Television and magazines are full of products proclaiming to be the key to more youthful skin. Many of these creams and serums cost hundreds of dollars, but do they really help? As a dermatologist, THE skin care specialist, I find many of these advertisements frustrating and misleading. So, what are the best ingredients for anti-aging? What does the science show?
I firmly believe that well-designed scientific studies have proven several ingredients to consistently give the best results for aging skin. It may help you to remember these ingredients by using the mnemonic GRASS: Growth factors, Retinols, Antioxidants, Specialty products, and Sunscreens.
The most significant advancement in anti-aging since the development of Retin A is the discovery of growth factors. Growth factors are a large collection of proteins that our skin uses to promote communication between the cells. In particular, they send the messages of repair, re-growth and regeneration. This large group of naturally-occurring proteins works together to give us healthy skin. As we age, our bodies make smaller quantities of growth factors, but our skin requires higher levels of growth factors than it did when we were younger. Adding growth factors to your skin care regimen enhances the natural pathways, increases cell turnover, stimulates collagen growth, normalizes pigmentation and boosts repair of cellular damage!
Retinoids (such as Retin A) were the first scientifically proven anti-aging medications. Now, all creams claiming the fountain of youth will compare themselves to this ingredient. Retinoids stimulate cell turnover which improves texture, encourages collagen growth and repair which decreases wrinkles and helps to diminish dark spots. The downside of retinoid use is irritation including redness, peeling, and itching. There are many formulations of retinols (non-prescription) and retinoids (prescription) available today of varying strengths and tolerability.
Retinols can be found in countless products on the beauty shelves of most stores. Unfortunately, not all retinols are created equal. The type of retinol, the concentration of the retinol, and how the retinol is delivered to the skin all play a role in its effectiveness. What is the best retinol? It is the one that comes in the highest active concentration and is delivered to the skin in a way that lessens irritation.
Antioxidants are a family of ingredients that help prevent the damage to our DNA by protecting it from free radicals. Free radicals are toxic molecules that are created by ultraviolet radiation. These molecules are directed to the cell’s DNA where they attack, leaving damage. This damage causes cancers & the signs of aging, such as discoloration and wrinkles. Antioxidants collect or “scavenge” these free-radical molecules before they get to the DNA, protecting our cells. Even if there is sun damage present in the skin, it is still important to protect it from future injury caused by the sun.
Each individual has one aspect to his or her complexion that bothers them the most. Sometimes it is fine lines and wrinkles, sometimes the “smoker’s lines” around the mouth, other times it is pigmentation or redness. And don’t forget the dark circles around the eyes. The Specialty Products part of GRASS allows for focusing on these unique problems. I will discuss some of these products individually and explain where each can be used.
We saved the most important for last.
Every day I get inquiries about age spots and wrinkles. Most people don’t realize that all of the changes in the skin that we attribute to getting older are actually caused by the sun. Ultraviolet radiation is the number one cause for making us “look old”. Therefore, the number one anti-aging step is sun protection. And it is NEVER too early to start protecting the skin. Using sunscreen every day should be started when you are born and stopped when you die. Be sure to protect your skin –it’s the only one you have; you have to live in it your whole life; you have to show it some love.
I hear people complain that they don’t wear sunscreen because all sunscreens break them out. To that I say, “Piffle!” I will agree that some products may not be right for every skin type, but there are many different types of sunscreen available. The key is finding one that works for you.\
In the next few weeks, we are going to delve into each of these categories in more detail and discuss the best anti-aging ingredients and products, what they are used for and why everyone should be doing something to prevent or reverse the damage done mostly by ultraviolet radiation (either from the sun and/or tanning beds).