You may not realize it but your skin is the largest organ in your body; it’s also the most visible and the one that shows signs of aging. Wrinkles, skin laxity, areas of increased pigmentation are all reminders that your skin isn’t as young as it used to be. When you were in your 20s, the only products you needed to keep your skin looking its best were a washing product and a light moisturizer. Now you need a little more to keep your skin looking youthful.
Don’t be fooled by all the skin creams that promise more youthful skin right away. There are no quick fixes. In fact, there are lots of myths about skin aging, how it occurs, and what you can do about it. Let’s dispel some of the most common.
Myth #1: It’s Inevitable that Your Skin Will Look Old
Sixty-year-old skin rarely looks as youthful as the skin of a 20-year-old, but some aspects of skin aging are preventable. Most skin aging is caused by extrinsic aging, damage related to external factors such as sun exposure, pollution, and smoking. Those are factors you have some control over.
Dermatologists say that wearing sunscreen consistently and not smoking can reduce skin aging by 70 to 80%. All of these factors increase free radical damage, a cause of skin aging. Free radicals damage key proteins in the dermis of the skin called collagen and elastin that keep your skin looking firm and youthful.
The other type of aging is intrinsic aging, a type of skin aging you have less command over. This is the natural skin aging process that depends on your genes and factors like your skin color. Darker skin has more melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color and protects it against sun damage. You can’t control your genes or how much melanin you have, but you can prevent extrinsic skin aging.
Myth #2: Skin Creams Reverse Aging
This is only a partial myth. Skin creams that contain ingredients that protect against oxidative damage, like alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, and coenzyme Q-10 can modestly reduce fine lines and wrinkles. More powerful are retinoic acid products. Some are prescription strength, but retinol, a weaker form of retinoid, is available in some anti-aging skincare products. It improves skin texture and can even stimulate new collagen production for more youthful-looking skin. Retinoids also reduce skin hyperpigmentation and those annoying sunspots.
The reality: Most skin products you buy at drugstore cosmetic counters and department stores have only small quantities of these compounds. Many do not have adequate resources to provide meaningful benefits. Some don’t penetrate deeply enough to have anti-aging benefits. For example, vitamin C is unstable. When you open the bottle and expose the liquid inside to light, it loses some of its potency. In fact, vitamin C in skin creams may lose its potency the first time you use it.
Alpha-hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, in skin creams also has benefits by smoothing the surface of the skin and they have modest anti-aging benefits. There’s also some evidence that stem cells and peptides in skincare products help rejuvenate aging skin. However, you’ll pay a high price for many of these creams. The most effective anti-aging skin creams don’t come cheap.
Myth #3: Moisturizing Your Skin Slows Aging
Applying moisture to your skin plumps up the cells and helps your skin reflect light. This gives it a temporarily more youthful look, but moisturizing ingredients don’t have intrinsic anti-aging properties. They just add moisture. It’s the other ingredients manufacturers add to moisturizers that can have benefits, such as vitamin C and retinol. Not every skin cream contains these ingredients. Some just moisturize.
Myth #4: You Should Use a Moisturizer with a Sunscreen
You should use sunscreen, but using a combo moisturizer and sunscreen or a base makeup with sunscreen isn’t the best option. You may not get the same sun protection since the moisturizer or makeup dilutes the sunscreen and makes it less effective. Plus, you need a generous application of sunscreen to get the full benefits. Most people put on a thin layer of moisturizer or base make-up, reducing the protection.
The best protection against sun damage that leads to aging is a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater that blocks UVA and UVB rays. Don’t depend on a combo product to protect you fully from the sun’s damaging rays.
Myth #5: Topical Treatments are the Best Skin Anti-Aging Remedy
Research shows what you eat affects how young your skin looks and how quickly it ages. There’s a link between eating a diet high in essential fatty acids and vitamin C and having more youthful-looking skin, according to the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A lack of fresh fruits and veggies, sugar, and refined carbs may also accelerate skin aging. Inflammation seems to play a role in skin aging as well. An anti-inflammatory diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may have some anti-aging effects.
The Bottom Line
Keep your skin protected from the sun, eat healthily, and use creams that contain retinol or glycolic acid in high enough concentrations to work. Research companies before you buy skin anti-aging products and know the ingredients. Knowledge is power. See Also: 5 Ways Insufficient Sleep Affects Your Skin
- Cosgrove, M. C., Franco, O. H., Granger, S. P., Murray, P. G., & Mayes, A. E. (2007). Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(4), 1225–1231. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17921406/
- Thomas, J. R., Dixon, T. K., & Bhattacharyya, T. K. (2013). Effects of Topicals on the Aging Skin Process. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, 21(1), 55–60. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23369589/
- Poljšak B, Dahmane RG, Godić A. (2012). Intrinsic skin aging: the role of oxidative stress. Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Pannonica Adriat. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23000938/
- Kong R, Cui Y, Fisher GJ, Wang X, Chen Y, Schneider LM, Majmudar G. A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Mar;15(1):49-57. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26578346/