Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, MSCIS, MPhil, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/29/2021
Search for anti-aging products and you’ll find countless facial washes, moisturizers, lotions and other products, each claiming to offer smoother skin and fewer wrinkles.
While costly brand name products may look appealing, the secret to anti-aging is to understand that the active ingredients inside a product have far more of an impact on its effectiveness than its price tag, packaging or marketing claims.
From retinoids to vitamins, peeling agents and tea extracts, a diverse variety of ingredients can help to seemingly turn back the clock and protect your skin from the signs of aging.
We’ve shared 10 of these anti-aging ingredients below, along with detailed information on how each ingredient can add extra value to your anti-aging skin care routine.
Tretinoin is a retinoid: a type of medication that’s derived from vitamin A. It’s been used in skin care for decades, typically in topical applications, both as an anti-aging ingredient and as a common medication for acne breakouts.
Unlike many popular skincare ingredients, which are largely the products of marketing, tretinoin is backed up by real science.
It’s approved by the FDA as a treatment for facial wrinkling, rough skin and hyperpigmentation (liver spots) and requires a prescription for use.
Numerous studies have found that tretinoin helps to reduce the visibility of wrinkles, lighten dark spots and thicken the skin — an important factor in minimizing the signs of aging.
Interested in using tretinoin? You can access tretinoin as one of several active ingredients in hims Custom Anti-Aging Wrinkle Cream, which is formulated using prescription-strength ingredients to smooth out wrinkles and repair environmental damage.
Beyond tretinoin, there are a few other retinoids worth looking for in anti-aging skincare products.
One is adapalene, a topical retinoid that’s generally used to treat acne. Like tretinoin, adapalene is effective at treating many common signs of skin aging, including fine lines, wrinkling and dark spots.
It’s worth noting that this study used adapalene 0.3% gel, which is significantly stronger than the 0.1% adapalene gel sold in most drugstores without a prescription.
Another retinoid worth considering is retinol, which is known to synthesize the production of new collagen — an important structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.
Since adapalene and retinol are both available over the counter at certain concentrations, they’re both great options if you would like to give retinoids a try without starting with a prescription medication.
A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is a powerful antioxidant and anti-aging ingredient that can improve your skin’s function and appearance.
Research shows that niacinamide helps to decrease yellowing of the skin, which can occur as a byproduct of oxidative processes.
It also improves the skin’s barrier function and stimulates the production of new skin cells.
From an anti-aging perspective, research shows that niacinamide helps to reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, decrease blotchiness and treat hyperpigmentation, or darkened areas of skin that can develop due to sun exposure.
Put simply, niacinamide offers lots of skincare benefits, many of which may help you to maintain younger looking skin.
You can find niacinamide in facial washes, anti-aging creams and spot treatments. It’s also one of several powerful, science-based active ingredients used in this prescription Anti-Aging Face Cream that can be customized for your skin.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is linked to countless health benefits, making it an ingredient in just about every multivitamin supplement on sale.
It’s also an active ingredient in hims Morning Glow Vitamin C Serum, which is designed for use every morning after cleansing.
In addition to promoting wound healing and maintaining your immune system, vitamin C is also a powerful skincare ingredient. In fact, it’s even involved in the biosynthesis of collagen, one of the most important structural proteins for your skin.
Vitamin C helps to decrease the synthesis of melanin, the natural pigment that gives your skin its color. This may help to treat age-related changes in your skin tone that can develop due to sun damage.
There’s also evidence that vitamin C may help prevent wrinkles, sagging and other common signs of skin aging.
This guide to vitamin C serums goes into more detail about the skin care and anti-aging benefits of vitamin C, as well as how you can use vitamin C for healthier skin.
Often referred to simply as AHAs and BHAs, alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids are some of the most versatile and effective ingredients in skin care.
Alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids work by promoting exfoliation, or the shedding of old skin cells.
This can help to improve the texture of your skin and make fine lines, wrinkles and issues such as skin discoloration less visible.
Popular AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid and malic acid, while the most common BHA is salicylic acid.
AHAs and BHAs are popular ingredients in cleansers, making them easy to apply to your skin in your morning or evening shower.
