- Some of the best anti-aging ingredients for skin are ceramides, coenzyme Q10, green tea, and vitamin C.
- Also wear sunscreen each day, since sun damage can accelerate the appearance of aging.
- Moisturizers can help reduce the appearance of fine lines by hydrating and plumping the skin.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Aging is inevitable, and as time goes on, it’s to be expected that signs of aging will appear on your skin: dark spots, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or wrinkles, you name it.
However, with the numerous products on the market for anti-aging, how do you know which are right for you?
Insider spoke to two skincare experts to learn how various common skincare ingredients work to combat signs of aging. Here’s a list of the top five recommendations.
What it is and what it does: Ceramides are lipids (fats) that are found naturally in the skin, says Susan Massick, MD, a dermatologist and associate professor in the Division of Dermatology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Their role is to maintain moisture to keep your skin as a strong barrier to the environment.
Applying ceramides to the skin seals in moisture and smooths skin by repairing any cracks, which can help with the appearance of fine lines as well as overall skin health. Ceramides will also protect you from other irritants that may harm the skin, such as harsh soaps and frequent hand washing, or environmental irritants like cold, dry air.
A 2018 study found that, among a sample of 50 healthy men and women between ages 18 to 63, a moisturizer containing ceramides outperformed moisturizers with other ingredients, and made a significant improvement on skin’s hydration even 24 hours after application.
Additionally, the researchers determined that the ingredient is non-irritating and suitable for sensitive skin. However, it’s important to note that the study was sponsored by Ego Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures ceramide cream.
How to use it: Ceramides are a key ingredient in moisturizers. Helen Malone, MD, the Cosmetics Director in the Department of Dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, says that the best time to apply a moisturizer with ceramides is right after washing your face or getting out of the shower. This is so it can lock in the most moisture possible.
What it is and what it does: Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a naturally occurring antioxidant in the body. Massick says that in skin cells, CoQ10 can help maintain collagen – a protein in our body that helps keep the skin plump. This means that using CoQ10 products may result in smoother skin and prevent wrinkles.
Additionally, since it is an antioxidant, it can protect you from free radicals, which are unstable molecules created by pollution, the sun, and even our own bodies. Massick says that free radicals can lead to DNA damage in cells, which can impair the skin’s ability to repair itself. This can cause fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration, especially in the case of free radicals from UV sun exposure. Using an antioxidant like CoQ10 can help counteract these effects.
A 2015 study found that natural Q10 levels fall with age, and topical application of Q10 can help counteract this. By examining skin samples from 73 healthy women, the researchers found that applying Q10 reduced free radical damage and oxidative stress over the course of two weeks. At the time of the study, all researchers were either current or former employees of a multinational company called Beiersdorf AG that sells body-care products, among other items.
How to use it: You can find CoQ10 in anti-aging creams, moisturizers, serums, or even oral vitamin supplements. Consult your doctor before taking these oral supplements.
What it is and what it does: Green tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. The leaves of this plant have polyphenols, which are compounds that have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, Massick says. The anti-inflammatory properties can calm redness and irritation, and the antioxidants combat free radicals, reducing potential signs of aging.
Green tea also contains a powerful antioxidant called catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Massick says EGCG decreases free radicals, which helps your cells repair themselves and protects your skin from premature aging.
Additionally, green tea has photoprotective activity due to the polyphenols it contains, meaning it can protect us from UV rays and the damage this radiation may cause. A 2019 review found that green tea can protect against UVB radiation from the sun.
However, green tea should not be used as a substitute for a broad-spectrum sunscreen. The review also stated that the polyphenols in green tea are great for counteracting free radical damage.
How to use it: Green tea can be found in moisturizers, serums, and face masks. It can also be consumed orally, but there isn’t scientific research proving that this can result in skin anti-aging.
What it is and what it does: Vitamin C combats aging with its antioxidant effects, says Malone. Similar to the other ingredients that are antioxidants, vitamin C can decrease the formation of harmful free radicals which can lead to signs of aging.
A 2019 meta-analysis looked at 31 studies involving vitamin C’s role in skincare and concluded that topical vitamin C was effective for reducing hyperpigmentation caused by UV damage over the course of several weeks. They concluded that a vitamin C concentration of 10% was ideal.
How to use it: You should start with a lower concentration of vitamin C to avoid dryness and irritation, and then work your way up to 10% if you have no negative effects. You can find vitamin C in moisturizers, cleansers, and serums.
Malone says the best time to apply vitamin C products is in the morning after washing your face and before applying sunscreen. She cautions people to not microneedle this into your skin, or apply to your skin immediately after microneedling, since this can cause a very hard-to-treat rash.
What it is and what it does: Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the body in our eyes, joints, and skin, Massick says. It is a humectant, which means it draws moisture and binds to water. This hydrates and plumps up the skin, which will help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, says Massick. It will make your skin smoother, softer, and more hydrated.
A 2014 study found promising evidence for the use of hyaluronic acid in anti-aging. Nano-hyaluronic acid was applied to 33 women’s skin for eight weeks. At the end of the trial, the women had a 96% improvement in skin hydration and a 40% improvement in the depth of wrinkles.
How to use it: Hyaluronic acid is found in cleansers, moisturizers, and serums. Massick says it can also be used as a professionally injectable filler to combat deeper wrinkles and enhance skin volume.
Make sure to wear sunscreen
In addition, both experts agree that sunscreen is crucial for anti-aging and overall skin health.
Malone says you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day with an SPF of at least 30. You should apply sunscreen every morning, and ideally before you drive home (if you are driving). If you’re out in the sun, be sure to reapply every 2 hours.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that UV damage is cumulative throughout your life, so be consistent and diligent with your sun protection to prevent signs of aging and skin cancer, Massick says.
Aside from using sunscreen, there are other sun protection tips that you can follow. Massick recommends:
- Avoiding the sun during peak hours (usually between 10 am to 3 pm, though the times may vary depending on your location)
- Seeking shade when it’s available
- Wearing hats and sunglasses
- Always reapplying sunscreen after getting sweaty or wet from going in the water
There are plenty of products with amazing ingredients that can help you prevent or reduce signs of aging. It can take time to see results, so be patient with the process.
If you’re having trouble determining what products are right for you or if you aren’t seeing any results after a few months of using anti-aging products, see a dermatologist for a solution – and of course, don’t forget to wear your sunscreen.