands that we need to be gentle with our skin. It is the body’s largest organ. And it fulfills and number of functions: protects against external aggressors like viruses and germs, regulates temperature, reacts to sensation, etc. She says we need to pamper skin. Gentle massage does encourage micro-circulation and feels good. Gentle cleansers and moisturizers help keep skin in its proper balance.
Anti-oxidants help stabilize free radicals from causing more damage. Look for Vitamin C and E. These ingredients neutralize free radical oxygenation by donating an electron effectively preventing free radical cascade. Rooibos tea extract is a powerful anti-oxidant offering 50% more protection than green tea. Anti-oxidants have come a long way over the past two decades. They remain powerful ingredients.
6. The power of hyaluronic acid
Dry, dehyrdated skin will look older and be more susceptible to damage. That’s because when skin dries out, it can create tiny cracks in the skin. Outside aggressors can then slip in. So to look younger and healthier, you want plump, well-moisturized skin. Hyaluronic acid holds 1000 times its weight in water. A humectin draws in moisture and binds it to skin. It effectively fills in the gaps in the intercellular barrier providing improved moisturization and smoothness. Look for these ingredients in your moisturizer: hyaluronic acid, silicone, phospholipids, squaline and Vitamin E.
“Vitamin A derivatives remain the gold standard in anti-aging products,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett. She says retinoids have the strongest clinical study results in reducing wrinkles and fine lines. A doctor has the ability to prescribe stronger versions of this ingredient than those approved to be sold in drugstores and department stores. What is good news recently is Vitamin A has been refineed to be much more gentle on skin than the first versions. This is still a good ingredient in skincare.
So what do you look for in anti-aging products? First look for broad-spectrum sun protection. Find a product that is comfortable and that you’ll wear daily. That is most important. Next, look for a formula that addresses the concerns you have: firming, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, spot reduction, etc. Each person’s skin is unique so you’ll have to do some trial and error to find out what works for you. Remember, you have to give anti-aging products 8 weeks to show results and you do need to use it daily. Keep your skin properly moisturized and protected. You’ll look younger, longer. But most important, you’ll feel better.