One thing to be aware of when using AHAs or BHAs is that they can make your skin much more sensitive to sunlight.
To keep your skin protected, make sure to apply sunscreen and try to limit your exposure to bright, direct sunlight.
Caffeine offers more than just an early morning energy boost; it’s also a popular antiaging ingredient in many skincare products.
One of the biggest advantages of caffeine is that it’s effective at penetrating into your skin, allowing it to reach below the superficial skin layers targeted by most anti-aging products.
When applied to your skin, caffeine may help prevent and reverse UV damage, which is one of the most significant sources of skin aging.
There’s also evidence that caffeine prevents fat from accumulating in cells, which may give your skin a smoother, tighter appearance.
You can find caffeine in night creams, anti-aging lotions and other products designed to promote smoother, healthier skin.
Many natural teas, including green tea and black tea, are rich in polyphenols that have powerful antioxidant properties.
One common tea extract in anti-aging products is green tea extract. Green tea contains several natural plant compounds with antioxidant properties, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin gallate (ECG).
Research has found that epigallocatechin gallate may offer protection from UV radiation, one of the most common causes of skin aging. It is important to note that most of these studies have been done on animals.
Other research has found that green tea extract, when applied topically, helps moisturize the skin and reduce roughness.
Hyaluronic acid — arguably the best known ingredient in skin care — can be found in night creams, serums, moisturizers and lots of other products.
Hyaluronic acid is a substance that’s produced naturally by your body. It has a unique capacity to retain water, making it helpful for maintaining your skin’s elasticity and creating a smooth, youthful appearance.
Research shows that topical hyaluronic acid helps reduce the visibility of wrinkles and other signs of aging.
For example, in a study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2011, researchers found that a low molecular weight 0.1% hyaluronic acid cream produced improvements in skin hydration and elasticity, as well as a reduction in wrinkle depth.
This guide to hyaluronic acid for skin care goes into more detail about the anti-aging benefits of hyaluronic acid, as well as how you can add it to your skin care routine.
One of the most important factors in healthy, youthful skin is moisture. Skin that’s well hydrated is not only less likely to show fine lines, wrinkles and a rough texture, but it also functions more effectively as a protective barrier.
Ceramides are lipids that can be found throughout the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of your skin.
They form a major component of the lamellar sheets that hold in water and maintain your skin’s barrier function.
Because of their role in promoting hydration, ceramides play a major role in improving the skin’s texture.
In one study, researchers found that daily use of a ceramide-containing moisturizer produced a decrease in wrinkles and improvement in skin texture after 28 days, as well as visible hydration improvements after just seven days.
You can find ceramides as an anti-aging ingredient in many moisturizers, night creams and other skincare treatments sold over the counter.
Although it’s technically not an ingredient, sunscreen is one of the most effective anti-aging skincare products out there.
The reason sunscreen is so effective is that it shields your skin from one of the biggest sources of visible aging: UV radiation.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, photoaging — the type of skin damage caused by sun and UV exposure — is responsible for as much as 90 percent of the visible changes that occur in your skin as you get older.
While sunscreen won’t necessarily turn back the clock, it performs a vital function by protecting your skin from the sun.
This means that fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and other signs of aging won’t develop as easily.
When it comes to sunscreen, it’s important to choose products with a good level of protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen that provides:
Broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays
SPF 30 or higher
To get the best results from sunscreen, make sure to apply it before you spend time outdoors in bright, sunny weather, and to reapply it periodically if you’re outside for longer periods of time.
Wearing a hat and a pair of sunglasses will also help protect your face and eyes from sun, further reducing your risk of developing fine lines or other signs of aging.
When it comes to maintaining healthy skin, there’s really no secret. Instead, preventing wrinkles, age spots and other common signs of aging is all about combining the right habits with the right science-based skincare products.
When you’re shopping for anti-aging products, try to avoid comparing brand names or price tags and instead look for the active ingredients listed above.
Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get healthier, smoother and more youthful-looking skin.
Not sure where to start? Check out this range of men’s skincare products containing options for every guy’s needs, from anti-aging creams and serums to acne treatments and more.