Does anti-aging skincare work?

Let’s be honest, getting old sucks! But you know what sucks more? Aging skin! Now like every other skin problem, skincare brands are providing a solution to aging skin also, with different anti-aging skincare treatments and products. But how far do those anti-aging skin care treatments or products work? And are those claims true?” Today we will find out.

Before we dig deepYES, anti-aging skincare treatments, or anti-aging products really do work. But only if the anti-aging product contains some specific ingredients. There are plenty of scientific studies that showed some skincare ingredients work better than others to fight signs of premature or mature aging. With the right anti-aging ingredients, it is possible to be in the “forever young” list.

Aging in the skin can be classified into two classes:  intrinsic aging and extrinsic aging.

Intrinsic aging is the skin’s natural aging process which happens due to the degenerative effects of free radicals, hormonal shifts, and the body’s inability to fix skin damage. It usually starts in the mid-20s. On the other hand, extrinsic aging is characterized by deep wrinkles and caused by lifestyle and environmental factors such as ultra-violet radiation, air pollution.

So you have to add the skin care treatments/products in your routine which have ingredients that can help your skin to fight with skin barrier and UV damages together. “Hey this sounds vague“, I know! That is why I am going to discuss only 5 skincare ingredients that have track records of handling aging skin issues. Happy much?

Anti-aging skincare ingredient 1: Hylauronic acid

Skin dehydration plays an important role in premature aging. So yeah the glasses of water you skipped in your teens can rear its ugly head in your mid-twenties as fine lines! EWW! But why does that dehydration happen in the first place?

Our skin can maintain its moisture level through natural skin moisturizing process. The whole process happens with the help of Natural Moisturizing Factors or NMF. NMF is present in the outer layer of the skin and binds with the water which keeps our skin plumped. But if the natural water content is less due to external factors such as stress, pollution, the skin suffers from dehydration.

Anti-aging skincare works well when the product has Hydrating agents in it .
A healthy protective barrier is important for skin to keep the moisture in. Photo by Audrey M Jackson on Unsplash

In addition to less water content, dehydrated skin also has a damaged protective barrier. Due to this less-active protective barrier, dehydrated skin reacts almost to every external factor. And keeps losing water too.

So how does that relate to aging? Good question.

Have you ever noticed how raisins look so wrinkly and rough? And surprisingly just when you soak them in water overnight, they are all smooth and fun? Yes, you guessed it right! Without water, your skin would look like a raisin (hey stop imagining!).

Skin becomes like raisins when its dehydrated and thus anti-aging skincare treatments with hydrating agents work
Your skin can turn into raisins when it lacks hydration. GIPHY

The loss of water from the top layer of skin makes the lines and wrinkles look more pronounced. At the same time creates extra fine lines that cause prematurely aged skin. So yeah, a raisin!

Also, as I mentioned before dehydrated skin has a damaged protective barrier which lets the UV rays have more impact than normal skin.

UV rays break down the elastin of our skin. As we all know, elastin helps the skin to bounce and maintain its shape. Less elastin means less bounce, which leads to wrinkles. On top of that, the sun sucks up the water from the skin. So more skin dehydration, ugh!

anti-aging skincare treatments with hyaluronic acid will give you glowing skin
Skin which has more collagen looks healthy and bouncy. Photo by Hichem Dahmani on Unsplash

Although there are plenty of hydrating agents to consider, one molecule has a very good reputation in this area.

Yes, I am talking about hyaluronic acid (HA). Hyaluronic acid is a humectant and helps to retain moisture on the skin’s surface level.

Hyaluronic acid is also a glycosaminoglycan, a naturally-occurring substance that helps with the maintenance and support of collagen and elastin. Being one of the major glycosaminoglycans in the skin, HA helps to maintain and support collagen. It also supports collagen and elastin fibers to retain moisture.

As a result, your skin starts looking plumped and refreshed. And doesn’t show any pronounced fine lines and wrinkles. Woohoo!!!

So, in this case, how does anti-aging skincare really work?

Include HA in your anti-aging skincare regimen. You can use a HA serum or moisturizer too. But I would suggest a serum as that provides better for hydration. Meanwhile, also avoid the practices that strip off your skin’s NMF such as washing with warm water or using harsh alcohol-based products.

