Have you ever wondered about the most effective ways to preserve youthful skin and stave off the signs of aging? In this article, we explore the different ways to optimize skin health.
Our perspective on this subject is distinctive, grounded in a deep understanding of the aging process itself. By explaining the science behind why our skin ages, we gain valuable insights into choosing the most suitable treatments for long-lasting results. From scientifically designed skincare routines and innovative technologies like low-level light therapy and microcurrent devices to the support of supplements and a well-balanced skin care diet, we evaluate the science behind these rejuvenation strategies.
- Skincare Routine
- Low-Level Light Therapy
- Microcurrent Devices
- Skincare Diet
- Dermatological Treatments
- Silicone Patches
1. The Best Science-Based Skincare Routine
There are innumerable skin creams, all claiming to reduce wrinkles and making your skin look better. How do you see the forest from the trees? A proper science-based skincare routine for slowing skin aging can be very simple yet powerful. It consists of a daily skin cleanser, moisturizer (containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid), sunscreen, and the prime star, retinoic acid (tretinoin).
Anti-Aging Skincare Routine
NOVOS approved anti-aging skincare routine looks as follows (none of the products featured are sponsored):
In the Morning
- Use an exfoliating skin cleanser, ideally with salicylic acid, like Olay Regenerating Cream Cleanser.
- Apply a cream or serum that provides skin hydration, such as one with hyaluronic acid. Look for products that incorporate scientifically proven active ingredients like copper peptides or other similar compounds. Ideally, choose a product that also includes sunscreen protection, with a Solar Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher. Some examples of such products include The e The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides (lacks SPF) or Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler + Elasticity (contains SPF).
- Apply sunscreen in case your day cream or serum does not contain sunscreen.
In the Evening
- Use a non-exfoliating skin cleanser, like L’Oreal Age Perfect Cleansing Milk.
- Apply tretinoin cream 0.05% (prescription needed) or a high-quality retinol serum or cream, like Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum. If new to tretinoin, starting with a 0.025% concentration is advisable. Begin by applying it at night, initially just 1 to 2 times a week. Gradually increase the frequency as your skin becomes more accustomed to it. While using tretinoin, it’s important to note that flaking and peeling of the skin is a common side effect and can sometimes cause discomfort. Remember that these initial challenges are a normal part of the process.
- If you’re using retinol, you can typically incorporate it into your nightly skincare routine without the need for a gradual introduction.
Cleansers: Exfoliating and Non-Exfoliating Cleansers
Before you apply any active ingredients, it’s important to clean the skin properly. During the day, pollution and other impurities accumulate on the skin, which can cause irritation. Ideally, you clean your skin twice daily, in the morning and evening, every time before you start your skincare routine.
In the morning, you ideally use an exfoliating skin cleanser. An exfoliating skin cleanser helps to remove these dead skin cells, which would otherwise accumulate significantly when using a retinoid-based skin cream, leading to flaking and peeling of the skin. Good exfoliating skin cleansers contain for example glycolic acid and salicylic acid. We prefer salicylic acid given it also has anti-inflammatory properties. An example of a salicylic acid-containing exfoliating skin cleanser is Olay Regenerating Cream Cleanser. An example of a glycolic acid-containing exfoliating skin cleanser is Skinceutical Glycolic Renewal Cleanser.
Be gentle with exfoliation, especially in the beginning. If too much skin peeling, irritation, or redness occurs (especially when also applying a retinoid-based skin cream in the evening), apply the exfoliating skin cleanser every other day or twice a week and gradually build up your regimen. Or don’t use the exfoliating skin cleanser and the retinoid-based product on the same days in the beginning.
In the evening, it’s best to use a non-exfoliating skin cleanser. If you are using products that contain tretinoin or retinol-containing skin product, while they technically do not exfoliate the skin, they still stimulate skin cell turnover. Using a retinoid-based skin cream in the evening will lead to a higher turnover and removal of dead skin cells in the upper layer of the skin.
