We asked Dr. Tony Nakhla, author of The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin, to let us in on what ingredients to look for when shopping for anti-aging products. “The truth is you don't have to import your skin care products from the Champs Elysees, 5th Avenue, or Beverly Hills, and you definitely don't have to spend a lot of money for great products,” the dermatologist says, and shares his top six complexion perfection picks.
Retinol is number one on Nakhla’s list for a reason – it is one of the hardest working anti-aging ingredients out there, he says. Most importantly, retinol increases the rate of skin turnover. “Skin is constantly exfoliating on its own but retinol increases the rate of exfoliation, bringing brighter skin cells to the surface.” It is these new, brighter cells that give skin a smoother, more youthful appearance.
Retinol also performs a whole host of other skin saving, anti-aging duties, including unclogging oil glands and pores, evening out skin tone, decreasing fine lines and wrinkles, encouraging collagen synthesis and even promoting new blood vessels.
This skin superhero works mainly as an exfoliant, sloughing off the outermost layer of skin. As we age the rate at which old cells are replaced by new slows down and the result can be dull, lacklustre skin prone to fine lines and other visible signs of aging. Glycolic acid works to loosen the surface cells, allowing the dead cells to give way to the newer (younger looking) skin beneath. Not only does this powerful ingredient promote exfoliation, it also stimulates collagen growth, Nakhla says. “Glycolic acid is thought to promote collagen synthesis by increasing the rate of skin cell turnover,” he explains. This provides a skin tightening effect that helps minimise the appearance of fine lines.
More super ingredients to look for in skin care products on the next page … Kojic acid As we age, skin tone can become blotchy, uneven and areas of hyperpigmentation can develop, Nakhla explains. While freckles can be charming, having large areas of dark spots or uneven tone can be frustrating. Anti-aging products containing kojic acid help even out skin tone and lighten the skin in areas that are unevenly pigmented.
We know it can help ward off winter colds but Vitamin C is also a trusted anti-aging ingredient in many creams, cleansers and serums. The power-packed nutrient is an antioxidant and protects skin from free radicals, explains Nakhla. “Free radicals are electrically charged molecules that wreak havoc on cells by destroying normal proteins, cell membranes, and other structures at the cellular level” he says. They form as a normal by-product of metabolism as we age and result in fine lines, wrinkles and rough texture. Vitamin C and other antioxidants neutralize free radicals rendering them incapable of causing damage.
Not just for sipping on a cold day, green tea is a fierce fine line fighter. Like vitamin C, it also works to protect skin from free radicals, which age the skin by directly destroying the elastic fibres in the skin (called elastin) that are responsible for keeping skin tight, Nakhla explains. They also impair skin cell's ability to repair themselves and regenerate. In addition, free radicals directly impair pigment producing cells and the skin's ability to regulate pigment production. “Over time the result is blotchy, unevenly pigmented, wrinkled, sagging skin,” he says. Green tea helps to slow these effects and reduce blotchy skin tone caused by free radical damage.
Used in anti-aging products, vitamin E can soothe dry, rough skin and when combined with vitamin C in a lotion, it shows strong protective properties against UV rays, Nakhla says. Vitamin E can also help reduce wrinkles and make skin look and feel smoother by encouraging the production of collagen and elastin. These two proteins have a big impact on how youthful skin appears. The more collagen and elastin you have in your skin, the more tight and firm it stays and the harder it is for wrinkles, fine lines and other common signs of aging to form.
Shopping for an anti-aging skin care regimen need not be stressful or expensive. Nakhla’s advice is to find a good sunscreen, moisturizer, cleanser, and nightly retinoid based on your skin type. “Otherwise, save your money for impactful dermatologic procedures and treatments that give you real results and the biggest bang for your buck.”
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