You never think you need something unless it’s too late.
Case in point: my crow’s feet. I didn’t think I needed to invest in any fancy anti-aging product until I saw those first fine lines creeping up around my eyes in my mid ’20s. I swear they came totally out of nowhere.
I wouldn’t say it’s too late to jump on the anti-aging bandwagon now, but it sure is a lot harder. Wrinkles are way easier to prevent than treat. Fact.
That’s because of how we age.
How skin ages
Did you know that everything that causes wrinkles can fall into only two categories? Intrinsic factors and extrinsic factors.
Ok, back to plain English.
Intrinsic factors are those things that happen naturally, as part of the aging process. Like loss of collagen. This is a BIG one. Collagen is the protein that keeps skin firm and elastic. When you’re young, your body produces it in spades. But, as you get older, it gets lazy and makes less and less collagen.
When I say “as you get older”, I don’t mean when you hit 50. I wish. Nope, you’re barely made it out of puberty when that pesky collagen starts getting lazy. After you hit 21 – 21 ladies! – collagen production decreases around 1% every year!
You don’t see this happening because 1% in a year is so little, you don’t even notice it. But multiply that 1% for 15 years and you’ll see a big difference.
Loss of collagen ain’t the only culprit. Extrinsic factors, like unprotected sun exposure, smoking, and a poor diet high in sugar and poor in veggies give it a helping hand and speed up the aging process.
That’s why smokers or women who live near the tropics age faster than 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 your faces, there isn’t much you can do to make it go away for good. That’s why it’s best to start early and prevent the damage in the first place. Here’s how:
This is by far the best, most effective anti-aging weapon you have in your arsenal. Bar none.
I’m not exaggerating. Nothing damages skin as much as UV rays do. They alone are responsible for up to 90% of premature aging. 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 (the recommended amount for the face is 1/3 teaspoon). A thin layer won’t do.
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!
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. Before that, baby’s skin is too sensitive for sunscreen, but after they turn 6 you can slather on a gentle mineral sunscreen (that’s one with zinc oxide as UV filter).
- Badger Balm Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF30 ($42.00): 18.75% zinc oxide + natural extracts. Available at iHerb.
- EltaMD UV Pure BroadSpectrum SPF 47 ($24.50): 10% zinc oxide + 5.5% titanium dioxide + water-resistant technology + dry finish for oily skin. Available at SkincareRX.
- MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($30.00): 17% zinc oxide + 2% titanium dioxide. Available at Sephora.
Related: The Best Sunscreens With Zinc Oxide
2. Antioxidant Serum
Antioxidants are nice little molecules that fight free radicals, the main cause of aging. Pretty much anything creates them: sun exposure, smoking, eating too much sugar… even breathing!
Of course, you can’t stop breathing! But if you want to neutralise the free radical damage that, and the rest of your lifestyle, does to your skin, you need to get your antioxidant fix every day.
Good news: there are plenty of antioxidants that do the job well. Here are just a few that come to mind now:
- Coenzyme Q-10
- Ferulic Acid
- Green tea
- Superoxide dismutase
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Which one is best?
Just like your body doesn’t only need kale, your skin doesn’t only need vitamin C. The more antioxidants you use, the more damage you’ll prevent.
In case you’re wondering, my favourite combo is vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid. Science says this trio can:
- Boost collagen production
- Destroy free radicals
- Enhance sun protection
- Make one another more effective
When should you start using an antioxidant serum?
In your teens. Antioxidants can’t treat wrinkles. They only prevent them. While you should still use them all your life, the earlier you start, the less damage your skin will have.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00): vitamins C+E, ferulic acid, green tea, licorice extract + more antioxidants. Available at Sephora.
- Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster ($49.00): vitamins C+E + ferulic acid + hyaluronic acid. Available at Skinstore.
- Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($36.00): vitamins C+E + ubiquinone + resveratrol + more antioxidants. Available at Paula’s Choice.
3. Glycolic Acid Exfoliants
Glycolic acid is my fave exfoliant. Why?
- It’s much gentler on the skin than scrubs.
- It exfoliates every part of your face 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).
P.S. Glycolic acid can be irritating. For best results, use a small dose only 3 or 4 times a week.
When should you start using glycolic acid?
In your teens. But, mind you. Your skin is probably still exfoliating well on its own. Give it a helping hand once a week – that’s enough. You can increase frequency as you get older. Don’t rush it!
- Drunk Elephant Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): glycolic acid + salicylic acid + green tea. Available at Sephora.
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion ($29.00): glycolic acid + allantoin. Available at Paula’s Choice.
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution ($6.80): glycolic acid + ginseng extract. Available at Cult Beauty.
Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid
4. A retinol serum
Retinol (and all other forms of vitamin A, for that matter) is the real deal. Like, the only thing scientifically proven to reduce wrinkles.
Don’t get too excited. If you’ve got deep wrinkles, retinol won’t make them disappear overnight. Truth is, the sooner you start using it, the better.
Retinol works in three ways:
- Boosts collagen production
- Fights free radicals
- Speeds up cellular turnover (the skin’s natural exfoliating process)
A word of warning. Two, actually:
- Retinol can make skin more susceptible to sun damage (ironic, isn’t it?). Use it at night only.
- Retinol can be irritating at first. Start with low concentrations twice a week, and increase both dose and frequency gradually.
When should you start using a retinol serum?
In your early to mid 20s. You can use it early, if you want, but if you’re on a budget, don’t sweat it. Just don’t wait too long!
- Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment ($56.00): retinol + vitamin C. Available at Paula’s Choice.
- Skinmedica Retinol Complex 0.5 ($78.00): retinol + niacinamide. Available at Skinstore.
- The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% ($8.00): microencapsulated retinol + hydropinacolone retinoate. Available at Cult Beauty.
But, wait, won’t start using anti-aging products too early ruin my skin?
I hear this all the time.
A lot of women think that if they start to soon, their skin will get used to these anti-aging superstars. Worse, they may even damage their skin!
This is NOT true. I couldn’t find any proof in the scientific literature that confirms these fears.
Instead, there’s plenty of evidence that they won’t work that well if you start using them too late, when most of the damage is already done.
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? Share your experience in the comments below.