Welcome back to Part 2 of my series, “Anti-Aging Basics For The Beginner: Ingredients”. In the first part of this series, I talked about the beginning steps of your anti-aging skin care adventure, including lifestyle choices, sun protection, and the use of supplements. You can achieve wonderful, long standing results by just making simple, positive changes in your life and daily routine!
If, however, you’re looking for ingredients to ‘bump things up’, then this post is for you. I’m getting into the nitty gritty of skincare ingredients, and have created a comprehensive list of the most popular, “proven to work” ones available over the counter. Because skincare science is constantly changing and evolving, new ingredients are always going to make headlines. But today I’m focusing on the tried and true! In this post, I’ll be talking about the following topics:
- Key Anti-Aging Product Ingredients (And What To Look For On Labels!)
- Popular Essential Oils For Skin Care
- Shopping List “Cheat Sheet”
Anti-Aging Basics For The Beginner, Part Two: Ingredients
When I was in high school, skincare was easy: I washed my face and I put on moisturizer (and if I was lucky, it had SPF in it). I tried to stay out of the sun, but who cares when you’re a teen? I had great skin, it was wrinkle-free, and I only broke out on occasion. Life was AWESOME.
Once I got into college, though, I decided it was time to start using more “grown up” products… and boy, was it “difficult”. Back in the day, if you wanted any good face products, you had to make your way to the department store. Once you were there, you went to one counter and bought an entire system! That’s definitely not the case now! There are tons of good products wherever you go! So how does anyone choose from the massive amount of products we have available to us now? Easy: by educating yourself! In this post, I’m giving you the tools and the knowledge you need to choose skincare products from any brand, addressing the issues you want to focus on, at the price you want to pay! So sit back, enjoy this read, and prepare to learn more about ingredients in this beginner lesson!
KEY ANTI-AGING PRODUCT INGREDIENTS
Ever wonder which ingredients actually work in helping you achieve skin nirvana? I’ve gone ahead and broken down the following ingredient families into three categories: acid exfoliation, vitamins, and “other”. Don’t worry, they have all been proven to work and aid in creating that beautiful canvas you’ve been hoping for!
ACID EXFOLIATION: AHA AND BHA
Doesn’t the thought of using acids on your face seem horrifying? Well, it’s not as bad as it seems. In skincare, there are two types of acids: alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Both are organic acids (‘organic’ meaning they occur in nature) that exfoliate your skin. Each of these ingredients is considered a “chemical exfoliator” since they slough off dead skin by breaking down the “glue” that keeps dirt and dead cells stuck on our faces. The strength/concentration of these acids is what determines how much exfoliation you get, but please remember that stronger isn’t always better. Higher strength doses are only available by prescription for a reason – you don’t want to give yourself a chemical burn!
Though both AHAs and BHAs are acids, they vary slightly in what they do for your skin:
Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)
Alpha hydroxy acid ingredients are made from fruit or milk. AHAs exfoliate the surface of your skin to keep dead skin cells from clogging pores. It can even out skin tone, brighten dull or dry skin (because it gets rid of it!), and for some people, even reduce the appearance of scars. Many AHAs help stimulate collagen (a structural protein) in our skin.
AHA Ingredients To Look For:
- Glycolic Acid (Sugar Cane)
- Citric Acid (Vitamin C)
- Lactic Acid (Milk)
- L-Ascorbic Acid (Citric Acid/Vitamin C)
- Ferulic Acid (works really well in conjunction with Vitamins E and C!)
- Malic Acid (Apples or Pears)
My AHA Favorite:
Pixi Glycolic Toner
Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
Beta hydroxy acid ingredients are made from plants. Like AHA, it exfoliates skin, however, it penetrates deeper by cleaning inside pores. For this reason, BHAs are primarily used for oily or acne prone skin with blackheads and whiteheads.
BHA Ingredients To Look For:
There is only one BHA ingredient: salicylic acid
My BHA Favorite:
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Daily Pads
Vitamins help our bodies rejuvenate themselves by delivering nourishing elements to us internally. But did you know that some of those very same vitamins can help our skin when externally applied?
