10 of the best anti-ageing ingredients for your skin.

Anti-ageing ingredients that WORK - Women's Health & Fitness

According to The Me Clinic aesthetic nurse Mike Clague, who founded Regenerate Skincare after more than a decade in cosmetic medicine, many commercial products contain insufficient amounts of key active ingredients to achieve the desired effect.

The doses established as being effective in scientific studies are often greater than the thresholds permitted for over-the-counter sales, meaning some of the best stuff can only be bought at specialist skin and cosmetic clinics. One giveaway is how quickly it produces results; unless it’s giving you instant gratification while it works away on your cells, a product that ‘works’ within hours or days can’t possibly effect real changes.

The flip side is that the potency of cosmeceuticals means you need to exercise caution. Dermal therapist and self-confessed science junkie James Vivian says an incorrect dose can actually accelerate – not reverse – aesthetic ageing.

The inflammatory effect can lead to “retinoid dermatitis”, says Vivian. The safest path is getting to know what your skin can and can’t tolerate. With cosmeceutical virgins, Vivian often prescribes a progressive skincare plan to gradually build skin’s tolerance to active ingredients, which release at different rates.

So what should we look out for?

Retinol (The hero)
What is it: This vitamin A derivative is a milder version of prescription retinoids.

What it does: Retinoids help to reverse fine lines and prevent further ageing. Retinol rejuvenates skin cells and increases collagen production, which means brighter, softer, younger-looking skin that’s more protected from the damage that comes with ageing.

Best for: Everyone, but especially those who want to control oil production and prevent minor breakouts.

Salicylic acid 
(The dependable one)
What is it: A keratolytic, which means it works by softening the outer layer of your skin and allowing it to loosen and shed. It’s also in the aspirin family, so it can be used to reduce inflammation or redness.

What it does: Although we were told that pimples would stop once we finished high school, sadly, those pesky breakouts are a fact of life! Salicylic acid is a superhero for those experiencing both breakouts and ageing. It works similar to an exfoliator, unclogging pores and removing dead skin cells, which are the cause of wrinkles, lines, pimples and declining elasticity.

Best for: Oily skin types and those who suffer minor to moderate acne. With pregnant or nursing women, the topical application of salicylic acid is generally considered safe, while salicylic acid peels are not recommended.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) (The smooth talker)
What is it: Acids commonly derived from fruit and milk.

What it does: AHAs bind moisture and improve collagen production, which helps to smooth out skin. Think of it as the skin equivalent to a juice detox, cleansing your system after a few too many big nights. After regularly using AHAs, you will also see improvements to discolouration and a reduction in pore size – win! AHAs are only able to do their job with a bit of time, so invest in a day cream your skin can absorb over time, as opposed to a quick-rinse cleanser.

Best for: Dry and sun-damaged skin.

Antioxidants (The rescuer)
What is it: An umbrella term encompassing vitamins and enzymes that work to repair damage. This includes household staples like vitamin C and green tea, and less familiar phloretin and coenzyme Q1.

What it does: A mix of antioxidants in your beauty regime can work as a powerful defence against signs of ageing. Antioxidants such as vitamin C strengthen and repair skin, and help it to better withstand sun even without sunscreen.

Best for: Discoloured and sun-exposed skin.

Ascorbic Acid 
(The shy prodigy)
What is it: All the talk of 50+ sunscreens ignores a simple fact: vitamin C (or L-ascorbic acid) is as, if not more, integral to batting away sun-related photo ageing. Used in the morning, the understated ingredient acts as an antioxidant to prevent skin from oxidising (or ‘rusting’) upon sun exposure. Also known as ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbyl glucoside.

What it does: Promotes collagen synthesis and has antioxidant properties to fight free radicals.

Best for: Preventing sun damage.

Peptides (The dominant one)
What is it: Not just a trendy buzz word, peptides are short chains of amino acids that can work to hydrate skin and improve cell productivity.

What it does: While peptides can be very effective in anti-ageing products, the combination is crucial. The right grouping sends signals to cells, telling them how to function, and hopefully creating more in the process. On the other hand, some combinations can be ineffective. You won’t see results immediately – peptides can take up to 12 weeks to work their magic.

Best for: Maintaining elasticity and hydration.

Ceramides (The one you can’t live without)
What is it: Cellular fats or ‘lipids’. They are found between skin cells and work to seal them together.

What it does: We need ceramides to keep skin hydrated, which equates to high functioning cell turnover and healthier looking skin. It’s basically the glue that holds skin together, making sure it’s protected and maintained. When your skin is damaged by sun or dry environments (thanks a lot, office air-con), your ceramides decrease, leaving you more susceptible to damage. By using products with in-built ceramides, you’ll boost levels and trick skin into looking younger.

Best for: Dry skin sufferers, including people with eczema and psoriasis.

Algae (The one you least expected)
What is it: Yes, we’re talking pond scum. Algae contains proteins and alguronic acid, a compound which protects microalgae cells, and can protect aged faces from further environmental damage.

What it does: Algae protects itself from extreme environmental stressors. In skincare, it can also serve as a barrier against harsh natural forces that cause ageing. The compound helps cells regenerate after suffering damage, while also increasing elastin and collagen levels within skin for a youthful bounce.

Best for: Tired skin. Alguronic acid is good for maintaining softness while also firming and lifting.

Dragon’s Blood (The plumper)
What is it: The red sap that comes from the Sangre de Grado tree, which grows primarily in the Amazon, but is also found in Yemen and China.

What it does: This ingredient has been used throughout history as a natural remedy for healing wounds. It is a powerful antioxidant that rejuvenates skin tissues. Dubbed the ‘liquid facial’ and a natural alternative to restylane injections, it has in-built collagen to plump up hollow-looking skin, especially around the jawline and cheekbones.

Best for: Treating facial hollows and troughs under your eyes and around your cheeks.

Niacinamide (the smooth operator)
What is it: A form of vitamin B3, which stakes its claim on reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, diminishing pore size and lightening hyper-pigmentation.

What it does: Increases collagen production, decreases sebum production and increases barrier-containing lipids and proteins. Also look for its other names, nicotinamide, nicotinic acid and nicotinate esters.

Best for: BB and CC cream junkies looking to treat the cause, not just the symptom.

Words: Rebecca Long and Joanna Barry