While the modern age has certainly seen its fair share of exotic anti-aging skincare methods — like the placenta and vampire facials — the latest anti-aging skincare trend is using science.
But with ingredients like peptides, antioxidants, and acids now popular on ingredient lists, it can be difficult for someone without a background in biology or chemistry to tell if what they’re putting in their basket is really backed by science — or if it’s just hype. Smart marketing.
Here, we look at three of the most common ingredients currently in many anti-aging products — and whether there’s any evidence that they do what they claim:
Products containing vitamin C often claim to “brighten” the appearance of the skin and encourage collagen production. The middle layer of our skin (the dermis) produces both collagen and elastin, which work together to give the skin its strength and elasticity. But as we get older, the skin produces less collagen and elastin – which is why wrinkles appear.
Vitamin C is a bit tricky to deliver to the skin. This is because the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, acts as a water barrier. Since vitamin C is water soluble, this can make it difficult to develop a product capable of introducing vitamin C into the skin.
But some research suggests that concentrations greater than 5% of vitamin C may act on the skin. For example, one study found that in ten women aged 50 to 60, applying a cream containing 5% vitamin C to the forearms daily for six months showed an increase in the production of collagen in the skin.
Other research also indicates that vitamin C applied to the skin daily can significantly reduce hyperpigmentation (slightly darker skin patches) caused by sun damage. In multiple studies, creams with and without vitamin C were applied to different areas of each person’s skin. It was found that people who used vitamin C creams for 47 days noticed a significant difference in their skin color after 12 days of use. However, there was not much change after the first 12 days.
However, it is not known if the results persisted after the study ended.
Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance made by the body. They are usually found in eye fluids and between joints and tissues. Many skin care products now contain hyaluronic acid, claiming that it is a good skin moisturizer that may help reduce wrinkles.
A 2011 study, which looked at 76 women between the ages of 30 and 60, found that applying creams containing 0.1% hyaluronic acid twice daily for two months improved skin hydration and elasticity. But improvement in the appearance of wrinkles and skin roughness was only seen in creams where the hyaluronic acid molecules were smaller in size. This is because larger hyaluronic acid molecules may be more difficult for the skin to absorb.
But many skin creams containing hyaluronic acid don’t tell you the exact size of the particles used in the product – which makes buying decisions difficult. It is worth reading the label and writing down the type and/or concentration of hyaluronic acid it contains.
Reassuringly, other studies have shown that various hyaluronic acid products (from creams and serums to injections) can help increase skin hydration and reduce wrinkles—including a 2021 study, which showed a significant increase in skin hydration and reduced fine lines in participants. But it’s worth noting that this study used a commercial product containing a combination of niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid applied twice daily, along with daily sunscreen use. This makes it difficult to know if the results are due to hyaluronic acid alone.
Retinol-based products are popular these days, often touted for their ability to reduce the effects of long-term sun damage on the skin (photoaging) — including hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and turns into retinoic acid once it is absorbed into the skin. Once absorbed, it helps increase collagen production and increases cell turnover. All these combined effects help fill in wrinkles and reduce hyperpigmentation.
Studies in human cells, skin samples, and humans indicate that products containing retinol can have an effect on the appearance of the skin. For example, one human study showed that using a product containing at least 0.4% of retinol three times a week for six months reduced the appearance of wrinkles. Previous studies have shown that even products with 0.04% retinol can have this effect when used for at least 12 weeks.
While the effects won’t be evident when compared to other prescription retinoid products, commercial products with at least 0.04% retinol should be able to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles while being used over a period of months especially when combined with anti-aging. Sun rays .
What are you looking for
If you are considering purchasing an anti-aging skin care product, there are a few things to think about.
First, consider whether you are allergic to any of the product’s ingredients and whether it is suitable for your skintype. For example, if you have dry and sensitive skin, retinol may not be suitable for you because it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and further irritate it. You should also note the concentration of the active ingredient within the product and follow the usage recommended by the manufacturer. This will be mentioned on the label.
Of course, you also have to remember that the product you purchased is not a panacea. It is equally important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, follow a balanced diet and get enough rest to maintain visibly healthy skin.
(This PTI story was published via The Conversation)