We're all so used to this phrase that we don't even question it. If a product says it is anti-ageing on the box then it must be - right?
If ever a phrase has been overused it is this one. There are few ingredients that are indeed anti-ageing.
Although to be fair some should be called 'ageing prevention' as they don't reverse signs of ageing - they just slow them down or prevent them from getting worse.
Before we get on to the ingredients a reminder from your friendly nag about the 3 worst things you can do for your skin.
Sun, Sugar and Smoking
Sun - get a little - not a lot. Don't use too high an SPF (unless medically advised) and be sensible.
It's not rocket science.
Sugar - probably one of the best (and hardest) things you can do for yourself, your health and your skin is to cut out sugar.
In a nutshell - sugar destroys your collagen - think of collagen as scaffolding for your face. Every time you eat/drink sugar it is like taking a piece of the scaffolding away - saggy baggy and drawn. Enjoy that cola won't you. And I'm not preaching here - I struggle every day with leaving sugar alone!
Smoking - No need to go into detail. I could not possibly be more anti-smoking. I was once able to tell a client how she blew her smoke out of her mouth (straight up her face from her bottom lip) because of the condition of her skin in that area.
Smoking leaches the oxygen out of your face with every puff. Smokers have grey skin. Yes. Grey. If you smoke - get help and stop - as soon as you can.
So - digression over. The next time you pick up a product that claims to be anti-ageing what you need to look out for is one of these:
SPF is anti-ageing. Proven, undoubtedly, unequivocally. Although if you're younger you could argue that it belongs in the 'prevention' category. It doesn't fix what has been done. That is the job of:
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is the only other ingredient along with SPF that the FDA will legally let you claim to be anti-ageing in the USA. Vitamin A reverses the signs of ageing. Rebuilds collagen, repairs sun damage and is an all round good egg. There are varying degrees of vitamin A - if you have previously used a product with vitamin A in it and reacted badly - it may just be that you haven't found the right one for you yet.
- Glycolic/Lactic/Salicylic Acids
Acids used in the right way can be beneficial to the skin - when applied as topical exfoliants they resurface the epidermis allowing better product penetration and in the case of some well formulated AHA's - help rebuild collagen.
Glycolic and Lactic are better for a dryer skin - Salicylic for oily/combination. Don't go too strong straight away and don't go mad. Less is sometimes more.
- Vitamins C and E
These two work well together as vitamin C is traditionally water-based (newer formulas include oil-based vitamin C) and vitamin E is oil based thus protecting both parts of the cell. Both are anti-oxidants and so in the 'prevention' category.
Newer than the others, this is vitamin B3 by another name. When used on the skin it has shown to stimulate the dermis and in turn increase the fatty content of the cells along with aiding in the retention of water. As it is shown to enhance barrier function of the epidermis it has had good results with acne sufferers by protectng against bacterial attack.
That's about it.
Other ingredients may be and are beneficial to the skin in other ways - but if anti-ageing is the aim - you need some of these in your product - not all at once - let's not give the epidermis a heart attack.
Don't talk to me about stem cells and the like - poppycock. Cut to the chase.
And what age to start using anti-ageing?
I'm 'nutshelling' again but here goes:
SPF - from birth - no brainer. But please don't cover your babies in SPF50 until they are white. They need SOME sun.
Vitamin A - 30+ depending on lifestyle - if you're a sun worshipper start earlier.
Glycolic/Lactic/Salicylic - again depends on lifestyle and skin type. If you have acne you can use Salicylic topically from a fairly early age. The other two can be introduced 30+.
Vitamins C and E - from the word go. As soon as you start your skincare routine choose something with these in. Good move.
Niacinamide - 25+ ish again depending on lifestyle and skin. Acne? Crack on.
The basic thing to remember with anti-ageing is that our collagen production is linked directly to our ovaries.
When we are at our most fertile our skin is is usually at its height. As you near menopause and go through peri-menopause you will notice huge changes in your entire system, not just your skin. Hitting menopause has a direct link to your collagen, its a bit like someone takes away a little of the scaffolding that supports your facial structure with each passing year.
So start taking care of your skin when you get your periods - and step it up a notch when you get to 35+ (before if you go into early menopause or have a full hysterectomy).
And when you DO start using these products - all of them but especially the Vitamin A - DO NOT FORGET YOUR SPF.
It doesn't have to be in a dedicated sun cream - I only ever get my SPF from my foundation - I hate SPF in my facial skincare (just my preference).
And if you DO smoke? Scrap all that advice and use all of the above - now.