Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/22/2021
It’s never fun to see a new wrinkle, age spot or other sign of aging when you look at yourself in the mirror.
Getting older is a natural part of life, with wrinkles and other signs of aging issues that everyone deals with as they enter their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.
A range of factors play a role in skin aging. Some of these are genetic and outside our control, while others can be slowed down, controlled and even reversed through the use of moisturizer and other anti-aging products.
While it’s easy to find lists of best moisturizers online, the reality of preventing aging is that it’s much more about choosing the best ingredients over specific products.
Below, we’ve explained how moisturizers can slow down and prevent the signs of aging in your skin. We’ve also explained what to look for in the best moisturizers for reducing and preventing wrinkles, age spots, discoloration and other common signs of skin aging.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatology practitioners agree that moisturizer — along with sunscreen — is one of the most effective anti-aging products you can use.
In fact, many expensive, high-end anti-aging creams and other treatments consist primarily of exotic-sounding ingredients mixed in with moisturizer.
First, it adds volume to your skin, making wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of aging less visible. This effect occurs quickly, which is why your skin often looks significantly smoother and younger after you apply moisturizer.
Second, it allows the stratum corneum — the outermost layer of your skin — to function properly. This layer of your skin acts as a barrier, helping to protect you from infection, injury and dehydration.
Third, beyond trapping moisture in your skin, many moisturizers contain ingredients to increase collagen production, protect your skin from the sun, wash away old skin cells and other things that can slow down the effects of aging.
With these benefits in mind, it’s important to understand what moisturizer can and can’t do for your skin.
By protecting and hydrating your skin, moisturizer can protect it from several types of damage and wear. When you use moisturizer regularly, your skin is less likely to become overly oily or dry — two factors that can worsen issues like acne, redness and irritation.
Thanks to the immediate effects it has on your skin, moisturizer can also make some wrinkles, lines and other signs of aging less visible.
However, moisturizer generally can’t completely get rid of things like deep wrinkles, lines and other signs of aging. While these might look less visible after moisturizing, getting rid of them completely usually requires more intensive products and treatments.
As we mentioned above, choosing the best anti-aging moisturizer is more about looking for the right ingredients than picking a specific product.
From peptides to vitamins such as niacinamide, some ingredients that are used in moisturizers are scientifically proven to treat certain aspects of aging.
As such, any moisturizer that contains these ingredients should offer real benefits for your skin as you age. We’ve listed these ingredients below, along with more information on why and how each one helps to slow down or stop the effects of aging on your skin:
Peptides. Peptides are amino acids that are used as a building block of collagen, one of several important structural proteins in your skin.
Numerous studies have found that peptides can improve age-related changes that affect the skin, including wrinkles.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3). Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is a vitamin that increases water retention, stabilizes the protective barrier of your skin and increases keratin, another vital structural protein. It can also treat age-related changes in skin pigmentation.
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is an important building block of healthy skin that stimulates collagen production and plays a role in treating some signs of aging, including wrinkles that affect the eyes and cheeks.
Alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids. Alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic, tartaric, citric, malic and lactic acid, as well as beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid, are common active ingredients found in moisturizers and other anti-aging products.
Research has found that alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids can treat many aspects of skin aging, including wrinkles and elasticity.
Hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring substance that’s found in your body’s connective tissue. It plays a major role in keeping your skin hydrated — in fact, a single gram of hyaluronic acid can attach to and hold up to six liters of moisture.
While most research on hyaluronic acid looks at its injectable form, several studies have found that hyaluronic acid can improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkle depth when it’s applied directly to the skin.
Caffeine. Although caffeine is unlikely to get rid of wrinkles, research has found that it can provide protection against UV radiation and slow down the aging process for your skin.
We’ve talked more about these effects and the potential benefits of caffeine in our guide to using caffeine for healthier skin.
Finally, one key factor to look for in an anti-aging moisturizer is its SPF rating, or sun protection factor.
UV radiation from the sun is a key cause of wrinkles, discoloration and other signs of aging. In fact, experts believe that exposure to sunlight and UV radiation is responsible for 90 percent of the visible changes that occur to your skin as you get older.
Because of the huge impact UV rays have on your skin, it’s important to keep yourself protected from the damage sun exposure can cause.
When you’re comparing moisturizers, look for products that offer broad-spectrum protection and an SPF rating of 30 or higher.
Alternatively, you can use a regular moisturizer that doesn’t offer any sun protection, then apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen after.
Choose the right type of moisturizer for your skin. Moisturizers are available in a variety of different formulas, with options available for oily, sensitive, acne-prone and other skin types.
Try to choose the right moisturizer for your skin. If you’re prone to acne, you’ll get the best results from a non-oily, non-comedogenic moisturizer. If you have dry skin that gets irritated easily, an irritant-free, hydrating moisturizer might be the best choice.
Use moisturizer consistently. It’s important to apply moisturizer every day. If your skin is naturally dry, use your moisturizer after you get out of the bath or shower. This can help to trap in moisture and keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
Consider using other anti-aging products. Anti-aging creams and medications like tretinoin can make a big difference to how your skin looks, especially if you have lines and wrinkles that you’d like to make less obvious.
We’ve talked more about these products and how they work in our guide to anti-aging skin care for men.
Keep your expectations realistic. While regular use of moisturizer may help to slow down the effects of aging, it won’t stop you from getting older. As such, there’s a good chance that you’ll still develop wrinkles and other signs of aging over time.
Try to keep your expectations realistic while you use moisturizer and other anti-aging products. Moisturizer can cause a noticeable difference, but it won’t reverse years or decades of facial aging on its own.
If you’re shopping for an anti-aging moisturizer, it’s more important to focus on active ingredients than brand names.
Try to look for ingredients like niacinamide, peptides, hyaluronic acid and alpha or beta-hydroxy acids. These are linked to measurable improvements in wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and other common signs of aging that can affect your face.
Once you find the right moisturizer for you, use it consistently. With daily use, you may notice an improvement in your skin over the course of several months.
From moisturizer to creams, medications and even surgical procedures, a variety of options are available for slowing down and reversing the effects that aging can have on your skin.
Our guide to anti-aging for men goes into more detail on the most effective ways to protect and maintain your skin as you get older, from skin-friendly habits and lifestyle changes to products, treatments and more.
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