The top anti-aging buzzwords
A few years ago I noticed a brown blotch on my face. My mother “diagnosed” it as an age spot. Ugh, really? Now I’ve got at least four. Even though I always use moisturizer with SPF and sunscreen when I’m outdoors, I still seem to acquire a new blotch every year, probably because I wasn’t always so great about using sunscreen. After all, I grew up in that time when we used baby oil whenever we were out in the sun! Thank goodness times have changed, but it doesn’t change the damage done to my skin.
I turned to the beauty aisle for a solution to my age spots. I quickly became confused and overwhelmed by all the ingredients and formulations — and don’t get me started on all the money I spent. Here’s what I learned about anti-aging cream buzzwords:
There are a lot of these: alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid. They are exfoliants, which means they help remove dead skin cells.
These include vitamins A, C and E; selenium; zinc; green tea; grape seed extract; lycopene; quercetin and pomegranate extract. Antioxidants fight free radicals (see No. 6 below).
- Collagen and elastin
These are support fibers in the skin that make it look youthful. When they break down, wrinkles and sagging appear. Vitamin C and retinol may have rejuvenating effects on collagen and elastin.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
This is a substance the body makes to help keep cells healthy, much like an antioxidant in protecting cells from harmful molecules.
- Hyaluronic acid
This is another substance found in the body that may help skin stay hydrated, elastic and supple.
- Free radicals
These form in cells exposed to X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoke and pollutants, and cause a damaging chain reaction called oxidation. This causes loss of firmness, wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
This is a form of vitamin B that can help reduce wrinkles, brown spots and blotchiness.
These chains of small amino acids or mini-proteins stimulate new collagen production while helping to prevent further breakdown and increase the repair of capillaries.
A form of vitamin A or retinoic acid. Retinol can regenerate collagen and repair sun-damaged, lined skin. It comes in prescription and over-the-counter strengths that have varying degrees of success.
I asked my dermatologist what could be done about my age spots and she prescribed me retinol. I found it was extremely hard on my skin, causing it to flake and peel for a few days after each use (which actually is a good thing, but it doesn’t help your looks!). After a couple of months, my skin adjusted somewhat but there wasn’t a whole lot of improvement in the age spots. If I stopped using the retinol for several days or a week, my skin would go back to flaking profusely. So I gave up. Now I’m just embracing the age spots as part of who I am.
The American Academy of Dermatology says if you want to create a truly effective anti-aging skin care plan, it takes practicing healthy skin care habits. They include:
- Protect your skin from the sun. Always use a broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or higher, water-resistant sunscreen and stay in the shade between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Cover up as much as possible with a wide-brim hat, sunglasses, pants and long sleeves.
- Use moisturizer daily. That means facial moisturizer, body moisturizer and lip balm. Dermatologists agree that sunscreen and moisturizer are the two most effective anti-aging products you can invest in.
- Stop smoking, or never start.
- Eat healthy foods. A healthy diet leads to a healthy body, including skin. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is your body’s chance to rejuvenate, and that includes your skin.
If you want to include anti-aging products in your plan, dermatologists recommend that you select products carefully, keep in mind that no product can treat all signs of aging, and no single product will work for everyone. Have realistic expectations — promises that sound too good to be true, are. And always choose products labeled as hypoallergenic (low risk of causing allergies) and noncomedogenic (won’t cause acne).
Finally, if you have an issue you just can’t live with or you are looking for dramatic results, consult with a dermatologist. You won’t find a solution in those tiny, expensive jars and bottles.
My advice? Teach your children from a young age to always use sunscreen. When they grow up, they won’t have such a need for these products.