So many products are created to smooth wrinkles and make age spots disappear, but how do you know which ones will actually deliver what they promise? We talked to experts to get the truth—and science—behind the key age-fighting ingredients.
What it does: Retinol can stimulate collagen production and fade hyperpigmentation. In fact, more than a quarter century of research shows that this standby is an all-star when it comes to anti-aging. “It helps skin cells turn over more quickly, keeping pores clear and preventing the dry, dull look of aged skin,” says Harold Lancer, M.D., a dermatologist in Beverly Hills. Within the first week of treatment, changes in the epidermis will make your skin feel softer and smoother, says Dana Sachs, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan. “Brown spots will start to fade at four to six weeks, and wrinkles will start to fade at weeks eight to 12,” thanks to new collagen in the skin.
Where you can find it: The new dr. brandt® glow by dr. brandt® ruby crystal retinol hydracrème is loaded with this wrinkle-minimizing ingredient. It also contains tiny ruby crystals that help skin reflect light to give it a more youthful glow. Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum fights signs of aging—and sun damage in particular—with a patented blend of retinol and antioxidants.
What it does: Vitamin C does a little bit of everything: boosting collagen, lightening discoloration, and evening skin tone, says Lancer. Some studies have shown it can also make skin appear softer and smoother. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can reverse damage from free radicals caused by UV rays. But its UV-protection powers don’t stop there: Research has suggested that it makes sunscreen last longer and work better, so it can help prevent further sun damage—and the wrinkles that come with it.
Where you can find it: In ORIGINS Plantscription™ Anti-Aging Serum, vitamin C is combined with botanicals like anogeissus bark and rosemary extracts, which help repair skin structure and minimize wrinkles. Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum has a whopping 15 percent concentration of vitamin C and a healthy dose of grape polyphenols—antioxidant-rich compounds that neutralize wrinkle-causing free radicals. The Supergoop! Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist with Vitamin C is a water-resistant formula that protects skin with SPF 30 and leaves a citrusy scent.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
What it does: Researchers have pinpointed how AHAs work down to the molecular level. They operate as powerful exfoliators, breaking the bond between the surface layer of dead skin cells and the fresh skin beneath. “Dead skin builds up and makes our spots look darker, our wrinkles look deeper, and our skin not reflect light,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Some products will say AHA on the label, but you can also look for lactic acid or glycolic acid, the most frequently used forms of AHAs, says Lancer. For an OTC treatment, look for an AHA concentration of 10 percent, recommends Graf. You can also head to the dermatologist for an in-office chemical peel.
Where you can find it: The 10 percent concentration of glycolic acid in DDF Glycolic Toning Complex gives it serious exfoliating power, while skin-soothing ingredients like witch hazel and aloe prevent drying and irritation. For an at-home version of a peel, use one of the glycolic resurfacing pads with bliss that’s incredi-‘peel’.