I started using anti-aging products in my mid 20s and, frankly, I wish I had started sooner. I just didn’t realise I needed them until I saw those little fine lines starting to creep up around the corners of my eyes, totally out of nowhere.
And, then, it was too late. I know it seems a huge waste of money to buy anti-aging products before you even have wrinkles. But, just because you can’t see them yet, it doesn’t mean your skin isn’t aging.
How skin ages
Aging is caused by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
Intrinsic factors are those that happen naturally, as part of the aging process. The most important one is loss of collagen. Collagen is that protein that keeps skin firm and elastic. When we’re young, our body produces a TON of it. But, as we age, its production slows down.
When I say as we age, I don’t mean when we hit 50. Nope, after we hit 21 – 21 people! – collagen production decreases around 1% every year! We don’t see this happen because, at first, our skin loses so little collagen that its loss isn’t felt. But, at some point, and ALWAYS before you expect it, your skin will lose enough collagen to trigger the formation of wrinkles.
This process is accelerated by extrinsic factors, like unprotected sun exposure, smoking, and a poor diet high in sugar and poor in veggies. That’s why smokers or people who live in sunnier climates seem to age before their friends who have never smoked a ciggie or avoid the sun like the plague.
So, what anti-aging products should you use?
Once a wrinkle has appeared on our faces, there isn’t much we can do to make it go away. This is why it’s best to start early and prevent the damage from occurring in the first place. But, where to start?
This is by far the best, most effective anti-aging weapon we have in our arsenal. Few things damage skin as much as UV rays do. They make skin dry and sallow, speed up the loss of collagen, and cause fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.
Even if you do nothing else, wearing sunscreen EVERY day, come rain or come shine, will make you age much more slowly. Of course, you need to apply enough. A thin layer wouldn’t do. The recommended amount for the face is ¼ teaspoon, and applying less significantly compromises its effectiveness.
If you apply half of it, for example, you don’t get half the SPF on the bottle. You get its square root! So, a SPF 50 becomes a SPF 7! That’s way lower the minimum recommended by dermatologists, which is SPF 15.
Needless to say, you need to reapply it throughout the day, as well. At least, until the sun goes down.
When should you start using sunscreen?
At 6 months of age. I’m not kidding. The sooner you start the better, and dermatologists agree that using a mineral sunscreen on infants that young is both safe and effective. I’m guessing you are a lot older, so, if you haven’t started using sunscreen yet, what the heck are you waiting for?
2. Antioxidant Serum
Antioxidants are nice little molecules that fight free radicals, which are one of the main causes of aging. Those pesky things develop in response to unprotected sun exposure (so, if you wear sunscreen daily, you’re already preventing a lot of damage), smoking, eating overly processed foods, and even the oxygen in the air.
Of course, we can’t stop breathing oxygen, so even if you lead the healthiest lifestyle ever, you still need antioxidants to fight the few free radicals your body naturally produces. There are a ton of them. Antioxidants, I mean. Here are just a few:
- Coenzyme Q-10
- Ferulic Acid
- Green tea
- Superoxide dismutase
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Which one is best? Well, there isn’t a superantioxidant. A combination of them works best. The more your serum contains, the better really.
My favourite combination is vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid, because it has been proven to fight free radicals, promote the production of collagen (which, if you are 21+, you are already losing, remember?), and even enhance sun protection. Plus, these 3 can boost one another’s effectiveness, which means they work better and faster together than alone.
When should you start using an antioxidant serum?
In your teens. Antioxidants prevent, rather than treat, wrinkles, so using them when they’ve already appeared on your face won’t do you much good. Plus, they have no side effects (apart from vitamin C, which can be irritating if you have sensitive skin), so there’s no harm in using them.
3. A Glycolic acid Based Exfoliant
Glycolic acid is my fave exfoliant. Why?
- It’s much gentler on the skin than scrubs.
- It exfoliates every area evenly.
- It’s hydrating.
- It promotes the production of collagen.
It’s the last bit that makes glycolic acid such an effective anti-aging weapon. At least, for those of you who have dry skin. If yours is oily, salicylic acid is a better option. That’s because salicylic acid can penetrate inside the pores, and, once there, it removes all the dead cells, excess oil, and other crap that is accumulating in there and causing breakouts.
If your skin is sensitive, lactic acid would be a better option for you. Lactic acid belongs to the same family as glycolic acid, so it’s hydrating, too. But, it can’t boost collagen production. But, hey, at least it won’t irritate your skin.
It sucks that glycolic acid isn’t suitable for everyone, but c’e la vie. If it’s suitable for you, definitely add it to your skincare routine.
When should you start using glycolic acid?
In your teens, too. Of course, then, your skin is probably exfoliating well-enough on its own, and you don’t want to overdo exfoliation. So, use it sparingly at first – a couple of times a week should be enough. As you get older, you can increase frequency.
4. A retinol serum
Retinol, like all forms of vitamin A, is one of the very few things that can actually reduce wrinkles. But, that doesn’t mean you can wait too long to start using it. When it comes to wrinkles, the sooner you act, the better.
Retinol works in two ways. It speeds up cellular turnover and increases the production of collagen, and that helps reduce wrinkles. Retinol also helps treat acne, so if you are dealing with that, too, you can kill two birds with one stone.
A word of warning, though. Actually two:
- Retinol can make skin more susceptible to sun damage (ironic, isn’t it?). That’s why it’s best used at night.
- Retinol can be irritating at first. Start with low concentrations two or three times a week, and increase both dose and frequency gradually.
When should you start using a retinol serum?
In your early 20s. Of course, you can use it earlier, especially if you have acne. Many teens use it to treat that annoying condition. It’s just that retinol serums tend to be pricey, so, if you’re on a budget, you can wait a few years before investing in one. Just, don’t wait too long! Retinol helps, but it doesn’t make miracles.
But, wait, won’t start using anti-aging products too early ruin my skin?
I hear this all the time. A lot of people fear that using anti-aging products too soon will make them age faster in the long run, or that these products will stop working over the years. This is NOT true. I couldn’t find any proof in the scientific literature that confirms these fears.
The Bottom Line
You know what they say. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Many anti-aging products can only prevent, rather than treat, wrinkles, so don’t wait too long before you start using them. Like me, you may regret it.
When did you start using anti-aging products?