This is the second of a three-part series on anti-aging. For the other parts read the intro, Anti-Aging: Tips and Advice for Younger Looking Skin, and third article, Anti-Aging Procedures.
There are more than 8,000 skin related products on the market today. I will address the ones that have some sort of published scientific study. Beyond science-backed products, the rest of them are “dreams in a jar” and I cannot tell you if they will do anything. If you like the way they smell or feel, enjoy.
Anti-Aging: Six Scientific Steps to Younger Looking Skin
There are several steps you can take to reduce and somewhat reverse the effects of photoaging, aging caused by sun damage, these first five are essential to make a difference.
The Australians say it best for the first three steps: Slip, Slap and Slop.
Slip on clothes that cover your skin.
Slap on a hat with a brim.
And Slop on the sunscreen…..everyday. Yes, everyday. Ok, so some days you might forget. But if everyday is your goal and you have the tools to do it, it will make a significant difference to the appearance of your skin over time.
The fourth step is the gold standard for products: retinoids.
The first was Retin-A, also known by the generic name tretinoin. The next generation was Tazorac, or tazarotene. Numerous studies have shown that extended use of these molecules will reverse long-term photoaging and rebuild collagen damaged by UV radiation.
They are prescription products in the U.S. Most folks cannot just fill a script and begin to use them because skin that is unaccustomed to retinoids will get red and irritated and even painful when you first start them. They are the equivalent of a 10K run. Most folks need to train for a 10K or retinoids. Training your skin involves using first a mild non-prescription retinol (preretinoid). Once that can be used comfortably on a daily basis, then push up to a physician dispensed non-prescription retinol. When that can be used comfortably, then a prescription for the mildest tretinoin is usually dispensed. Over time, push on to the highest percentage you can tolerate, with your physician’s help.
Insurance will not cover these prescriptions for anti-aging, but they cost less than some of the anti-aging products that have no science behind them. Retinoids are typically applied daily, at night to work while you sleep. See step six if you are sure that you can not tolerate a retinoid!
The fifth step is topical antioxidants.
These work in a different way than retinoids or sun protection. All antioxidants help the body capture and remove free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of the body’s natural processes but act like runaway bulls tearing up cells as they spin around until they are removed. Vitamin C was the first topical antioxidant. Others include green tea, copper, coffeeberry and resveratrol from grapes.
Studies have shown that topical antioxidants and sunscreens when applied together are synergistic in reducing free radical and UV damage in the skin. That means that while each helps protect the skin, together the sum is greater than the individual contributions. You can find products that have both in them or you can stack products. Sunscreens are always a daytime product unless you are in the land of the midnight sun. Antioxidants should be applied during the day with the sunscreen but can also be used at night.
The sixth step in topical anti-aging is wound healing products.
While developed to help skin recover from a wound, these products have been found also to help skin recover from the wounds of UV radiation and time. These products are developed from proteins found in early human skin, which are significantly reduced as we get older.
So far, they are physician dispensed products but not prescription. They are expensive because of the process necessary to obtain the wound healing factors and produce the products to deliver them into adult skin. They can be used under retinoids, antioxidants or by themselves.
For the unlucky few who just cannot get used to retinoids, they are very important for anti-aging because typically they are not irritating except to your pocketbook (the cost is similar to retinoids). For those of us who can use retinoids, but want to do everything possible to preserve and enhance our skin, they are the natural sixth step.
Anti-Aging: Other Products that Work
Beyond these six steps, other ingredients which have some scientific basis for improving skin are the DNA repair enzymes and peptides.
I was a total skeptic about the DNA repair enzymes. How could these work and not be prescription? However, studies show they do help make skin brighter. They also help reduce skin problems in people who have a genetic condition which makes them age 10 years every year. You can find them in a variety of moisturizers and serums.
Peptides are pieces of proteins which are small enough to be absorbed into the skin and may be incorporated.
Remember that products will slow the aging process and reverse it to a limited degree, but you have to use them. Buying them and looking at them on your shelf will not do it!