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How to choose an anti-aging product

Posted on: February 5th, 2015 by Olena No Comments

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If you want to choose a good anti-aging product, it is important to understand what changes take place in the skin as you become older, as when you know the cause of a problem, it is easier to look for a solution. Most of these solutions are based on the knowledge about ingredients. Even if you know only the most popular basic ingredients, it can still help you to have the right expectations about a product and to distinguish when the claims are true and when they are no more than just marketing tricks. So, let’s get started!


1. Problem. One of the main causes of wrinkle’s formation is the breakdown of collagen (provides support and strength to the skin, making it plump) and elastin (makes skin supple, smooth and elastic). To gain a better understanding of what happens when collagen and elastin break down in the skin, there is a very good example of comparing these proteins with the springs and stuffing in the mattress. If you take scissors and cut all the springs and take out the stuffing, the mattress will lose its strength, shape and will start sagging. Our skin is like the mattress; when elastin and collagen break down, our skin sags, becomes thinner and loses its flexibility.
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Solution. None of skin-care products are able to stop the natural breakdown of collagen and elastin, but there are some ingredients, which can help to slow it down or even build more of these proteins. To my opinion, the best anti-aging ingredient ever is Retinol (vitamin A). It is scientifically proven that retinol does improve the structure of the skin and it helps the skin to build more collagen and elastin. But before purchasing products with retinol, there are few things you should know:

1) In the ingredients list retinol is found either as retinol, retinyl palmitate or retinaldehyde, the latter one is the most effective but not widely used, retinyl palmitate is the gentlest and thus it needs more time to see the first results, but at the same time it is a better choice for sensitive skin.

2) The packaging is very important, as Vitamin A breaks down when exposed to the sun and air. It has to be an opaque pump container.

3) It is best to apply a product containing retinol at night. However, new generation of retinol products are less harsh and can be used even in the morning. Whenever you choose to apply it, do not forget to use a sunblock (SPF30-50).

4) Be prepared for a cost. An effective product, containing retinol, is usually expensive. But if it is combined with other good anti-aging ingredients and antioxidants, it is worth the price. Apart reducing wrinkles, retinol also fades age spots and helps to treat acne.

5) As retinol is not a gentle ingredient, I would recommend starting to use it slow. At first, apply it only twice a week. Then, in a week or two increase it to once every two nights, then every other night, gradually increasing it to using nightly. It will help the skin to adapt slowly and also to minimize flaking and redness. The first results are usually visible in 4-12 weeks’ time; it depends on how strong is the formula of the product.

2. Problem. Another cause of wrinkles formation is the reduction of natural moisture in the skin, as sebaceous glands (oil-making glands) diminish in number and size. That’s why with age skin tends to be dry.
Ageing of the skin can also occur prematurely. The most common cause of premature aging is dehydration. It happens either because of poor treatment of the skin or environmental conditions (like central heating and air-conditioned environment). Dehydration causes wrinkles and needs to be treated.

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Solution. Fortunately, regular application of a moisturiser can easily alleviate this problem. And the best moisturising ingredient ever is hyaluronic acid. It has the ability to attract and bind hundreds of times its own weight in water. And when water is retained in the skin, it looks plump. Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in our tissues, but as we age, the amount produced in the skin decreases. This ingredient is often added to moisturisers, which are usually of reasonable and affordable price. I would recommend using products with hyaluronic acid even if you are only in your early 20th.


3. Problem. As we age, our metabolism slows down. The skin’s cell renewal process becomes less efficient. As the result, the skin starts to look dull and sluggish.

Solution. There are two solutions. The first one is using a skin care product with already mentioned retinol, as it speeds up cell renewal. And the second one is to use products with AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid). The main difference between these two is that BHA is better for oily skin, it helps with blemishes and it is gentler than AHA. And AHA is best for dry skin, it also helps with age spots and irregular pigmentation. But both of them help to loosen dead skin cells and to increase the speed at which they are removed and renewed.

Here are some facts you should know about AHA and BHA in skin care products:

1) In the ingredients list AHA is found in the form of glycolic, lactic, malic, citric, tartaric acids. Salycilic acid is the most common BHA.

2) AHA and BHA are used in moisturisers, serums, cleansers and exfoliators. It is best to choose only one or two types of such products, so to reduce the like hood of skin irritation. If you choose a cleanser or an exfoliator, it is enough to use it once or twice a week. If you choose a serum or a moisturiser, you may use them up to 4 times a week. I personally prefer exfoliator and/or night serum.