Vitamin C is an amazing antioxidant, and studies have proven that it can help prevent and treat photodamage (those dreaded brown spots). Isn’t that amazing? Not only can it protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays, but it can also protect your skin from free radicals, improve hydration in your skin, and help even out your skin tone! That’s amazing!
Vitamin C strengths range from as low as 5% and go all the way up to 20%. Whatever the strength you use, though, your skin will have to acclimate itself to this product. Once you get used to a particular concentration, then you can go up in strength. Just remember it can sting on the application for most people!
Because it is extremely sensitive to light and air, Vitamin C breaks down very easily. When looking for a Vitamin C product, make sure it’s in an opaque or amber bottle and has some type of pump dispenser that prevents air from getting into it. Proper packaging keeps the ingredients stable!
Vitamin C Ingredients To Look For
- Ascorbic Acid / L-Ascorbic Acid
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate
- Ascorbyl Palmitate
- Retinyl Ascorbate
- Ascorbyl Glucoside
My Vitamin C Favorites
One Love Organics Vitamin C
DeVita Vitamin C
Vitamin E has been around forever, so I’m sure you’ve heard of it. But do you know how good it really is for our skin? It protects it from UV light damage (blocking free radicals), has antioxidant properties, and is an effective moisturizer. Overall, it helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making skin look tighter and firmer. Awesome, right?
Because it works so well with other anti-aging ingredients, you don’t have to go out of your way to look for products that contain Vitamin E in its ingredient list. It’s commonly combined with Vitamin C because together they create a natural sun protection!
Vitamin E Ingredients To Look For
- D-Alpha-Tocopherol (or dl-Alpha Tocopherol)
- D-Alpha-Tocopherol Acetate (or dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate)*
*According to Paula’s Choice, the “d” prefix means the product was derived from natural sources, while the “dl” prefix means it is in a synthetic form. Both natural and synthetic forms work for skin care!
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Retinol is both an antioxidant and an exfoliant that speeds up cell turnover. It also boosts production of hyaluronic acid, elastin, and collagen, making our skin more supple and smooth. Retinol treats a whole list of things: fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots, dullness, sagging skin, and is great for undereye crepiness. It also pumps up blood circulation!
Like Vitamin C, light and air can degrade retinol, so it works best in the dark. If you choose to add a retinol or retinoid (a prescription version of retinol) to your routine, use it at night and make sure your skin is clean and dry before application. Again, your skin must be dry before application or it will absorb the product too quickly and irritate your skin.
Vitamin A Ingredients To Look For
- Vitamin A
- Retinyl Linoleate
- Retinol (weak form of Vitamin A)
- Retinyl Acetate
- Retinyl Palmitate (weakest form of Vitamin A)
- Adapalene (synthetic retinoid)
- Tazarotene (synthetic retinoid)
- Isotretinoin (synthetic retinoid)
- All-Trans Retinoic Acid
- Retinoic Acid*
*Prescription strength only
Niacinimide (Vitamin B3)
Niacinamide is a soluble derivative of Vitamin B3 and a very effective skin-restoring ingredient. It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that improves the skin’s ability to heal itself. While many antioxidants prevent damage caused by oxidative stress, Niacinamide can actually reverse it! Look at everything it can do for the skin:
- Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
- Improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, and dullness
- Improve skin elasticity
- Prevent skin from losing moisture
- Stimulate skin circulation
- Suppress melanin from reaching the skin’s surface
- Protect from UV damage
- Used to treat acne
Another great thing about Niacinimide is that it remains stable in heat and light, making it very easy to add to other products without worry of it going bad.
Niacinimide Ingredients To Look For
- Vitamin B3
- Nicotinic Acid (not the best choice)
OTHER KEY INGREDIENTS
Did you know our bodies produce its own peptides? When collagen breaks down in our bodies, it releases protein fragments known as amino acids (a.k.a. peptides) to produce new collagen. So when we use peptide products in our skin care routine, it tricks our skin into thinking it’s lost collagen and triggers production in those areas!
