Skincare is complicated and confusing. We get it. With so many products lining shelves and new “miracle” ingredients being touted every month, it’s hard to make sense of what’s really necessary. And who do you listen to: beauty editors, your best friend, or the woman behind the counter trying to sell you the $150 jar of cream laced with a rare fern grown during the rainy season in the Andes?
Our advice: Trust the science. That pricey cream may have some really beneficial elements to it, but it can’t take the place of the trifecta of ingredients listed below. Use it in concert with one of these proven anti-agers.
This ingredient provides skin with a last-ditch effort at a do-over. As we age, skin produces less collagen. (Think of collagen as the stuffing in a mattress: less loft equates to a lack of firmness.) Retinols help jumpstart collagen production, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone, and combat acne.
You’ll find these close cousins of vitamin A listed on labels as retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinol aldehyde or under its Rx names, Retin-A, Renova, Tazorac, and Differin, among others.
Retinols have also gotten a bad rap for causing dryness, sun sensitivity, and redness, causing many to hold off on using them. However with the newest generation of retinols we’re seeing far gentler formulas that (ironically) are more powerful than the ones that came before.
Look for formulations that contain other active ingredients such as botanicals, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and an SPF for daytime use.
Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHAs). These skin saviors were pretty widespread in the 1990s, gaining acclaim for their ability to melt away the top layer of old, dead skin cells, unveiling a healthy, plumper layer underneath. But for all the good they did, many found them too aggressive and they slowly faded from the scene. Seeing a trend here?
But you can’t keep a good thing down and glycolic acids are experiencing a renaissance. Advances in science mean Glycolics 2.0 are well-suited for any skin type and more effective at delivering skin sloughing benefits without the sting and irritation.
Another reason for skin aging: free radicals. These unstable compounds circulate in our atmosphere, damaging our DNA and accelerating sagging and wrinkles. Antioxidants are free-radical scavengers that attempt to mitigate the damage.
But antioxidants can also be the hardest to get behind because even with diligent use you may not observe any perceivable difference — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strengthening skin cells and keeping them healthy. In fact, there are reams of scientific studies that show they do indeed have an impact. There also isn’t a single superhero antioxidant, but a cocktail of different ones are shown to have the greatest impact. Look for familiar ingredients like grape seed, pomegranate, vitamin C, coenzyme Q-10, acai, resveratrol, and idebenone.