We know that aging is inevitable, so it’s important to seek out the best skin-care products to promote healthy, natural aging. And with so many “antiaging” skin-care products making claims they can’t back up, it can be difficult to diffuse what has effective marketing versus what’s actually effective. Before we dive in, take a look at the science and derm-recommended ingredients you should be looking for when it comes to aging skin.
When does your skin start aging?
Age-related skin changes start earlier than you might think: at around age 25, when your skin starts producing less and less collagen. This is why your skin-care routine in your 30s will look different. By the time we’re 50, there’s almost no new collagen being made and the collagen that does remain breaks down, becoming fragmented, and weaker, Shari Marchbein, M.D., professor of clinical dermatology at NYU School of Medicine who practices at Downtown Dermatology in Manhattan, tells SELF. This concept is known as intrinsic aging and it is, of course, completely natural.
What factors lead to premature aging?
There are some extrinsic (or external) factors that can exacerbate the natural signs of aging, like smoking, certain dietary choices, and excessive sun exposure. “When people think about aging, most of the aging that people are noticing isn’t chronological aging. It’s not like what happens over time,” Dr. Jerome Potozkin, M.D., CEO of PotozkinMD Skincare & Laser Center, tells SELF. “It’s time plus ultraviolet radiation or sun exposure.”
These habits can lead to a loss of collagen and elastin, thus making sagging skin and wrinkles more likely. You can also develop skin pigmentation (dark spots), and even skin cancers. “The purpose of using antiaging skin-care products containing ingredients such as vitamin C, retinoids, sunscreen, and peptides is to minimize the impact of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors on skin,” says Dr. Marchbein.
What skin-care ingredients are best for aging skin?
Seeing as there are new and buzzy products for aging skin cropping up all the time, it’s important to know what to look for to address your top concerns.
Start by looking for the two antiaging skin ingredients with the most science behind them: broad-spectrum sunscreen and retinoids (including retinol). “Sunscreen is without a doubt the single best thing you will do to protect your skin and using a retinoid is the second,” Dr. Marchbein says. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that have been proven to boost collagen production, which helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, speed cell turnover (which evens out discoloration and brightens the skin tone), and unclog pores.
Another top contender are antioxidants, like picking the right vitamin C, which help protect the skin against damaging free radicals in the environment that can cause oxidative stress and damage in high amounts. “Antioxidants pair with free radical scavengers in search of a missing electron, so it neutralizes the damage free radicals can do if it were to pair instead with an electron from a skin protein,” New York City–based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D., tells SELF.
“Self-educating about ingredients, speaking to your board-certified dermatologist and other non-physician skin professionals, and trial and error are all going to be part of figuring out what’s most helpful for you,” Jessica Krant, M.D., dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York and assistant clinical professor of dermatology, tells SELF. So we spoke to dermatologists about the best skin-care products for aging skin that they personally use and rely on to promote healthy natural aging.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
“People tend to over-dry their skin through over-washing,” says Dr. Potozkin. “If your skin is really dry and not hydrated, it’s going to look more wrinkly and saggy. So the first thing you can do to prevent drying out your skin is how much exposure to water—especially hot water—you have. And then, avoiding harsh soaps. My routine in the morning usually starts with CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser.” This cleanser is geared towards dry skin is one of CeraVe’s bestsellers—and for good reason. It’s packed with protective ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and moisturizing glycerin.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Expensive? Yes. Effective? Double yes, according to Dr. Engelman. “This antioxidant combo reduces fine lines and wrinkles, neutralizes free radicals and reverses environmental aging, making it a multifunctional product that will improve texture and appearance,” she tells SELF. She considers C E Ferulic one of the gold standards for topical antioxidants.
In addition to preventing free radical damage, a vitamin C serum like this one can help “even out skin texture and tone,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., tells SELF. He also uses this particular SkinCeuticals serum.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Hyaluronic acid is an impressive hydrating ingredient, as it can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water. When your skin is properly hydrated, it’s less likely to emphasize signs of aging such as dull or sagging skin. Even wrinkles appear smoother when the skin is adequately moist. That’s why this is Dr. Krant’s go-to daily face moisturizer.
“It’s fragrance-free, absorbs in without a greasy feeling, and also hydrates with a silky feel that sticks around,” she says. “It layers well under anything and helps other antiaging products absorb better.”
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
There’s a reason these peel pads have such a cult following: They work! “They contain both alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and BHAs—salicylic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid—which is a great combination to tackle a few problems including dullness, hyperpigmentation, pores, and more,” Dr. Engelman says.
Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen SPF 55
Dr. Potozkin uses this Neutrogena broad-spectrum SPF lotion after cleansing in the morning. It has an oil-free formulation for acne-prone and oily skin types and gives a mattifying effect.
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules
“Ceramides help to bind skin cells together, which not only restores the skin barrier and locks in moisture, but acts like a buffer to prevent any irritation from retinol,” Dr. Engelman says. This product, which contains both ceramides and retinol, “is incredibly effective at restoring skin cell turnover while keeping the skin firm and hydrated.”
Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
Whether you use an over-the-counter or prescription strength option, retinoids like adapalene are a key ingredient in the fight against visible signs of aging. “They increase collagen production and the rate of skin cell turnover, and are highly effective at improving the texture of skin and giving it a glow, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, evening out skin tone, and even decreasing pore size,” Dr. Marchbein says. The best of the best over-the-counter brand in her opinion is Differin 0.1% gel, which she recommends using at night.
NeoCutis Lumiere Riche Eye Cream
Eric Schweiger, M.D. uses this eye cream, which has a mix of peptides and human growth factors for maximum cell renewal. There’s also caffeine in it, which helps to tighten the blood vessels in the area almost instantly, minimizing puffiness.
Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50
You won’t find most derms sunbathing on a beach, but as long as they plan on leaving the house they slather up with sunscreen. “I’m never without a wide brim hat and UPF clothing, which are easy non-chemical ways to prevent excessive sun-related aging UV exposure,” Zakia Rahman, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University, tells SELF. Neutrogena’s Healthy Defense moisturizer with SPF is her sunscreen of choice.
SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF
This is Dr. Marchbein’s favorite antioxidant serum to help protect against free radical damage, a key step in her daily skin-care routine. “Formulated with Phloretin, 10% L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and ferulic acid, this antioxidant serum is meant to be used every morning under moisturizer with sunscreen and is good for all skin types, although I especially love using this for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin since this formula won’t make you break out,” she says. “It can help reduce the appearance of dark spots, evens skin tone, and protects from further sun damage.”
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