The number one question I get these days from women over 35 is what lotions and moisturizers they can buy to fix sagging skin, diminish fine lines and brighten a dull complexion. While lasers, Botox, fillers, face lifts and liposuction work best to turn back the hands of time (see Hollywood's Secrets to Youthful Skin) there are creams and peels available to those of us not ready or able to go under the knife or the needle.
But all of this anti-aging stuff can prove overwhelming. The industry is bigger than ever and the marketing tactics are more questionable than ever. You simply cannot trust the claims most brands make about fixing wrinkles and tightening a jawline. But some ingredients and products do have a track record of results. The key is knowing which ones are worth the buy. Here, I outline the 7 anti-aging products dermatologists recommend.
MoisturizerDry skin leads to wrinkles, at least according to a study by Greg Hillebrand, PhD, of P&G Beauty and Science, and reported in Elle Magazine. "Hillebrand's study found that having dry skin more than doubles the rate at which lines will develop. That means a 28-year-old with dry skin will have a 52-percent increase in wrinkles by the time she's 36, whereas a woman of the same age with a well-hydrated dermis will show only a 22-percent increase," writes April Long in the October, 2010 issue of Elle.
No matter your age, it's important to keep skin moisturized. Moisturizers have the temporary effect of plumping up the skin and the longer-lasting effect of keeping skin supple and less prone to the inevitable etching in of lines.
See my list of the best moisturizers by skin type and price tag.
RetinoidsI've done a ton of research on anti-aging products and what I've found is that dermatologists agree on one thing: The only anti-ager on the market that has proven again and again to reduce fine lines and wrinkles are retinoids (think Retin-A and Renova), which work by increasing cell turnover deep within the dermis.
"I never recommend any of the other expensive products out there claiming to do this," says Dermatologist Maryann Mikhail of Spring Street Dermatology in Manhattan.
I've been using Retin-A on my skin for years. I noticed results within a couple weeks and I get regular compliments on my skin tone. My dermatologist, Dr. David Colbert, even told me on a recent visit that I have "great skin." Used nightly (or every other night), retinoids stimulate collagen renewal and prevent skin cells from breaking down. They also keep fine lines from turning into deeper furrows.
Retinoids come in a large range of strength. The most powerful punch comes from prescription retinoids such as Retin-A and Renova. You can buy these over-the-counter outside of the US, but in the US, you need a prescription and insurance typically won't cover anti-aging products. The good news is you can buy over-the-counter retinoid products, which are milder than prescription-strength formulas. Try RoC Retinol Correxion Max Wrinkle Resurfacing System (buy it online) or Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer (buy it online).
Retinoids can be irritating to skin. The key to usage is to not give up when your skin shows its first signs of redness and peeling. See How to Use Retin-A & Other Retinoids Safely.
Alpha-hydroxy AcidsAs we age, our skin tends to become thinner, drier and dull. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) work as exfoliants, helping break down dead, dry skin and leaving skin looking brighter and more dewy. Studies also show AHAs may increase the thickness of skin. They come in the form of topical creams and chemical peels and the most common AHAs are made from food products. According to Wikipedia, these include glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (from sour milk), malic acid (from apples), citric acid (from citrus fruits) and tartaric acid (from grape wine).
Dermatologists recommend using an alpha-hydroxy acid peel no more than once a week. You can use a milder cream every day. Great over-the-counter AHAs include Avon Anew Clinical Advanced Retexturizing Peel (buy it online at Avon.com) and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion (buy it online).
Check out my extensive article on alpha-hydroxy acids: What are Alpha-Hydroxy Acids & How Do They Work?
AntioxidantsFree radicals -- the unstable oxygen molecules produced by pollution, stress and sun -- are a skincare nightmare. They attack healthy skin cells and cause collagen breakdown, all of which lead to wrinkles.
You can fight free radicals by using an antioxidant cream each morning that has a combination of any 2 or more ingredients such as green tea, vitamins C and E, and coenzyme Q10. These work together to neutralize free radicals and a cocktail of these antioxidants are like a multi-vitamin for skin, according to dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross.
You may use antioxidants both orally and topically. In Elle Magazine, dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, swears by Heliocare vitamins. Topically, antioxidants are great for bolstering UV protection. Apply an antioxidant serum containing vitamins C or E, Co-Q, alpha-lipoic acid, grean or white tea, pomegranate or idebenone under your sunscreen (see products below). The antioxidants will fight those free radicals the sun generates.
SunscreenSun damage is the No. 1 cause of wrinkles. The lighter your skin, the more susceptible you are to wrinkles caused by the sun. This is why women with darker skin tend to age better than Caucasian women.
No matter your age, you can prevent more skin damage by wearing at least an SPF 30 sunscreen daily. Dr. Fredric Brandt, dermatologist to the stars, suggests using a "two-finger scoop" of sunscreen to the face and neck (never forget your neck when it comes to an anti-aging regimen). Get into the habit of wearing sunscreen every day, no matter the weather. Your skin will thank you down the road. You're dermatologist too.
Look for a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. See my list of The Best Sunscreens.
HydroquinoneDark spots on skin are caused by sun damage and can make your skin appear years older than it is. The quickest and most effective way to get rid of dark spots is by lasers, but these can be costly and must be performed in a doctor's office. A cheaper version is to use a hydroquinone cream such as the dermatologist favorite, Ambi Fade Cream, which is super affordable at less than $10 a tube (buy it online). Apply to dark spots at night and keep in mind it may take up a few weeks to see positive results.
Other Ways to Keep Skin in Tip-top ShapeAs you age, there are many other ways to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Here are a few of my favorite tips:
- Get plenty of rest. Lack of sleep shows on your face.
- Wear sunglasses on sunny days. Excessive squinting can cause permanent crow's feet.
- Wear a hat and long sleeves when out in the sun for a long time.
- Stress leads to furrowed brows, which leads to permanent lines etched into your face. Turns out wrinkle prevention is just another reason to take up meditation or yoga!
- Put up a UVA/UVB protector screen on the driver's side of your car window if you spend a lot of time in the car. Studies show lines develop more on the left of the face on people who spend a lot of time commuting in a car!
- Find a good moisturizer and use it regularly. Moisturizers temporarily plump up the skin, which can diminish the signs of wrinkles.
- In 1889, Margaret Kroesen created Frownies, an adhesive patch that held skin taut, smoothing out wrinkles.
- 1920, the year Coco Chanel made suntans fashionable after her return from a sun-filled vacation on a yacht.
- 1982, the year Chanel launched its first anti-wrinkle cream with sunscreen.
- 1988, the year the FDA warned about the indiscriminate use of Retin-A, an acne drug, to treat wrinkles.
- 1995, the year the FDA approved tretinoic acid, the main ingredient in Retin-A, for the purpose of fighting wrinkles.