Pro tip: Always use HA serums in the damp face. You can also use a facial mist and then apply the HA serum. Otherwise, it will work the opposite and make your skin drier.

Use anti-aging skincare treatments which has hydrating agents and that will work for aging skin.

Anti-aging skincare ingredient 2: Antioxidants

Trust me when I say 80% of the skin aging comes from UV exposure.

Not only it breaks down the elastin, which I mentioned before, but also it creates Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Now, what are these?

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) or free radicals are highly reactive oxygen molecules and the production of ROS is driven by UV rays. Although there are other factors that can contribute to ROS production, for this article we will only focus on UV rays.

The UV rays are really harmful and cause aging skin thus its essential to include antioxidant based anti-aging skincare products
Most of the skin’s damage is done by the UV. Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

You would be surprised to know ROS are continuously created at low levels in our skin cells.

They are responsible to run a number of physiological and pathological skin processes and to keep the biological system in track. But free radicals or ROS are carefully equalized by skin’s natural free-radical-scavenging mechanisms. So things don’t go out of control!

But due to prolonged UV exposure, the levels of ROS increases and creates an imbalance between the natural antioxidant mechanism and the number of ROS present which causes significant damage to skin cell structures. This is known as oxidative stress. Yes, our skin cells go through stress too, awww!!

The short-term oxidative stress from UV radiation can cause discoloration (hyperpigmentation).

But long-time UV exposure can cause severe damage to cell membranes, proteins, and even DNA. These decrease the natural production of collagen and elastin fibers, two important fibers for skin firmness. As a result, your skin can look like your granny although you haven’t crossed your 30’s yet!

Without antioxidant based anti-aging skincare treatments skin might shows sign of aging due to UV
Your skin can look like in your granny’s when you are at your mid 20s for too much UV exposure. Photo by Ravi Patel on Unsplash

But worry not! Topical antioxidants can come to rescue. And anti-aging skincare products infused with antioxidants work to prevent the damage.

Antioxidants scavenge the ROS through a series of redox reactions. I wouldn’t go too deep as its all Chemistry and I don’t want you to run! But I will try, okay?

Imagine free radicals or ROS as your single friend: as it has only one electron, it’s quite reactive to get a partner, I mean another electron.

(I am assuming you all know that electrons are only stable when its paired.)

Now the single friend can go to any extent to have a new partner (remember the last time you saw him/her in swiping Tinder? you get it now)! Likewise, the ROS gets so desperate that it starts stealing electrons from the nearest stable molecule and turns this victim molecule into a free radical. This way the chain of damage goes on.

I want you to imagine antioxidant as the good friend (maybe you?) who understands its desperate single friend and tries to hook it up with someone he knows. Exactly, we are going there! Antioxidants try to donate one electron of its own (how sweet!) to the ROS and neutralize it. As a result, no chain of damage starts. Problem solved!

That is why it is so important to include antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E or selenium in your skincare routine as they are the anti-aging skincare actives proven to work against aging. There is plenty of other plant-based antioxidants such as resveratrol which is a strong antioxidant and works best to prevent aging too.

Vitamin C can help your skin to fight with free radicals. Photo by Ravi Patel on Unsplash

Anti-aging skincare ingredient 3: Peptides

If you are reading this article I am guessing you are familiar with collagen, a protein which is one of the building blocks of our skin.

Collagen like every other protein is made of really long chains of amino acids. And if you break these collagen molecules, you get smaller strings of amino acids and those are called peptides.

You can imagine collagen as a long train where each compartment is a peptide. So, peptides are smaller than proteins.

Collagen is an important part of your skin which keeps it firm.Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

As we grow older, our body starts losing collagen. But due to their large molecular size, collagens can not penetrate the outer layer of skin. Hence, the topical peptide is needed.

The way peptides work is quite interesting. Peptides stimulate collagen production by sending the “signal” to the skin that there has been an injury or wound. As a result, the skin increases the production of collagen to heal the wound and even hyaluronic acid, resulting in a balanced skin barrier. 

Although there are several peptides available in the market, two peptides, hexapeptides (with their six amino acids) tetrapeptides (which have four amino acids) has a track record of working great for any anti-aging treatments. In one study a group of people used a blend of tri/hexapeptide anti-aging treatment for 12 weeks and noticed significant visible results.

