There’s arguably no area of skincare more confusing than ‘anti-ageing‘, which we like to call ‘youth-boosting’ as no one needs to undo their years.
Luckily, we’re here to break it down and strip anti-ageing skincare back to its basics with a simple list of proven ingredients, according to the experts. Phew.
There’s nothing simple about skincare. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth working it out. On the contrary, once you know which ingredients are best for which skin condition, you’ll never look back.
The problem is there is so much conflicting information available about what products to use and what order to use them in, and most of the information contains so much scientific jargon, it’s impossible to understand if the product it’s talking about is right for you and your skin. Oh, and that’s before we’ve even got down to the ingredients themselves.
While commonly referred to as ‘retinol’, the correct umbrella term is ‘a retinoid’. Retinoids are largely considered to be the ultimate anti-ageing ingredients and are clinically proven to increase cell turnover as well as stimulate collagen and elastin production within the skin, which leaves it looking and feeling plumper and smoother. Plus, they improve skin tone and can even help with breakouts and acne.
“Retinoids have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects on the skin, including helping to repair photo damage, damage from the sun, to stimulate collagen production, and to help with the improvement of the tone and texture of the skin,” explains Dr Martin Wade, Medical Director and Consultant Dermatologist, of London Real Skin.
However, there are a number of different types of retinoids and they are available in different strengths, so it can seem a little confusing if you’ve never come across the ingredient before.
All of the different types are derived from Vitamin A – the difference between them lies in the concentration. Reinoic acid (also known as Retin-A or Tretinoin) is the strongest, prescription level retinoid that’s often used to treat acne as well as ageing. All other retinoids from strongest to weakest include retinaldehyde, retinol and then retinol esters (such as retinyl palmitate).
“My preferred choice is a prescription retinoid and we generally prescribe Tretinoin 0.025 to 0,05 % depending on what the skin can tolerate,” says Dr Wade. “Retinols have become very popular because they are a weaker derivative of a retinoid and they can be incorporated in cosmeceutical way and are available to people who haven’t seen a dermatologist.”
While retinoids are highly effective anti-ageing ingredients, they can also cause unwanted side effects, namely dryness, peeling and irritation, so it’s important to start with a low concentration and work your way up depending on how your skin copes.
You’ve probably heard the term antioxidants bandied around the skincare world, and while it sounds technical, all it really means is an ingredient that cancels out damage caused by environmental aggressors like pollution, UV rays and stress.
Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant that’s especially good at preserving skin’s resilience against these environmental sources of ageing and reducing the signs of fine lines and dullness.
Sunscreen is not only essential in protecting skin against sun damage, but it is also one of the best tools we have to prevent skin-ageing. “Ultraviolet rays from the sun are extremely harmful to the skin and cause more than 90 per cent of the visible signs of ageing including wrinkles, sagging, rough patches and skin discolouration,” confirms Dr Shirin Lakhani, advanced aesthetic doctor at Elite Aesthetics.
To make sure you are receiving adequate protection from your sunscreen, you should always choose one that has broad-spectrum protection, or specifically states that it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays are able to penetrate down into the skin, reaching the deeper dermis and cause cellular damage and collagen loss and are the main cause of skin ageing. UVB rays reach the uppermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and cause sunburn.
ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS
Known for their exfoliating, glow-giving properties, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are an important component of an anti-ageing skincare regime. While there are many different types of AHAs, including Glycolic Acid, Lact ic Acid and Mandelic Acid, their main role is to breakdown the bonds between dead skin cells, preventing dullness and revealing luminous, fresh skin.
Glycolic Acid is arguably the most well known AHA, and when used correctly, it can have impressive results. Ideally, it should be used as an intensive treatment for a short period of time, rather than a staple in your regime. Also, unless your dermatologist says otherwise, always opt for a product that contains less than 10% glycolic acid.
Mandelic acid is a more gentle AHA due to the fact its made up of slightly larger molecules that can’t penetrate the skin quite so deeply. This means it can be safely incorporated into your skincare regime in the long run. “You can use it in slightly higher concentrations and it gets great results,” said Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, medical director of Adonia Medical Clinic.
Ceramides are often referred to as the fundamental building blocks of skin, and make up 50% of the skin’s composition. They play a vital role in protecting the skin from external aggressors and helping to maintain a plump, smooth and healthy complexion.
“Ceramides help support the skin’s barrier layer for moisture retention and help hold healthy cells together. This is what keeps skin hydrated, smooth, and healthy,” says Elizabeth Arden’s Consulting Dermatologist, Dr Dendy Engelman.
While the skin naturally produces ceramides, as we age the skin becomes less efficient at doing so. Plus, things like stress, sun damage and dehydration can make the skin even less efficient to produce ceramides, so topical application becomes vital.
Known as the miracle hydration molecule, hyaluronic acid can hold over 1000 times its own weight in water, meaning it plumps like no other ingredient available. “It’s what we call a humectant, as it draws moisture from the environment into the skin to create a highly hydrating effect,” explains Dr Wade.
The skin produces hyaluronic acid naturally, but as we age, our natural reserves begin to deplete, making topical top ups necessary. When it’s applied to the skin, it behaves a bit like a sponge, absorbing all the moisture from the air and subsequent skincare products.
It’s for this reason that skin experts recommend investing in a hyaluronic acid formula that contains multi-molecular weight of the ingredient. Essentially, this just means different sizes of hyaluronic acid, so it’s able to penetrate deeper into the skin as well as sit on the surface, for deep hydration as well as a dewy complexion.