Active Ingredients: Tretinoin (retinoic acid) and Retinol
Tretinoin cream stands as the foremost and most potent tool in your arsenal for skin rejuvenation. Its effectiveness in slowing down skin aging and reducing wrinkles is unmatched among skincare products, rooted in a wealth of scientific studies. Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, derives from vitamin A.
This remarkable compound triggers a cascade of cellular processes within the skin. It activates various transcription factors (proteins) that, in turn, activate genes responsible for bolstering collagen and elastin production, revitalizing skin cells, and accelerating skin cell turnover. Consequently, your skin appears more youthful, vibrant, and smoother.
Notably, a major contributor to the aging appearance of skin is the significant slowdown in skin cell turnover as we age, resulting in thinner, wrinkled, and dull-looking skin. Tretinoin addresses this concern by revving up cell turnover, although this increase in cellular activity may initially lead to a minor side effect like skin peeling.
Various retinoids are available, and their potency varies. We ranked them in order of strength, from the least potent to the most potent retinoid:
- Retinyl esters (retinyl propionate, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate)
- Retinaldehyde, also known as retinal
- Adapalene (e.g. Differin)
- Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid (e.g. Retin-A, Renova)
- Isotretinoin (orally taken, e.g., Accutane)
We favor tretinoin (retinoic acid) over newer retinoids like tazarotene. This preference stems from the fact that these newer retinoids are characterized by a more “unnatural” molecular structure. In contrast, tretinoin shares the exact same molecule found in the body and utilized by our cells. It’s also advisable to use any Vitamin A-based cream exclusively during your nighttime skincare routine.
When it comes to tretinoin in skin creams, it’s recommended to start with a concentration of 0.025%. You can then gradually adjust it to 0.05% as your skin becomes more accustomed to it. Be prepared for some initial effects even with the lowest concentration. You may experience peeling, and there’s a possibility of what’s called “purging.” Purging refers to a phase where blemishes may appear to worsen before your overall skin condition improves. Another drawback is that tretinoin cream typically requires a prescription in most countries.
Another option is retinol, which is available without a prescription. It’s essential to note that retinol is less potent than tretinoin because it must undergo conversion into retinaldehyde and then further into tretinoin to become active within the skin cells. Nevertheless, skincare products that blend retinol with other active ingredients can still yield significant effectiveness in reducing and partially reversing the signs of skin aging. We recommend using Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum.
First time users of tretinoin or retinol-based skin creams have to be careful: only apply very little (an amount of cream the size of a pea for the whole face), and use it in the first few weeks every other day or even every third day given in the beginning these skin creams – especially tretinoin – can cause the skin to peel, look red and feel stingy. Also, use a proper moisturizer and sunscreen, given tretinoin cream can dry out the skin and make the skin more sensitive to sun damage, especially in the beginning of the treatment. After a few weeks, when the skin gets used to tretinoin or retinol, most users begin to see (and feel!) the beneficial effects.
Tretinoin and retinol show their best effects after about six months to one year of continual use.
Active Ingredients: Skin Peptides
As an essential mineral/nutrient, copper molecules are often cofactors for biological processes in fibroblasts, ranging from cell growth, appropriate extracellular matrix crosslinking to antioxidant stabilization. This makes copper critical for skin barrier function and youthfulness. Copper also is antimicrobial, keeping the skin microbiome safe from threatening infections and improving wound healing. Copper has been shown to indirectly influence antioxidant behavior in the skin, protecting from oxidative stress/free radicals (R). Copper is needed for collagen production, while specific peptides have shown to protect and maintain the skin. Examples of affordable skin (copper) peptide creams are Buffet Copper Peptides, or CAIS3. You can apply these skin products in the morning and use a retinoid-based skin product in the evening.
Ensuring that your skin receives proper hydration is another crucial method to slow down the aging process of your skin. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-present molecule found in our skin. It serves the purpose of moisturizing and hydrating the skin while also shielding it from potential damage. Furthermore, hyaluronic acid has the capability to signal the skin’s stem cells to maintain their vitality. This remarkable substance can retain a significant amount of water, thanks to its numerous hydrogen bonds. Consequently, it is highly recommended to incorporate hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine immediately after cleansing, both in the morning and evening, before applying any other active products.