To get the best results and make the anti-aging skincare work, combine the peptide skincare with vitamin E or C or niacinamide active products. It was found that a combination of these active products with peptide brings good results to aging skin.

Combining peptides with other actives like vitamin C and E can bring good results. Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

Anti-aging skincare ingredient 4: Retinoids

Due to the excess attention to this anti-aging ingredient, everyone is familiar with retinoids. The whole skincare industry is going bananas over how this active in anti-aging skincare work really well.

But what are these? And why should you be using this in anti-aging skincare treatments?

Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A and so far are the most researched as anti-aging agents.

I know most of you might be thinking, “hey its retinol, not retinoid“! I get what you mean. Retinoid is the broad term under which vitamin A (retinol) and its derivatives such as retinoic acid or tretinoin, retinaldehyde, retinyl esters, etc fall.

Retinoids can only work when they are in their active form which is: Retinoic acid. Retinoic acid not only prevents collagen damage from free radicals but also increases its production. As a result, the skin looks more firm and smooth.

Using retinoids can make your skin look more smooth and glowing. Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

Most of the over the counter retinoids are sold into their inactive forms which later converts into retinoic acid (the active form).

The conversion might take two or more steps. It depends on the derivative. The reason to put the inactive derivative is to prevent skin irritation, as more the conversion steps of the retinoid derivatives, lesser the amount of actives are produced. And fewer side effects as well.

However, the prescription retinoid, tretinoin, is already an active, it doesn’t require any conversion. Thus it’s more effective. And anti-aging products with tretinoin really works, no doubt. But needs a dermatologist to monitor its effects.

Nowadays most of the OTC antiaging treatments have retinol. Retinols convert in the active form, retinoic acid in two steps. As retinol is alcohol, upon oxidization it turns into an aldehyde, Retinal. Then the retinal further oxidizes into the retinoic acid and works at the cellular level. 

Although tretinoin is the most effective retinoid, studies showed retinol can also have the same anti-aging effect as tretinoin but with much less irritancy. It also reduces wrinkles and photodamage and so many studies proved it. So, retinol can be a good option if you are looking for anti-aging skincare treatments.

But for sensitive skins, even retinol can be harsh. In that case, it’s better to look for retinal in anti-aging skincare treatments. It takes one less step than retinol to convert to retinoic acid but shows the same positive results in case of anti-aging treatments.

Just cause retinaldehyde is mild, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work properly. In one study, they compared the effectiveness of retinoic acid to retinal and it was found that both were equally effective to reduce aging signs. However, retinoic acid/tretinoin caused much more skin irritation than retinaldehyde.

Anti-aging skincare ingredient 5: Green tea

Green tea has always been in the “good list” for its numerous benefits. And one of them is it can give you youthful skin when incorporated into anti-aging skincare treatments.

Green tea skincare has been in talks due to its benefits. Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

Green tea has shown promising results to work against collagen aging and can be a good addition to aging skin’s skincare routine. So green tea as an ingredient in anti-aging products really works against aging skin.

Green Tea does magic on the skin due to its antioxidant properties which come from a biological compound called polyphenols. A sub-group of polyphenols, catechins, scavenges free radicals and delays the aging process.

One of the most powerful of these catechins is the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). It is found abundantly in green tea.

Studies found that EGCG helped to prevent radical-evoked premature aging and reduced melanin secretion. In addition to that, EGCG increases the skin’s natural moisturizing factor-related gene expression. As a result, the skin looks more hydrated.

Green tea can make your skin more plumped. Photo by fleur kaan on Unsplash

Free radical fighting and hydration: a great combination for aging skins. That is why it is essential to use green tea-infused skincare products to fight the aging signs. Because green tea has a track record of making anti-aging products really work.

To wrap up…

Skin aging is a complex process. There is no magic molecule that can give you youthful skin overnight. During the natural or premature aging process, skin loses several important elements. Thus anti-aging skincare works better when you combine 2/3 anti-aging ingredients together to see any significant results. Only then you can expect the anti-aging skincare treatments to work.

So, what do you think now? Do anti-aging products really work? Let me know in the comments.

If you are into active skin care, you can check my article about 5 the ordinary skincare products which can damage sensitive skin here.

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