There is a downside to using peptides though: it takes a while before you see any results. Unlike an acid that starts to work right away, peptides need to be used for some time before you see any changes. In skincare, there are three types of peptides:
- Pentapeptides and Oligopeptides – stimulates the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid
- Copper Peptides – stimulate collagen growth and promote skin healing
- Neuropeptide – affects neurotransmitters in the skin, causing nerve cells in the skin to stop communicating so wrinkles and fine lines can relax
What peptide do you think your particular skin type needs?
Peptide Ingredients To Look For
In general, peptides appear on product labels in some form of the word ” – peptide” or “amino acid”. They can also be labeled under their brand/trademarked names. The following is just a short list of common peptide names:
- Matrixyl (Palmitoyl Oligopeptide) palmitoyl- or oligopeptide pentapeptide
- Eyeseryl (Acetyl tetrapeptide-5)
- Decorinyl (Tripeptide-10 citrulline)
- Argireline (Acetyl Hexapeptide) – a neuropeptide, often combined with Leuphasyl
- Soy Peptide
- Copper Peptide
- Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5
- Acetyl tetrapeptide-8
- Acetyl octapeptide-3
- Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4
- Acetyl glutamyl Heptapeptide-1
- Peptamide 6
When we age, our skin loses moisture, suppleness, and smoothness due to the decline in key skin building block production. Ceramides are some of those key building blocks. Ceramides are an oily, wax-like substance that our bodies naturally produce, found in the upper layers of our skin. It’s a major component of the skin’s surface:
- Helps skin retain moisture
- Provides a “water proof” barrier, locking in moisture and preventing dry skin
- Protects against bacteria and environmental pollutants
- Holds skin cells together
DID YOU KNOW? Harsh cleansers and a low fat diet can lead to dry skin? Did you also know you can maintain the ceramide levels in your skin by using a gentle, non-drying facial cleanser, and eating a diet full of essential fatty acids like fish oil, flax seed, and walnuts?
In skincare, ceramides are only able to penetrate the skin when combined in specific ratios with cholesterol and fatty acids. Unless the manufacturer discloses this information to the consumer, there is no way to know if a product’s ratios are right or not. Bummer, huh? And according to the blog, The Beauty Brains, the only way to figure this out is by trial and error. If you’re willing to try a product and waiting around to see if you get results, start with affordable products and work your way up!
Ceramide Ingredients To Look For
Ceramides are listed as “ceramide – ” followed by a number – the number denotes the specific type of ceramide being used. Other ways that it can appear on ingredient labels are as follows:
- N-stearoyl sphinganine
- N-stearoyl phytosphingosine
- Caproyl sphingosine
- Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide and Hexadecanamide
Hyaluronic Acid is another one of those molecules that are already in our bodies (if you haven’t already figured it out, our bodies are amazing)! It helps the cell renewal process, maintains skin’s moisture and elasticity, and even lubricates our joints! Its powerful anti-aging properties and incredible gentleness make it one of the best hydrating ingredients available for every skin type. It can instantly improve the appearance of fine lines and texture issues by revitalizing the outer layer of our skin, making it look and feel softer, smoother, and well hydrated.
One thing to note, is that when used topically, hyaluronic acid usually draws moisture from the air. If you live in an arid environment (like Las Vegas), and there is no humidity to speak of, it can begin to draw moisture from your skin, which defeats the purpose! So be aware of this fact if you’re a dry skin type, and research what products and formulations will work best for you!
DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water?
Hyaluronic Acid Ingredients To Look For
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Sodium Hyaluronate (a cheaper, more easily absorbed, salt derived form of hyaluronic acid – has the same benefits as hyaluronic acid)
5 POPULAR OILS FOR SKINCARE
Using oils in your skincare routine may sound weird, especially when brands keep touting “oil-free” products, but using oils goes back to ancient times. Even the Bible talks about anointing our heads with oil! Essential oils are the concentrated essence of certain plants. They are “real” oils, not synthetic or a byproduct of mineral oil. All essential oils have their own unique properties that help the body, but we’re going to focus on oils that are good for our skin.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN USING ESSENTIAL OILS:
- Essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil. Here’s an easy way to figure out the perfect dilution ratio: 1 ml of essential oils = 20 drops, for every 1 ml (or 20 drops) of carrier oil, add 1 drop of an essential oil
- Be sure to do a patch test to make sure your skin does not have a reaction to the oils.
