Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/17/2021
Growing older can be a mixed blessing. There’s the fun, fulfilling side, which consists of making progress, gaining wisdom and generally, well, being an adult.
And then there’s the less fun side, which involves health checkups, injuries and those new lines in your face when you make certain expressions. Where exactly did they come from?
While certain aspects of getting older are unavoidable, the right combination of science-based, proven anti-aging products can help you to keep your skin healthy and look your best in every decade of your life.
Before we get into the most effective products for preventing and reversing the effects of aging on your skin, it’s important to explain the basics of how and why skin aging happens.
As you get older, your skin changes. It becomes thinner and less elastic, causing fine lines and wrinkles to form in certain parts of your face.
Gravity takes its toll, resulting in skin sagging that creates jowls and bags under your eyes.
Aging also changes the chemical makeup of your skin. New skin cells are created at a slower pace, less water is retained and important structural proteins such as collagen and elastin just aren’t created as efficiently as before.
Some of this change in your skin is an intrinsic, unavoidable part of getting older. It’s a result of genetic and metabolic factors that affect everyone, albeit in slightly different ways.
Another part of this change is extrinsic, meaning it’s related to things that occur outside of your body.
Habits like smoking, not sleeping enough or spending time in the sun without protection all play their own part in this side of the aging process.
Although some aspects of the skin aging process are unavoidable, the right anti-aging products can help to slow down the intrinsic side of aging while shielding you from the extrinsic side.
While many anti-aging products are more hype than substance, there are several products out there that are backed up by real scientific research.
These include topical medications, over-the-counter skin care creams and common, everyday products that help to shield your skin from environmental damage.
We’ve listed our science-based recommendations below, along with the research on why each product (or ingredient) deserves a place in your anti-aging skin care routine.
Topical retinoids are medications derived from vitamin A. They’re some of the most well-studied and effective medications in the world of skin care, and they’re definitely worth including in your anti-aging skin care routine.
One of the most well-known topical retinoids is tretinoin, a prescription medication that’s been used as an anti-aging treatment for several decades.
Tretinoin works by increasing the speed at which your skin produces new cells. It also unclogs your pores and promotes the shedding of old, dead skin cells that can collect on the outermost layer of your skin.
Research shows that tretinoin can improve several aspects of skin aging. It’s known to reduce fine facial wrinkles, lower hyperpigmentation (dark spots and other age-related changes in your skin tone) and give your skin a smoother, more consistent texture.
You can buy tretinoin as a topical cream or gel. It’s one of several ingredients in our Anti-Aging Cream, which is formulated specifically to smooth out wrinkles and repair age-related damage to your skin.
While tretinoin is the most effective topical retinoid, the fact that it needs a prescription may be off-putting if you’re just getting started with anti-aging skin care.
Luckily, other topical retinoids, such as adapalene and retinol, can be bought over the counter from many drug stores.
These aren’t quite as powerful as tretinoin, but still offer mild anti-aging benefits and may be a better option if you have sensitive skin.
You can find adapalene in Differin® gel and retinol in a wide range of over-the-counter creams, lotions and other skin care products.
A good quality moisturizer is one of the most powerful products available for keeping your skin healthy and slowing down the effects of aging.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, moisturizer is so effective that it’s often used as a secret ingredient in anti-aging products.
It can also brighten your complexion, giving your skin more of a consistent tone.
Although most moisturizers will produce a noticeable difference in a few days, it usually takes several months for the full effects of moisturizer to become visible.
While almost all moisturizers are effective, you’ll get the best results by choosing a moisturizer that’s designed for optimal moisture retention. Our moisturizer for men, for example, is made using hyaluronic acid, which can hold more than 1,000 times its weight in water.
If you often get dry skin, try applying moisturizer a few minutes after you finish taking a shower, bath or washing your face. This helps to trap as much moisture in your skin as possible.
Alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids, referred to as AHAs and BHAs, are common ingredients in over-the-counter anti-aging and acne treatments.
Hydroxy acids work by encouraging exfoliation, or the removal of the dead cells that build up on the outermost layer of your skin.
Popular alpha-hydroxy acids include glycolic acid, citric acid, lactic acid and tartaric acid, while the most well-known beta-hydroxy acid is salicylic acid.
Some acids of this type are used for cosmetic peeling procedures by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, albeit at a much higher concentration than those found in over-the-counter products.
While we might not think of sunscreen as an anti-aging product, the reality is that a good quality sunscreen is one of the most powerful and effective products that you can use to slow down the effects of aging on your skin.
UV radiation from sunlight can have a serious effect on your skin over the long term.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, as much as 90 percent of the visible change that occurs in your skin over time is caused by exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
When UV rays come into contact with your skin, they damage it at the DNA level, affecting your skin’s ability to produce important structural proteins such as collagen.
By protecting your skin from sun damage, sunscreen can stop daily UV exposure from causing you to develop wrinkles and other signs of aging.
To keep yourself protected, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying an SPF 30+ sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection whenever you spend time outdoors, even if it looks cloudy outside.
If you’re at the pool or beach, make sure to choose a water-resistant sunscreen or reapply your sunscreen after you spend time in the water.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that’s found in anti-aging creams, lotions and other topical products.
It’s included in our anti-aging cream, alongside tretinoin and several other powerful active ingredients.
Research shows that niacinamide can reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, get rid of age spots and other common types of discoloration, increase your skin elasticity and improve your protective skin barrier.
Niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory effects that are helpful for some skin conditions, such as rosacea and acne.
These effects can produce real, noticeable improvements in how your skin looks and functions as you age, helping you to maintain healthy, youthful skin in any decade of your life.
While most of us associate caffeine with the energy-boosting effects it provides in our morning coffee, it’s also a powerful skin care and anti-aging ingredient.
As we’ve covered in our guide to using caffeine for better, healthier skin, research shows that topical caffeine may protect your skin from the effects of aging in several ways.
First, there’s some scientific evidence that caffeine may block an enzyme referred to as ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR), which may prevent UV-related damage from leading to skin cancer.
Second, caffeine has antioxidant properties, which may help to slow down the effects of aging on the skin.
Third, research suggests that caffeine increases microcirculation, allowing a greater amount of blood to flow to the skin.
You can find caffeine as an active ingredient in several anti-aging masks, eye creams and other skin care products, including our men’s night wrinkle cream.
Although slowing down the effects of aging might seem like something that’s limited to the super wealthy, the reality is that keeping your skin youthful and healthy isn’t expensive at all when you stick to proven, science-based products.
If you’ve recently started to notice wrinkles developing, a simple combination of a topical retinoid such as tretinoin, a moisturizer, a reliable sunscreen and secondary ingredients like niacinamide can have a noticeable positive impact on how your skin looks.
You can also learn more about how your skin ages and the steps you can take to slow down this process in our guide to what you should know about skin aging.
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