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Specific Skin Care Ingredients You Need

I am often asked to comment on some exciting new “breakthrough” anti-aging skin care product that is receiving a lot of press or is featured on late night infomercials. Sometimes they are a real advance; other times they are just effective marketing by cosmetic companies. It is important to remember that there are some antiaging skin care products or ingredients that have been proven over time, some that actually have controlled studies backing them up, and a fair amount of trendy marketing-based nonsense that will go by the wayside.

If you are trying to decide which skin care products to use, and which skin care ingredients to look for, you are often confused. I feel your pain. All the popular magazines, web sites and cable infomercials tout a new, amazing anti-aging ingredient that you must start using today. Then tomorrow there is a new one that is even more amazing and you must stop the old outdated one you bought yesterday and start the newest miracle. You hear a lot of conflicting information and don’t know what to use. And while you are wasting time being confused, your skin is looking older and older.

There is actually a consensus from cosmetic dermatologists about which active skin care products and ingredients actually work to slow down skin aging and make you look younger. Based on scientific studies and clinical experience, most cosmetic dermatologists would rate the importance of and recommend you choose the major categories of antiaging skin care products in the following order, though some would switch #3 and #4:

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Retinoids
  3. Alpha Hydroxy Acids
  4. Antioxidants
  5. Peptides

Some people are willing to use a multi-step skin care system; some will only use one or two products a day. If you are one of the former then use at least one product in each one of the categories a day. After that, you can add one of the other smaller groups such as tissue growth factors or sirtuins that we will discuss another day. The five groups I listed are the most important for skin rejuvenation and the ones that have the most scientific and clinical evidence to support their use.

On the other hand, if you are one of the latter, then start at the top and work down until you hit your limit. And yes, I said start at the top.

Sun Screen

If you only use one thing—use sunscreen. Everyday sun exposure destroys collagen and elastin causing saggy wrinkled skin, brown spots, dilated blood vessels, fine lines and cross hatched wrinkles. Ultraviolet rays produce damaging free radicals that promote aging and skin cancer. Tanning beds do the same, only quicker.

Every single day, year round, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to your face, neck, exposed chest, forearms and backs of hands. Look for sunscreens that have one or more of the ingredients that block the widest spectrum of both UVB and UVA: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl. I know you get tired of hearing this. Too bad because you are hearing it again.


The most effective topical treatment to reverse skin aging is retinoids. Prescription topical retinoids such as Refissa, Renova, Tazorac or Differin or over the counter retinol help reduce brown discoloration, pore size, fine lines and wrinkles and enhance collagen production. They also treat acne. Yes, you may have some redness and peeling at first. Your dermatologist can give you some tips on how to avoid or reduce irritation from retinoids.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids are botanically derived sugar acids that diminish fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production and also reduce brown spots, pore size and acne. The most effective alpha hydroxy acids are glycolic acid and multi-fruit acid blends. They can be irritating to sensitive skin so only use them once a day and follow with sunscreen.


Every day your skin is damaged by free radicals released by environmental exposure to UV light, pollution, cigarette smoke and various toxins. Antioxidants contained in many fruits and plants, vitamins, or produced in the lab bind to these free radicals, rendering them harmless.

Vitamin Antioxidants

Effective vitamin antioxidants include alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E), L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), retinol (Vitamin A) and niacinamide (Vitamin B3). Vitamin C should be used in an active form such as Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate as some forms are not active when applied to the skin.

Natural Botanical Antioxidants

There are numerous plant-sourced antioxidants in use today, with more on the way. Some of the most effective are: Aloe Vera, Arnica, Basil, Beta-Carotene, Bilberry, Bromelain, Chamomile, Cocoa Seed, CoffeeBerry, Curcumin (Curry), Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Grape Seed, Green Tea, Lavender, Licorice, Lutein, Lycopene, Milk Thistle, Olive Oil, Peppermint, Pomegranates, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Rosemary, Soy, Swiss Green Apple Stem Cell Extract, Tea Tree Oil and Thyme.

Antioxidants Made in the Laboratory

Laboratory synthesized antioxidants include Lipoic Acid and Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10).


Finally, peptides are amino acids that function as messengers to tell cells to increase collagen production thereby reducing wrinkles and increasing elasticity and tone. Some also help regulate abnormal pigment. Some of the most effective are Matrixyl (Palmitoyl Pentapeptide 3 also called Pal-KTTKS), Matrixyl 3000 (Palmitoyl-Oligopeptide and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7), Matrixyl Synthe’ 6 (Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38), Argireline (Acetyl Hexapeptide-3), Eyeseryl (Acetyl Tetrapeptide-5) and Copper Peptide (GHK-Cu).

You need to apply skin care products every day. They might as well do some work.


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