- Certain essential oils should be avoided by pregnant women, infants, and young children. Be sure to do your research before using!
The following is a list of the top oils for skincare and their main skin benefits. Please know that this is not an exhaustive list, as there are even more mind and body benefits to using these oils!
Rosehip Seed Oil
Rosehip Seed Oil (aka rosehip oil) is a light weight oil that can be used as either a carrier oil or as a star ingredient. It has a high concentration of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E!
What It Does
- Reduces the look of wrinkles
- Fades fine lines
- Lightens age spots
- Promotes healing of damaged skin
- Boosts new cell growth
- Increases collagen production
- Rich in essential fatty acids
- Helps improve skin’s elasticity, tone, and texture
An effective anti-inflammatory, geranium oil is a really useful and popular essential oil for skincare use. Fun Fact: Geranium oil is very similar in scent to rose. Because rose oil itself is very costly, geranium oil is often used in its place in perfume making!
What It Does
- Lightens age spots
- Evens out skin tone
- Improves skin circulation
- Aids in cell regeneration
- Fades scars
- Reduces the appearance of wrinkles
- Regulates oil production
- Reduces acne breakouts
- Improves skin elasticity, reducing the appearance of wrinkles
- Promotes blood circulation to the areas it is applied to (i.e. broken capillaries)
Frankincense is one of the best anti-aging essential oils around. It contains strong anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Because it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, it’s great for those who struggle with acne.
What It Does
- Helps tighten and firm sagging, wrinkled skin
- Minimizes appearance of scars, hyper pigmentation, and age spots
- Balances skin’s pH
- Protects skin from free radicals
- Regenerates skin cells
- Decreases appearance of pores
- Evens out skin tone
- Encourages cell growth
- Soothes dry skin
Myrrh essential oil has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that aren’t just useful for keeping your skin looking youthful. It can actually help heal the skin as well! Mixed with a carrier oil, it can be used topically as part of a great anti-aging skincare routine. Like the other essential oils mentioned, it, too, has many wonderful skin benefits!
What It Does
- Improves skin tone, firmness and elasticity
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Heals sun damage
- Help delay under eye wrinkles
Lavender essential oil is straight up ANTI; it’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-fungal and anti-aging! One great reason to incorporate lavender into your anti-aging routine? Besides smelling wonderful, it also helps to relax and fight off stress. Add it to your baths to get both the aromatherapy and all-over body skin benefits.
What It Does
- Helps delay fine lines and pigmentation
- Regenerates skin cells
- Helps skin regenerate itself, helping with scarring
- Reduces the appearance of age spots, wrinkles, and sun spots
TAKE IT WITH A GRAIN OF SALT…
As with all skincare ingredients, they’re only as good as your skin likes it! Your individual sensitivities can sometimes prevent you from using a particular ingredient. For example, my skin does NOT enjoy Niacinamide. I keep trying to use it because I love what it can do for the skin in general, and have seen so many people reap the benefits of this ingredient. Unfortunately for me, it breaks me out into a red, bumpy rash! So please do remember that your skin will dictate what ingredients you can or cannot use. But don’t be discouraged! You do NOT have to use every skincare ingredient on this list (nor should you!) in order to achieve or maintain great looking skin! Use what works for your skin type, incorporate good lifestyle choices, and you are set.
SHOPPING LIST CHEAT SHEET!
Is all of this information too much to memorize before your next big skincare shopping trip? No problem! Here’s a cheat sheet you can screen shot and save onto your phone so you’ll have all the information you need in one convenient spot! Just bookmark this page for the in-depth ingredient list when you go skincare shopping, and you’ll be golden!
What are some of your favorite tried and true products
or tips that have helped you keep your skin looking amazing?
or tips that have helped you keep your skin looking amazing?