You want to maintain your youthful glow, and you’re willing to spend time and money to help delay premature signs of ageing on your skin. And yet with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to suss out which ones will slow the effects of time.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says some ingredients, such as retinol and sunscreen, do have proven benefits, however they aren’t the only ones to consider when building your healthy skincare routine.
Dr. Zeichner and other dermatologists recommend using the following to help your skin look firm, bouncy, and glowing for years to come:
B Vitamins for Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails
These essential vitamins appear in multiple forms and complexes in skincare products. Yet the function of all vitamin B derivatives is the same: to convert food into energy, notes Mount Sinai. This fuels vital body processes, including those responsible for healthy, firm skin. “Vitamin B and all its derivatives are essential for healthy skin, hair, and nails,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska.
B vitamins can be especially potent when used topically in moisturisers, Dr. Schlessinger says. When these vitamins are among the ingredients in your skincare, damaged cells will heal and regenerate more quickly.
Coenzyme Q10 to Protect Collagen
Coenzyme Q10 (vitamin Q) is a strong antioxidant that can help build the foundation needed for younger-looking skin. “Coenzyme Q10 helps protect the elastic tissue and collagen that shape your skin,” explains Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
As we get older, our natural coenzyme Q10 levels diminish, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, which may slow the skin’s ability to rejuvenate and protect itself from damage. To build levels of the coenzyme, many find that taking a dietary supplement in addition to using topical creams yields optimal results. One randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that taking a specific CoQ10 supplement (the study was funded by the supplement’s maker) daily for 12 weeks improved the appearance of wrinkles and led to smoother skin, per research in the August 2016 issue of BioFactors. Earlier research in November 2015, also in BioFactors, concluded that topical application of CoQ10 effectively reduced free radicals on skin, which cause ageing.
Copper to Prevent Sagging and Fill Wrinkles
You’re probably imagining pennies, but the copper we’re talking about is found in trace amounts in skin cells, where it binds proteins together, notes a paper published in August 2014 in Current Chemical Biology. Essential for collagen formation, the anti-ageing ingredient helps support the skin to prevent sagging and to fill in wrinkles. Clinical studies have shown that copper contributes to the clearing and renewal of fractured collagen, making it an excellent ingredient for those who wish to improve the look of sun-damaged skin and scars. Specifically, sleeping on copper-infused pillowcases for about one or two months helped diminish the depth of crow’s-feet lines compared with control groups, notes a previous review. “Copper is non-irritating,” explains Dr. Wu, “so it’s a good alternative for those with sensitive skin who may not be able to tolerate retinoids.”
Green Tea to Vitalise Your Skin
You may sip a cup of warm green tea to relax, but the ancient plant from which the tea is brewed is replete with nutrients that recharge your skin. Specifically, those would be phytochemicals called polyphenols, suggests a February 2019 review in Nutrients. The stimulant qualities of green tea can also have an energising influence on ageing skin. “Green tea has a wonderful effect on dark circles – which is especially striking when combined with caffeine in eye cream,” says Schlessinger. Those polyphenols are antioxidants, which prevent and repair the damage done by oxidation, which breaks down skin cells, notes a prior review. Along with using creams or serums containing green tea, sip on the brew for additional health benefits.
Peptides to Stimulate Collagen Production
Because of the promising results of clinical research, such as a study published in December 2018 in the International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics, peptides are becoming increasingly popular anti-ageing skincare ingredients. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, notes the National Human Genome Research Institute. Most topical peptide creams are designed to stimulate collagen to improve the appearance of wrinkles, explains Zeichner. But not all peptide creams are created equal, so stick to products that have gone through clinical testing, he recommends.
Retinols and Retinoids to Speed Up Cell Turnover
Over-the-counter and prescription retinoids like Retin-A are derivatives of vitamin A. “Retinoids and retinols speed up and stimulate cell turnover and collagen production for smoother and younger-looking skin,” says Wu. In addition to plumping wrinkles and fine lines, retinoids counter discolouration and lighten small marks and freckles, as well as improve skin texture, notes a review in August 2019 in Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of America.
No other topical ingredient, has been more tested and proven by the medical community as an ageing antidote than retinoids.
But don’t expect results overnight – it takes several weeks or even months for retinol to exert its wrinkle-fighting effect, so it must be used over long periods of time, Zeichner says. Plus, retinoids and retinols can be drying, notes a study published in Cosmetics in October 2020, and can make you more sensitive to the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Apply them to your skin in moderation, and counter any retinoid- or retinol-containing product with daily sunscreen use.
Vitamin E to Reverse Damage and Rejuvenate Skin
Vitamin E is a powerhouse when it comes to protecting against skin damage that may lead to fine lines and wrinkles. Why? The vitamin neutralises cell-damaging free radicals, which are triggered by environmental factors like sun exposure, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. “Vitamin E is a great antioxidant to look for in rejuvenating skin creams, and it can assist with wound healing as well, by strengthening the skin barrier,” says Schlessinger. This is why pure vitamin E oil remains a popular (and inexpensive) salve for cracked cuticles and scars from cuts, burns, and surgery. Topically applying both vitamins C and E together exerts the biggest benefits, as the two antioxidant vitamins work together to preserve and build collagen, notes a past review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
SPF to Prevent Skin Cancer
Not only can broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 help prevent skin cancer, it’s also been shown to improve the cosmetic appearance of the face, even if used by itself, Zeichner says. In a study published in December 2016 in the journal Dermatologic Surgery, sunscreen alone applied to the face for one year resulted in improvements of cosmetic measures like skin tone, texture, and wrinkles.
Vitamin C to Neutralise Damage and Lighten Dark Spots
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralises damage from free radicals and helps complement the effect of your sunscreen, explains Zeichner. “In the morning, I have my patients layer vitamin C underneath their sunscreen,” he says. Vitamin C interferes with abnormal pigment production, helping to lighten dark spots, he adds. What’s more, C-packed products preserve collagen fibres and prevent damage to your skin’s supportive structures, reveals a review published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in July 2017. One thing to remember when purchasing a topical vitamin C, note the study authors, is that it is a finicky, unstable ingredient, which will lose potency quickly if not formulated correctly. If exposed to high temperatures, it may also oxidise, rendering it ineffective, according to the skin-care company Vichy. If you’ve ever bought a C serum that’s gone amber, that’s exactly what’s happening. Be sure to purchase a vitamin C product from a company that conducts clinical tests on its products, and be sure to keep your product in a temperature-controlled area. Some people like to buy mini-fridges to store their skincare products like these, as Today reports.
Hydroxy Acids to Exfoliate Dead Cells and Fight Wrinkles
Hydroxy acids like glycolic acid help exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin, according to the AAD. “They’ve also been shown to stimulate collagen and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles,” explains Zeichner. Hydroxy acids come in varying strengths and can be found in peels, serums, and creams. It’s important to check with a board-certified dermatologist to find out which one is right for you.
Additional reporting by Grace Gold.