3) Best is to use such products at night, but if you choose to use them in the morning, it should be always followed by a moisturiser that contains SPF 30-50.

4) 5-10% of AHA and 1-2% of BHA concentration is the most widely used, but not every company provides this information on the package, not mentioning about PH of a product, on which AHA/BHA effectiveness depends on. So, when you make a purchase, check if AHA is in the first 5 written ingredients, otherwise it will not be very effective. As for BHA, it is more difficult for a consumer to predict how effective it is in a product, as the concentration is lower and BHA can be anywhere in the ingredients list. To be on the safe side, try to choose a product, containing BHA along with other beneficial ingredients; reviews of others might be also helpful.

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4. Problem. One of the most common causes of aging (including premature) is prolonged exposure to sunlight. UVA penetrates deep into the skin and breaks down collagen, which result is wrinkles. Besides, our skin has a defence mechanism against UVB; in order to protect itself from the sun damage, it accelerates cell-renewal process, making the epidermis (surface layer of the skin) thicker. Sun damaged skin becomes tough-looking, has uneven texture and pigmentation.



Solution. This is the case when prevention is the best cure. Do not sunbathe between 11a.m. and 3p.m. and use a day moisturiser with SPF; it will filter out UV rays. Sunscreen products are determined by their SPF number. Here is a rough estimate how to calculate the right number for you. For example, a sunscreen with SPF10 allows the skin to be protected for 10 times longer from the sun, before it starts to burn. So, if normally your skin burns after 10 minutes, SPF 10 protects it for 100 minutes. SPF 30 is usually the golden middle; but you can go for SPF15 if you are not exposed much to the sun during the day.

If it happens that your skin is already sun-damaged, looks thick and dry, regular use of AHA exfoliator and a moisturiser, containing retinol (along with moisturising ingredients) can help to improve the texture of the skin.

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5. Problem. Bad environmental conditions, such as car fumes, air pollution, smoking, and even stress harm the skin. All these factors activate free radicals. Free radicals are molecules, which have lost an electron and travel round our body, “attacking” other molecules and “stealing” their electrons. Once an electron is stolen, the other molecule turns into a free-radical itself. So, it is like a chain reaction. Normally, our body handles free-radicals, but if free-radical production is excessive, it results in the huge disruption of our cells. Free radicals start to damage the skin, making it less firm, change pigmentation, cause sagging, wrinkles and even prematurely age the skin.

1) Use products with antioxidants. An antioxidant attaches itself to a free radical and gives away” its electron, but it does not turn into a free-radical itself, as other molecules do, because it is stable. So, in such a way antioxidants neutralise free-radicals, preventing any harm they cause.

Antioxidants are derived from vitamins A, C and E. When they are added to moisturisers or serums, they help to repair and heal the skin. My personal recommendation is retinol (vitamin A) for a night care and green tea (in the ingredients list it is found as camellia sinensis) for a day care. To my opinion, these two are the most powerful antioxidants.

Here are some other very effective antioxidants, which I highly recommend:
Vitamins C and E, chamomile flower extract, watermelon and apple fruit extracts, pomegranate extract, cucumber extract, avocado, evening prime rose, safflower, argan, palm and soy oil, cranberry, blackberry, pumpkin and grape seed oil, beta glucan (sugar derived from yeast or oats), honey, caffeine, ginkgo biloba, white tea and black tea leaf extracts, cocoa, coenzyme Q10, zinc oxide, flavonoid, hydrogenated olive oil, jojoba butter and shea butter.

2) There are some other ingredients, which help to keep the skin healthy. They are all widely used and proven to be highly efficient: ceramides, lipids, lecithin, mango seed butter and jojoba oil. The thing is that bad environmental conditions damage the external barrier of our skin. When the ingredients mentioned above are added in skin care products, they repair this barrier by connecting skin cells together (in simple terms, they work like a glue) and in such a way they make the barrier stronger. It is best when they are combined with antioxidants and hyaluronic acid; such products improve texture of the skin and make it look younger.

Whenever you buy an anti-aging skin care product, always go for a variety of beneficial ingredients. Never rely only on one, even the most popular. The more useful ingredients a product contains, the more your skin will benefit.

Here are also some widely used ingredients in skin care products, which are often claimed as anti-aging, but in reality they are not: collagen, elastin, peptides. When applied topically, these ingredients only improve moisture level of the skin, but they do not influence on the aging process and do not replenish the proteins within your skin.

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