Buying anti-aging creams and serums has become a complicated process today due to the variety available and their misuse. By misuse, I am referring to how they are made. For example, did you know that antioxidants perform better when used with retinoids and sunscreens? Is buying anti-aging creams is confusing for you? If so, my purpose is to explain some of the terms used in articles about the skin and clear up some of that confusion you might have about using products.
Antioxidants comprise one of the two main categories of product additives which include the following:
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
As a group, antioxidants decrease the deterioration of collagen and reduce free radicals.
Retinoids better known as vitamin A or retinol are part of the second group called cell regulators. Products from either group can produce results in skin appearance, but work much better when used together with a sunscreen.
Vitamin B3 is known for its ability to regenerate cells and maintain cell metabolism. It has also been shown to increase the elastin in the skin, reduce redness, and aid in removing or diminishing discolorations. In another study, a concentration of 5% niacinamide was applied to half the face of 50 women with additional results of improving wrinkles, fine lines, yellowing and hyperpigmentation (darker patches of skin). Examples of natural food sources of B3 are chicken and turkey breasts, tuna, and liver.
You don’t hear much about Vitamin C being used for the skin, yet a number of research studies have confirmed that it is an important anti-aging product. Vitamin C has many benefits including its use after surgery to heal wounds and build scar tissue. It also strengthens cartilage, teeth, and bones. Oral Vitamin C is also used as a matter of routine by women who are aging because their bodies do not process it as well. Another important aspect of Vitamin C is that it is safe to use with other anti-aging agents including sunscreens, alpha hydroxy acids, Vitamin E and retinol.
Vitamin C’s ability to produce collagen is one reason for its incorporation in a number of anti-aging creams together with other ingredients shown to be effective in improving the skin’s appearance. As we age, collagen production goes down. Skin products are only as good as the percentages of the ingredients needed to produce good effects. You want to achieve at least 5% of Vitamin C.
When you review products for Vitamin C you should realize that not all of these products are effective because they do not reach through the skin as needed, nor do they transform the necessary components of Vitamin C into the skin. Those agents you most likely will find in an ingredient’s statement for Vitamin C are magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), which prevents water and collagen loss, and ascorbyl 6 palmitate, which destroys free radicals, and ascorbyl phosphate, which aids in the transport of agents through the skin.
Vitamin E is an important additive to skin creams and serums. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and combats the proliferation of free radicals which cause skin damage. This vitamin has not been widely studied for its application to anti-aging products; however, it is well known to encourage wound healing. When applied to the outer layer of the skin, it enhances moisture retention and smooths the skin. Vitamin E is not as effective as Vitamins C or B3 and works best when used with Vitamin C. It is extracted from tomatoes, avocados, other fruits and vegetables, and some grains. Please see my Review section for a product that contains both vitamins C and E along with Ferulic Acid.
Polyphenols are derived largely from fruits such as pomegranates, grapes, and kiwi, vegetables, grains, green tea, coffee and red wine. Products utilizing this antioxidant source are harder to find. While it has been around for quite a while as an anti-aging agent, one of the polyphenols, ferulic acid, has become more popular when used in combination with vitamins C and E. Ferulic acid is extracted from the membranes of oranges, rice, peanuts, wheat and other foods. If was found by Duke University to act as a sunscreen and to prevent wrinkles.
Cell regulators include Vitamin A derivatives, polypeptides, and botanicals that work on the metabolism of cells and induce the production of elastin and collagen. The primary vitamin A version we will discuss here is one used in over-the-counter anti-aging creams and serums–retinol. The more potent form of retinol, tretinoin, can cause severe skin irritation and is used by dermatologists. If you are considering seeing a dermatologist, using an over-the-counter product with retinol is recommended beforehand, as that will give you the opportunity to test it on your skin.
Vitamin A in the form of topical retinol used at .04% was effective in a study done with senior citizens and was found to increase collagen and moisture in the skin after a 24-week trial. They concluded that topical retinol was effective in improving wrinkles through increasing collagen production and water retention in the skin. Interestingly, they also found that skin treated with retinol was “more likely to withstand skin injury and ulcer formation.”
In a study reported by NIH the number, length, and depth of wrinkles was markedly improved by the application of a gel with 3% collagen-like hexapeptide and 1% booster molecule twice a day for four weeks.
Peptides are gaining in popularity and can be identified in the ingredients statements under several names:
- Octapeptide – improves the appearance of lines.
- Palmitoyl pentapeptide (Matrixyl 3000) – aids in absorption and reduces the size of wrinkles.
- Acetyl hexapeptide (Argireline) – relaxes facial muscles which in turn reduces the appearance of wrinkles
Peptides come from broken strands of collagen called amino acids—the active molecules and small proteins.
Yes, shopping for skin care products is very confusing. An important thing to know is that you should look at the ingredients statements for items that represent those I have discussed. While it does not generally tell you how much of an agent is included, it does list them in descending order of strength. If the agents you are looking for are at the end of a long list, move on to another product. You want them closer to the middle. Sometimes, the actual percentages are shown near the item name. If there is anything you would like to add to my post or say about it, please use the Comments section below for that. I am open to suggestions and discussion.
Please enjoy this youtube video to learn some more tips from one of the best in the dermatology field: