Beginner's Guide to Anti-Aging Skincare

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, there’s no getting away from getting older. We feel it in our bones, notice it in our energy levels, see it the way our bodies start to look, and (gasp!), worst of all, we see it clearly on our skin! There are many factors that affect the aging process, including genetics, exposure to the sun, and lifestyle habits like smoking, but once those first few crow’s feet surface most women race to the cosmetic counters looking for the miracle cure.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In fact, it can be downright mind-boggling. There are thousands of different products on the market, using all kinds of keywords and phrases that only a scientist with a degree in chemistry could understand!

So we’ve compiled a brief list here to help get you started and to give you an overview of the biggest names and terminology in the business! Beginner's guide to anti-aging skincare

1)    Retinoids. This refers to a class of chemical compounds that are related to vitamin A. Retinoids are used in medicine, and have many diverse functions throughout the body including roles in vision, regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation, the growth of bone tissue, immune function, and activation of tumor suppressor genes. Research is also being done into their ability to treat skin cancers. Most commonly, they are known for use in skin care products, and studies have shown them to do everything from fading dark spots to smoothing fine lines and making pores look smaller.

2)    Tretinoin (known commercially as Retin-A). This is the only topical agent approved for the treatment of photo-aging (the damage caused by long-term exposure to sunlight) and is available in prescription form (Avita, Renova, Differin). It produces a rosy glow and reduces fine lines and wrinkles, liver spots, and surface roughness. Tretinoin may be applied to the face, neck, chest, hands, and forearms. Typically, they should be applied at least twice a week. Noticeable improvement takes anywhere from two to six months. Unfortunately, Retin-A increases a person's sensitivity to the sun, so a very small amount should be applied at bedtime and sunscreen should be worn during the day. Almost all patients experience redness, scaling, burning, and itching that can last up to 3 months. Newer studies suggest that extremely low concentrations (as low as .02%) can produce significant improvements in wrinkles and skin color, with less irritation.

3)    Retinol. You hear this word a lot, but most people don’t have a clue what it really is. Technically, it’s a natural form of vitamin A. Until fairly recently; however, it couldn’t be used in skin products because it was unstable and easily broken down by UV radiation. In the right concentrations, retinol may be as effective as tretinoin, and studies indicate that it has fewer side effects.

4)    Tazarotene (Tazorac, Zorac, Avage). This is a retinoid used for acne and psoriasis. It has now been approved for treating wrinkles, skin discoloration, and blemishes due to photoaging. More research is needed to determine if it produces any long-lasting, significant benefits.

Warning: Pregnant women and those who may become pregnant should avoid any vitamin A derivative (a product related to vitamin A).

5)    Glycolic Acid. Glycolic acid is probably the most well-known member of a group of chemicals called fruit acids or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA). It is derived from sugar cane, so it can be considered a natural product. Citric acid from oranges and other citrus fruits also fall under the same classification as glycolic acid. It is used as a natural exfoliant for the skin and as a moisturizer.

6)    Silk Amino Acids. A natural water-soluble source of acid derived from liquid silk. These acids help moisture and penetrate the skin, and aid in skin healing. Because of the low weight of the molecules, they penetrate the surface layers of the skin and are naturally able to absorb water.

7)    Alpha-Lipoic Acid. Alpha-lipoic acid has been called a "universal antioxidant" because it's both water- and fat-soluble. It can penetrate skin-cell membranes at all levels to protect them from dangerous free radicals, keeping the skin strong. It's mainly used as the leading ingredient in many skin-care products; alpha-lipoic acid can help erase lines and wrinkles, diminish pores, and give skin a healthy glow.

There is a plethora of information available about skin care and skin care products, but this is a good place to start. Once you’ve wrapped your head around some of these terms and products, you’ll hopefully have a clearer understanding of how many products work and what they are supposed to do.

Written By Kathy Mizera