Anti-Aging All-Stars

Anti-Aging All-Stars

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The increasing amount of skin cream choices combined with personal preferences about benefits, texture, smell and price makes it almost impossible to single out a short list of specific product “stars." So, instead of a dictated shopping list, I am going to highlight the current ingredients that, I feel, are the most vital to any anti-aging treatment plan. Search for them, and you will find a virtual fountain of youth.

Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, E and Others
These ingredient super-stars work to neutralize free radicals unleashed by the sun’s UVA rays, exposure to environmental stressors or other triggers such as the body’s own on-going oxidative processes. This activity is often referred to as “free radical scavenging.” Antioxidants have proven to be effective at preventing or minimizing tissue alterations that could potentially lead to damage or mutation of cells which, in turn, leads to aging and disease. They are particularly important in repairing photo damage, which is why forward-thinking sunscreen manufacturers are starting to include antioxidants along with the traditional physical and chemical blockers in order to provide what is considered to be the most complete spectrum of protection. Any products that make the claim to slow or prevent the aging and/or repair the existing signs of aging should unquestionably have antioxidants in their formulations.

While the spotlight shifts to different antioxidants, depending on the latest research, the consensus among skin care professionals is that vitamin A, C and E, which have been proven in numerous studies to have anti-oxidative properties, are the key players. Vitamin A, in particular, is essential! Not a month goes by that I don’t receive additional data supporting the role of vitamin A (AKA: retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinoic acid, retinol) as a critical component of skin care.
Some of you may have tried early vitamin A-based formulations whose usage brought with it some major drawbacks including dryness, redness and irritation. Those disadvantages have now been addressed through formulas that use different forms of vitamin A which are milder and build up the skin’s tolerance gradually. Finding the perfect product match with vitamin A can be tricky though, so this is where you may want to enlist the help of a skin care professional.

Other important antioxidants include: beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, selenium, superoxide dysmutase and alpha lipoic (thiotic acid); these too have all been studied extensively and show very positive free-radical-scavenging capabilities. A great deal of interesting research on all of these antioxidants can be found at

When searching for products with these ingredients, your best bet is to look for a formula that contains a cocktail of vitamins A, C and E, which have all been shown to have substantial benefits to the skin. It should also be noted that many of these ingredients, especially vitamin A and C, require very sophisticated formulations in order to deliver their payload of benefits. Much of what was formulated early on, when these ingredients were beginning to be used, was ineffective due to the instability of these agents.

So, if your skin care professional has products with these essential ingredients, ask them about the delivery and/or preservation and stability systems that are employed to guarantee efficacy. If you are simply label-reading, locate these ingredients on the packaging and then look for some additional explanation to support the touted benefits; and if you don’t see it—keep searching.

Exfoliants: AHAs and BHAs

Exfoliants are wonderful ingredients that can improve the skin’s texture, minimize fine lines, improve the penetration of other actives and temporarily even out skin tone. There are basically two types of exfoliants: enzymatic (which includes all alpha and beta hydroxyl acids (AHAs/BHAs) and acidic peels) and mechanical (which includes all abrasive or rolling-type exfoliants).

Enzymatic exfoliants literally digest the material that holds dead skin cells together so that they can be sloughed off the skin, whereas mechanical procedures either buff or roll away those cells. While mechanical exfoliants can feel good to use, better benefits seem to be obtained from enzymatic agents, which are sometimes used to boost mechanical formulas.

When speaking about exfoliants, particularly the enzymatic ones, the phrase “too much of a good thing” can apply. These ingredients have caused a fair amount of controversy within the ranks of skin care professionals who seem to fall into one of two camps: the over-zealous and the over-cautious. The explosion of exfoliating ingredients, specifically AHAs & BHAs, which occurred over the last 20 years, did increase the treatment options available to estheticians and consumers. But the unchecked use of some of these ingredients by both parties produced short-term benefits and some long-term problems.

Recent studies by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board* found that use of AHAs increased sun sensitivity by 13 percent overall, but in some persons by as much as 50 percent. This finding raises serious concerns about photoaging and the increased risk of skin cancer.

With this in mind, it is important to remember that the skin is our front line of defense against the environment and peeling off too much of that not only leaves the skin vulnerable to accelerated sun-damage, but also hampers the ability of the epidermis to bind moisture, which can leave the skin thin, dry and can even lead to hyper-sensitivity. When used properly, however, exfoliating agents play a very important role in skin care programs. So, when using AHAs and/or BHAs, the best policy is to use them with restraint and strive for the removal of only excess cells through a mild resurfacing regimen, and always wear a sunscreen.

Peptides: Matrixyl, Argireline and Dermaxyl

Peptides are one of the newest rock stars on the anti-aging skin care scene and they are stimulating many studies that have produced great results. They are highly respected for their ability to penetrate the skin and activate their target – increasing the production of collagen and elastin. Peptides, due to their small molecular size, have the ability to penetrate the epidermis, or superficial layers of the skin. This is where peptides really go to work, at the dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ), where the upper layers of the skin meet the deeper layers, or dermal matrix. Peptides stimulate the healing process and trigger the rebuilding of this dermal matrix by activating, or “turning on,” the fibroblasts. These fibroblast cells are directly responsible for the creation of collagen and elastin, which are the components of our skin that give it the elasticity and firmness of young skin.

There are, however, two slight disadvantages when using peptides. First, their inclusion in a formula tends to result in a pretty pricey product. These are cutting edge ingredients that took years to develop, and because most of them are proprietary, the laboratory that created them can maintain exclusive rights to manufacturing them — a similar scenario to what takes place with pharmaceuticals.

The other downside is that peptides take an average of 90 days to produce their positive effects. But, if you can be patient, they do work. One peptide in particular, palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (Matrixyl), has been shown to decrease skin roughness by 13 percent, reduce wrinkle volume by 36 percent, and decrease wrinkle depth by 27 percent after four months of twice-daily applications on the face and neck.

Similarly promising results have been cited for another peptide, acetyl hexapeptide-3 (Argireline), which is being used as a topical alternative to Botox. Rather than paralyzing facial muscles, these peptides gently relax facial muscles by interfering with nerve signals. Even though the results are mild in comparison to Botox, products containing these peptides can cause a noticeable difference. Studies indicate a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles in the 16 to 31 percent range as well as prolonged results for those who do receive Botox.

Finally, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide (Dermaxyl) is considered by many as one of the most potent anti-aging ingredients available today. Daily use of products formulated with Dermaxyl produce reparative results similar to vitamin A-based products, such as the prescription product Renova, but with very little irritation.

Just like most people, ingredients often work best in combination. I have even heard them referred to as “synergistic soldiers” accelerating and building momentum as they produce a collective effect on the skin. It should also be said that, any single ingredient may not be the “magic bullet” your skin will respond to, which is why most experts agree that a broad spectrum of reliable and stable formulations of established and trusted ingredients is the best remedy to deliver a more youthful appearance to the skin.


2. Lipotec / An integral peptide treatment for expression wrinkles: Dr. Arturo Puig, Dr. José María García-Antón and Ms. Montserrat Mangues

* The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board, is an independent panel of physicians and other scientists with no financial ties to the cosmetic industry, for the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA), the industry's trade organization in Washington, DC.