When it comes to anti-aging, we're literally inundated with creams and serums that promise to fill lines, even spots and even bring you back the smooth skin you had when you were younger. Lofty claims aside, how do you know what really works? While certain products make certain promises, there are a few ingredients that are scientifically proven to work -- and we've enlisted the best of the best in the skincare field to help break it down. Herewith, our guidelines for the top seven anti-aging ingredients:
1. RETINOIDS: A derivative of vitamin-A. Retinoids are hands-down the most important (and effective) ingredient on the market. "That’s always my first choice when people ask me," says Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, founder of Specific Beauty. "We’re talking about years and years of clinical research that has been proven to improve fine lines and wrinkles." Retinoids work by rapidly turning over the cells, which then generates healthier, younger-looking skin -- once the dead skin cells are removed. You should know that it comes in different forms (and strengths): Retinol (which is great for beginners) can be found in various over-the-counter products, while its stronger counterparts retin-A, Tazorac and Differin and require precsriptions.
2. GREEN TEA: A botanical antioxidant. The nutrients in green tea neutralize free radicals that damage cells and tissue, which in turn slows down the aging process. While you can reap the benefits by drinking green tea, Woolery-Lloyd advises applying it topically: "It's more concentrated and will work better as an antioxidant."
3. VITAMIN-C: A naturally-occurring antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. "One of the things that can cause wrinkles, among skin cancer and other things, is damage towards DNA,"notes Woolery-Lloyd. "80 percent of the damage that can occur in the DNA of the skin comes from some environmental sources like the sun or smoking or living in a highly-polluted environment. Antioxidants block the free radicals in our skin that can increase skin damage, photo aging, wrinkles and fine lines." Vitamin-C works to prevent that.
4. RESVERATROL: A powerful antioxidant derived from grape skin, and found in red wine. By promoting cell turnover and increasing collagen and elastin production, it effectively firms skin's texture. Resveratrol is also effective at repairing damage.
5. HYALURONIC ACID: A sugar that binds a thousand times its weight in water. This is essentially your best line of defense against dryness. "If you have loss of volume and want to fill in those surface irregularities, this is a great moisturizer for highly wrinkled skin," says Dr. Cheryl Karcher, consulting dermatologist for Avon Skincare. While hyalauronic acid-based products can applied topically, Dr. Karcher notes that it is far more effective when injected (Restylane, Juvederm) into the dermis.
6. GLYCOLIC ACID: An alpha-hydroxy acid (or AHA) that's derived from food, like fruit. "They basically exfoliate the top layer of the skin by breaking the glue that holds the top layer of skin together, so that when you exfoliate you have smoother, luminous skin underneath," says Woolery-Lloyd. "They essentially buff the skin, and help with pigmentation and photoaging issues," Karcher adds.
7. BROAD COVERAGE SUNSCREEN: This type of sunscreen will protect the skin against harmful UVA (aging) and UVB (skin cancer) rays. Karcher notes, "UVA and UVB sunscreens help fight against anti-aging by boosting skin's own antioxidants to fight free radicals."