We age and our skins are the most visible parts where aging is evident. More than anywhere, aging shows on the face and it is there that most anti-aging products focus on. Anti-aging products are based on moisturizers and are promoted to slow and/or reverse the signs of aging which are chiefly wrinkles, fine lines, blemishes, discolorations and other environmental damages to the skin.
Skin aging can present as any of the following: laxity or sagging of the skin; rhytids or appearance of wrinkles; and photoaging. Photoaging is due to the damage to the skin from exposure to the sun and can show as erythema or redness, dyspigmentation or brown discolorations, solar elastosis or yellowing of the skin, keratoses or abnormal skin growths and loss of firm skin texture.
The basics of aging is rooted in the breakdown of the skin’s two most important structural molecules: collagen and elastin. They are both proteins and are responsible for the skin’s structural integrity. Collagen is fibrous and provides the skin’s tensile strength and thus the firmness. When it starts to break down, the skin sags and wrinkles begin to appear. Elastin, on the other hand, is responsible for the skin’s flexibility. It is elastin that lets the skin return to its normal shape and original position every time it is stretched and the skin is stretched always either by our movement or by environmental factors such as cold or hot weather.
These two proteins are so important to determining the appearance of the skin that every anti-aging product makes strong references to them. However, it is simply a marketing hokum and bad science to think that anti-aging products packing collagen and elastin will slow or reverse skin aging. In truth, these molecules when supplied by skincare products are too big to be absorbed into the skin. Even if absorbed, supplying a vital molecule for skin firmness and elasticity from outside does not necessarily translate to the body utilizing it for the same purpose. The best solution is supplying the skin with ingredients that can stimulate the natural production of collagen and elastin.
Therefore, the most effective ingredients in anti-aging products stimulate cell renewal or protect the skin from further damage. The commonest effective active agents in such products include retinol, epidermal growth factor, alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), coenzyme Q10, peptides, anti-oxidants and sunscreens.
Retinol or Vitamin A1 is presented as retinyl palmitate and is one of only a handful active agents proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Other vitamins included as anti-oxidants are Vitamins E and C. They protect the skin from damages by mopping up harmful free radicals.
Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) is an extensively studied compound proven to reduce sagging, fine lines and wrinkles. It is a combination of 53 amino acids and it stimulates collagen production as well as elastin, guaranteeing structural strengthening and elasticity of the skin. Also used for its healing and anti-inflammatory properties on the skin, it won a 1986 Nobel for its discoverer.
AHAs, also called alpha hyaluronic acids, and beta hydroxyl acids promote exfoliation of the skin epidermis by dissolving the “glue” holding dead skin cells together. By exposing new skin cells, the skin looks younger naturally. These active agents are naturally occurring on the skin as hyaluronan which is inhibited by the enzyme hyaluronidase. Certain anti-aging products include agents that blocks the actions of this enzyme, therefore, allowing the natural hyaluronan to keep acting.
Coenzyme Q10 is a special anti-oxidant found in skin cells. It is also needed to remove unstable molecules such as free radicals which are damaging to the skin. However, with age, the natural store of the enzyme is depleted, necessitating replenishment from anti-aging products. Coenzyme Q10 comes in different formulations. The nano-emulsion formulation is known to penetrate deeper and provide a better anti-aging action.
Sunscreens are the last essential ingredient of anti-aging products. They are important to stem further aging of the skin especially photoaging by protecting it from the harmful effect of ultraviolet solar radiation. Sunscreens are even more important especially in formulations where exfoliating agents such as AHAs are present. By removing layers of dead cells from the skin, the skin is more exposed to harmful UVA rays. Sunscreens can offer a coat of protection when used with such agents.