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8 Scientifically Proven Anti-Aging Ingredients That Can Make A Difference

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Sooner or later, we all buy skincare products, hoping they’ll do miracles for our fine lines and wrinkles or reverse damage caused by UV rays. But do they work? Or is it all just a delusional idea? Everybody knows over-the-counter (OTC) products that address wrinkles are not listed as drugs; thus, they don’t require a controlled analysis to prove their effectiveness. So who can tell what will work or not? Most probably, the answer is science, those in the know, and your experience. In the end, don’t expect a face-lift from serums or moisturizers, but have a diligent skincare routine and make sure it includes the actives I’m about to share, aka the best anti-aging ingredients, proven by science to make a difference.

Proven anti-aging ingredients 

A lot of ingredients are intended to improve skin texture, tone, fine lines, and wrinkles. From all, we’ve selected the ones that were scientifically proven to be effective in helping tackle aging signs.

Retinol

Also known as vitamin A, retinol has a massive skin regenerative, activating cells’ recuperative abilities, thanks to its cell turnover power. When applied topically, retinoid products can reduce fine lines and wrinkles by protecting collagen against degradation. Also, they stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin texture. While it regulates and normalizes cell functions in the skin, retinol increases epidermal thickness and smoothens the skin’s outer layer, fading age spots and softening dry patches. Moreover, retinoids boost collagen production and act as an antioxidant, defending against oxidative stress.

We like these serums with retinol.

Sunscreen

Fast fact: UV radiation is the primary cause of photoaging, and by the age of 30, almost 50% of women are affected by it. Sunscreen is not an ingredient, but it’s deadly important to use it 365 days a year, aka every-single-day. UV light is around us at all times, making sun damage a year-round concern. That the clouds don’t block UVA rays, you probably already know. Even worse, reflective surfaces like snow and ice intensify UVB rays and their damaging effects on the skin. Thus, not only does using sunscreen on a daily basis help prevent skin cancer by 50%, but they also help you prevent premature skin aging.

Here are some sunscreens for you.

Learn more about sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen sits on the skin’s surface blocking and scattering UV rays. They do this via mineral filters, the most common of which are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They’re usually thicker, hence, they feel a bit heavier than a chemical sunscreen with equal SPF. As such, physical sunscreen might not be the best choice for oily or acne-prone skin types.

Chemical sunscreens contain active sun filters that penetrate the skin and absorb UV rays to prevent them from causing damage. They’re able to provide great sun protection without needing to be in high concentrations. Most of them are made with a lightweight, non-sticky formula, ideal for daily wear. Chemical filters can also contain ingredients that may irritate sensitive skin, but most modern products contain antioxidants to safeguard it at the same time. Anyway, chemical or physical sunscreen is a matter of preference; both will do as long as they have at least 30 SPF. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our editor’s favorites:

Vitamin C

Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, leading to cell and tissue damage. The process occurs naturally and plays a key role in the aging process. Welp, vitamin C neutralizes free radicals that cause oxidative stress to the skin, being the most potent antioxidant. Besides, its antioxidant activity is an excellent candidate as a protective factor against UV irradiation if applied topically.

But there are more reasons to use vitamin C: it boosts collagen production! Thus, you should add it to your skincare routine if you want plump skin — your skin will love a vitamin C serum. Since the body can’t produce vitamin C, you should include it in your routine, topical and oral intake (you can simply eat an apple per day). Many people wonder if vitamin C oral intake has the same effects as applying it topically. Yes, it’s okay to intake vitamin C for your skin, but the use of topical ascorbic acid is favored in the practice of dermatology.

Alpha hydroxy acids

AHAs are a group of acids, often used in cosmetics as a superficial peeling agent, that boost the skin’s appearance. Citric acid, glycolic acidlactic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid are the most common AHAs used in skincare products. If you want an all-inclusive anti-aging treatment, then introduce AHAs in your routine. The primary purpose of AHAs? They exfoliate old skin cells, so that new, healthy ones replace them.

Depending on the concentration, an AHA-infused product may remove dead cells buildup from the skin’s surface and even sink into the skin, where they boost collagen formation (like glycolic acid does). After each use, you’ll likely notice your skin is smoother, softer, and evener. There’s more about AHAs: they prepare your skin to better absorb other products.

Check out these lactic acid peels and glycolic acid serums.

Coenzyme Q10

As a naturally-produced antioxidant in the body, CoQ10 is needed for cellular energy production and cell maintenance, being present in all human cells. But as the CoQ10 level in the body decreases with age, and UV-irradiation exists, it leads to oxidative damage, reducing the skin’s CoQ10 levels even more. In 2015, a study investigated the benefits of topical CoQ10 treatment concerning two critical points: increased cellular energy metabolism and antioxidant effects.

The research showed that a topical CoQ10 treatment might counteract environmental stress and cell damage on the skin’s surface. Shortly, the data presented in this research indicates that topically applied CoQ10 can penetrate the skin and is metabolically transformed, exerting antioxidant effects and maintaining cellular energy levels.

Ceramides 

Ceramides are made up of long-chain fatty acids, and they’re the main component in the outermost layer of the skin. The role of ceramides is to create a water-impermeable, protective layer to prevent excessive water loss while serving as a barrier against bacteria. In this way, ceramides lock moisture into the skin, helping prevent dryness and fine lines’ appearance. Making up over 50% of skin’s composition, ceramides play a vital role in determining how the skin looks and how it reacts to environmental aggressors. Since ceramides are lipids that form the skin’s barrier and help it retain moisture, you need a proper ratio, so avoid compromising your skin by using a moisturizer with ceramides.

Learn more about ceramides

Ceramides are naturally produced in our body, but sun exposure, hot water, soaps, some chemicals, and environmental factors can deplete their level. Replenishing the skin with skincare products formulated with ceramides helps restore the skin’s barrier, which may increase skin hydration. They are one of the anti-aging powerhouses responsible for supporting the skin’s dynamic nature.

Peptides

When peptides are applied topically to the skin, they trigger skin cells to build collagen and elastin, giving you a younger look. Peptides are an essential element, and if a smooth skin is what you want, then peptides shouldn’t miss from your skincare arsenal. They play a key role in collagen synthesis and degradation, and they’re used in the body to control cellular functions. Actually, it has been proven that peptides can support skin on multiple levels, such as firming, soothing, and hydrating.

We recommend these peptide moisturizers.

Hyaluronic acid

Our body produces hyaluronic acid by nature, but it depletes with age. An overall decline of hyaluronic acid manifests as a loss of skin’s deeper layers to bind water, leading to a lack of plumpness and firmness. As a multi-functioning molecule, hyaluronic acid can hold nearly 1,000 times its weight in water, help moisturize and plump the skin, and regulate water transport and water content in skin tissues. Without hyaluronic acid, the collagen and elastin fibers are not kept moist and elastic.

More about hyaluronic acid

Fair to say that topical hyaluronic acid serums and creams don’t have the same effect as injectables, but they definitely keep your skin hydrated longer if used in conjunction. In skincare products, hyaluronic acid comes mainly in two sizes: high molecular weight and low molecular weight. The high molecular weight means it has a large molecule, allowing it to hold water at the skin’s surface, having high moisture retention — it’s excellent for plumping and hydrating skin instantly. On the flip side, the low molecular weight hyaluronic acid has a small molecule, that can sink onto the skin — the smaller the molecule, the greater penetration.

Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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