Ever wondered how anti-aging creams work?
Soft and supple skin is a boon. It is something we all aspire for and would want to preserve so we can look and feel young for as long as we can. We are afraid of wrinkles replacing the firm skin and youthful glow on our faces and as a result we look for every means possible to stop our skin from aging and to reverse any little signs of aging as soon as they appear.
We see magazines and television commercials that advertise products that can stop signs of aging and even claim to reverse signs of aging. When we visit cosmetics stores, we see innumerable products stacked in the shelves that claim to help us with signs of aging and we find ourselves in a dilemma wondering which one would be the most suitable and effective for our skin.
As a matter of fact, rarely do we ever ponder over how these anti-aging creams really work. Only a few of us really deep-dive to find out the basis and legitimacy of the advertising claims that these products can slow down or even reverse a process that is natural and rather inevitable: the process of aging.
In this article, we try and explore what goes into these anti-aging skincare products and how they actually work in battling the aging process.
Why does our skin age?
The process of skin aging is the result of a number of natural progressions at a cellular level that are related to the overall aging process.
Our skin is made up of proteins such as collagen and elastin which play a critical role in giving the skin its texture and tone. Collagen helps maintain the firmness of the skin while elastin helps maintain the elasticity of skin besides allowing the skin to repair itself following any sort of damage. The glycosaminoglycans or GAGs are a family of carbohydrates that help the skin retain moisture and thereby stay hydrated. GAGs also maintain and support collagen and elastin in the skin.
The process of aging is a slow one. It roughly starts after the age of 20 and progresses slowly, eventually leading to the appearance of wrinkles and saggy skin at a certain point in time, usually at around 40-50 years of age. The production of collagen, elastin and GAGs gradually declines. The sweat and oil glands also are rendered ineffective with age leading to less hydration of the skin. The accumulation of all these processes ultimately results in the signs of aging that manifest as sagging skin, wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
How do anti-aging creams work?
No matter what the advertisements claim, anti-aging creams do not really reverse the process of aging nor can they completely stop the process. What they actually do is help slow the process or to mask the signs of aging on the skin. This is achieved through the help of a number of common ingredients that most anti-aging creams contain. We describe these in greater detail below.
The common ingredients in anti-aging creams are:
- Retinol: This ingredient is perhaps the best in the category of ingredients that help fight wrinkles. This is a Vitamin A compound and an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances which help neutralize free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules which break down skin cells and cause wrinkles). Hence, retinol is found in most anti-aging creams and serums. Retinol also helps promote skin renewal by boosting cell turnover which also makes it effective in combatting acne.
- Grape seed extract: Besides being an antioxidant, it is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Grape see extracts also promote wound healing.
- Vitamin C: A well known anti-oxidant that helps the skin fight against sun damage which is the number one cause for premature skin aging, Vitamin C is another common ingredient in anti-aging serums and creams.
- Niancinamide: An anti-oxidant, which helps reduce water loss from the skin, thereby keeping the skin hydrated. Moisture retention is critical to maintain the structure of the proteins which help maintain the structural integrity of the skin.
- Hydroxy acids: All hydroxy acids are exfoliants which help remove the upper layer of old, dead skin, thereby promoting the growth or new, evenly pigmented and smooth skin.
- Tea extracts: This is one of the most commonly found ingredients in anti-aging creams. These contain anti-oxidants and also have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Peptides: These were initially used widely due to their healing properties and now are widely found in anti-aging creams because they are effective for wrinkles too.
What to remember when using anti-aging creams
- It important to remember that not all products are meant for everyone because not everyone’s skin is the same and hence, a cream that may suit your friend might not work well for you.
- It is not necessarily true that a product that is costlier will also be more effective than a product that is less expensive.
- Improvements may be noticed only after prolonged use of the products that fight wrinkles. It is also likely that once you stop using the product, your skin may start returning to its texture prior to using the anti-aging product. Hence, you may have to continue using the product daily.
- Side effects may include rashes, irritation or redness. It is important to be aware of the ingredients contained in your anti-aging cream and make sure you’re not allergic to any of them. In case the side effects are extreme, you must immediately stop using the product and consult your dermatologist.
Follow these tips to reduce exposure to skin aging agents
If you are concerned about aging skin, simply using anti-aging creams is not enough. It is important to also reduce exposure to the factors that cause aging of the skin. Here are some tips to help you combat the skin-aging process and, thereby, increase the effectiveness of anti-aging skin products:
- Protect your skin from the sun: This is the most common reason behind an acceleration in the process of aging as well as premature aging. Always remember to apply a sunblock lotion before stepping out in the sun and avoid long periods of exposure to the sun. A 90 SPF strength sunblock is ideal.
- Quit smoking: This quickens the aging process, causes wrinkles, and results in a dull complexion by hampering blood circulation and dehydrating the skin.
- Avoid using products that irritate your skin by causing itching or stinging sensations. They can cause immense damage to your skin.
- Apply moisturizer to your skin on a regular basis: This keeps the skin hydrated, thereby lending a youthful and supple look to the skin.
- Wash your face gently: Excessive rubbing and scrubbing your face can irritate the skin and dehydrate it, thereby accelerating the aging process.
- Follow a healthy and balanced diet: The diet has a major role to play in maintaining healthy skin. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables as they contain several anti-oxidants (such as flavonoids which are family of chemicals found in plants) and can help fight the overall aging process by neutralizing free radicals throughout the body, not just the skin. Also, avoid refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white rice and white bread as these foods are virtually devoid of nutrients and contain ingredients that could actually accelerate the aging process.
- Exercise regularly: Cardiovascular exercise improves blood circulation in the body and also boosts the immune system, helping retain a youthful glow. Exercise also has an anti-aging effect thereby slowing down the overall aging process.
- Avoid drinking alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to skin damage in the long run and make you look older. Alcohol also has a dehydrating effect and can adversely impact liver function and, thereby, the immune system.