Although everyone ages differently, skin aging typically involves the development of fine lines and wrinkles, loss of elasticity, rough texture, and discoloration. Various skin care products containing active ingredients may help slow down the signs of aging.
As we age, collagen and elastin break down in the skin, causing it to become looser and more prone to wrinkling. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, and some lifestyle habits, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, break down collagen further.
People who use repetitive facial expressions, such as squinting or frowning, are more likely to notice permanent wrinkles appearing around the eyes or on the forehead.
Anti-aging skin care products, such as moisturizers and serums, will never be able to stop aging.
However, skin care with active ingredients, such as retinol and hyaluronic acid, may slow down the signs of aging and improve the skin’s appearance.
This article examines which skin care ingredients may be most effective, when people can start using them to gain the most benefit, and what natural remedies may help slow down the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
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The American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) recommends that all adults use a moisturizer and sunscreen every day — two important anti-aging products that help to protect the skin from UV rays and keep it smooth and supple.
The AAD also recommends that people establish an effective anti-aging skin care routine in their 40s and 50s. This includes using a moisturizer that is labeled as anti-aging and sunscreen.
However, much earlier than this, people can use other products known for their anti-aging properties, such as hyaluronic acid, retinol, and vitamin C. This is because they may also be anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, or brightening.
Is it ever too early or too late?
Some experts recommend that people start using anti-aging products as early as their 20s.
However, this does not mean that people in their 20s need to purchase an anti-wrinkle cream specifically. There are plenty of skin care products containing active ingredients that help to brighten and plump the skin, without being labeled anti-aging.
It is never too late to start moisturizing. People going through menopause may notice wrinkles appearing more quickly. Older people can experience skin problems such as dry skin, itching, and age spots alongside wrinkles. Daily moisturizing can help soothe the skin, while a daily sunscreen can protect the skin and prevent it from developing age spots.
How active skin care ingredients work
Newer skin care products contain more active ingredients than ever. But knowing which ones to purchase can be confusing, and the choice can be overwhelming. Here are some of the most effective anti-aging skin care ingredients for people to know about:
- Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid): Brightens tired or dull-looking skin and protects it from environmental damage, such as pollution, free radicals, and UV rays.
- Hyaluronic acid: Acts as a humectant, binding moisture to the skin to plump up the skin’s appearance.
- Retinoids (retinol): Stimulates the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs): Brightens the skin and boosts the renewal of skin cells. AHA peels, also known as glycolic peels, can help address sun damage and hyperpigmentation, as well as fine lines and wrinkles.
- Copper peptide: Boosts the production of collagen and elastin, as well as acting as an antioxidant. It may be particularly useful during menopause as collagen levels decline.
Natural ingredients, such as plant extracts and herbs, have been in use for thousands of years as a skin care method.
Polyphenols are a compound that people get from eating plants and taking supplements. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can also help to protect the skin from UV light.
A 2021 reviewTrusted Source into polyphenols and skin aging has recommended several polyphenol-rich foods that could help to halt or reverse the signs of skin aging, including:
While some skin care products already contain polyphenol-rich ingredients, people who wish to halt or reverse the effects of aging on the skin may wish to include more of these foods in their everyday diet.
Aloe vera is traditionally used as a natural remedy to aid wound healing. However, research has also found it an effective anti-aging ingredient.
A 2015 study looked at the effects of aloe vera taken as an oral supplement by 58 Japanese women with dry skin. It found that it boosted the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid and reduced average wrinkle depth in the subjects.
Other research has backed this up, with a 2021 review noting that the polyphenols in aloe vera can significantly improve wrinkles and elasticity of the skin.
Jasmine rice extract
A 2016 study of 24 volunteers tested skin care products containing Jasmine rice extract. Researchers found that it helped tighten skin, giving it a firmer, smoother appearance. It also helped lighten dark spots on the skin and help prevent wrinkles. People who want to adopt a plant-based approach to skin care may wish to try products containing jasmine rice extract.
Bee products such as honey, propolis, royal jelly, bee pollen, and even bee venom, have properties that are beneficial to the skin.
A 2020 review into the use of bee products in dermatology and skin care found that propolis is known to smooth out wrinkles, while bee venom can benefit skin exposed to harmful UV rays. Royal jelly is also well known for its moisturizing and anti-aging properties.
The AAD also recommends people to consider the following lifestyle practices to improve the appearance of skin and prevent premature skin aging:
- wearing an SPF of at least 30 every day and avoiding the sun
- refraining from tanning beds or other indoor tanning equipment
- stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol
- avoiding repetitive facial expressions, such as squinting — sunglasses can help
- exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet
- cleansing the skin twice a day, gently, without scrubbing
- using a moisturizer every day.
- avoiding skin care products that sting or burn
When and how to use skin care ingredients
The following list is a guide only. People may wish to consult a dermatologist before embarking on a new skin care routine using any of the following active ingredients.
|Ideal age to start using||How to use||How often|
|Hyaluronic acid||Any time.||After cleansing and before moisturizer.||Daily: morning or evening.|
|Vitamin C||20s–30s.||After cleansing and before moisturizer.||Daily: morning.|
|Retinol||30s–40s.||Use lower strength products (0.01%) first, gradually moving to moderate concentrations (0.04–0.1%), and then high strength (0.5–1%).||Daily: morning.|
|AHAs||20s–30s.||After cleansing and before moisturizer – do not use at the same time as a retinol as this could cause irritation.||Every other day, usually evening.|
|AHA peels||30s–40s.||As a peeling mask treatment.||No more than twice a week.|
|Copper peptide||30s–40s.||As a moisturizer or serum after cleansing.||Daily: morning or evening.|
|Sunscreen||Any time.||As the final step after skin care and before makeup.||Daily: morning.|
A person may have to use skin care products for months before they experience noticeable results. People who wish to address signs of aging may consider consulting a dermatologist to discuss further treatments and procedures that can help to reduce the signs of aging or skin damage. They may discuss fillers, wrinkle treatments, and resurfacing treatments.
At high concentrations, some active skin care ingredients can cause unwanted side effects, such as peeling or dry skin, breakouts, and redness or burning. If this happens, people should discontinue using the product immediately and consult a dermatologist.
Skin care ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid can help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and encourage the production of collagen and elastin in the skin.
People in their 20s can start using these anti-aging products in their skin care routine, but people in their 40s and 50s may notice the most effective results.
Everyone should use a moisturizer and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF every day to protect their skin. People who have concerns about their skin’s appearance should consult a dermatologist for further advice and treatment.
Last medically reviewed on February 8, 2022