An example of a good hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer is Vichy Lift Epidermal Filler serum. Ideally, you should use a skincare cream containing active ingredients that include hyaluronic acid, such as Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler + Elasticity .
Furthermore, hyaluronic acid complements tretinoin or retinol-based products because these products can initially dehydrate the skin, particularly in the first few weeks of use. There is a lot of discussion as to when to apply hyaluronic acid when you also use tretinoin cream, but you can apply hyaluronic acid before, after or with tretinoin. Keep in mind that if you apply tretinoin and hyaluronic acid together, the tretinoin can penetrate deeper into the skin, causing more side-effects (e.g. peeling and redness), especially in the beginning.
Taking hyaluronic acid orally, like the one present in NOVOS Core, can enhance skin hydration, reduce wrinkles, improve skin suppleness, increase skin radiance, and promote healthier joints, as hyaluronic acid is a vital component of cartilage.
According to certain dermatologists, as much as 80 percent of premature skin aging results from sun-induced damage. When exposed to high levels of UV rays, DNA can be irreversibly damaged.
Always wear a proper sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (a higher SPF than 30 does not have a discernable additional benefit). Ideally, you use a sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer. Reapply sunscreen after 1-2 hours in direct sunlight.
There’s ongoing debate regarding the choice between chemical and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens function by absorbing UV rays to prevent them from reaching the skin. They typically offer better resistance to sweat and water. On the other hand, physical sunscreens work by reflecting UV rays to shield the skin, making them a preferable choice for those with sensitive skin.
While many articles may advocate for physical sunscreens, it’s important to note that chemical sunscreens often provide superior protection against various wavelengths of UV light. Additionally, metal particles like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in physical sunscreens may undergo oxidation in the skin in as little as two hours. While no sunscreen is flawless, our preference leans slightly toward chemical sunscreens for achieving optimal protection.
You can also use sunscreens that can also hydrate the skin (by containing hyaluronic acid for example) or that contain active ingredients such as retinol or peptides.
Our stance on vitamin C creams is somewhat cautious. They are often promoted as effective solutions for enhancing skin health, but a significant challenge lies in the instability of vitamin C when used in skincare products. Vitamin C within these creams tends to oxidize rapidly. To combat this issue, skincare companies employ various forms of vitamin C, such as palmitated, ethylated, or glycated versions, along with antioxidants. However, even with these efforts, vitamin C still deteriorates swiftly, resulting in only a fraction of it being active within skin cells. Moreover, certain vitamin C creams contain high concentrations (up to 10 to 30 percent), which can prove overly acidic for some individuals’ skin.
Nevertheless, many individuals have reported anecdotal benefits like improved skin tone and radiance after using vitamin C creams and serums. So, provided you can find a stable product that doesn’t irritate your skin, it might be worth considering for your anti-aging skincare regimen.
Certain skincare brands incorporate niacinamide into their products. However, there remains ongoing debate regarding whether niacinamide truly functions as a SIRT inhibitor. Therefore, while these niacinamide-infused creams can enhance skin health over the short term, there is no supporting evidence to suggest they accelerate skin aging over the long term. Some individuals opt to consume niacinamide orally for anti-aging purposes. We believe that NMN (Nicotinamide Mononucleotide), like the one used in NOVOS Boost, surpasses niacinamide and its derivative, nicotinamide riboside (NR), in terms of effectiveness. We cover this topic in depth here.
2. Low-Level Light Therapy
Low-level light therapy (LLT) or photobiomodulation has scientifically shown to rejuvenate the skin, by increasing collagen and elastin production, leading to reduced wrinkles and a smoother, more youthful appearance of the skin. (R,R,R,R,R,R,R).
Red light and infrared light consists of photons (light particles) with specific energies that are absorbed by various proteins in our skin cells, which activates those proteins or improves their function. Instances of these light-absorbing proteins can be located within the mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses. This enables (infra)red light, for instance, to enhance energy production within the mitochondria. These reasons are also why red and infra-red light can improve muscle recovery, muscle pains, back pain, reduce inflammation of tendons (e.g. tendinitis) and accelerate wound healing (R,R,R,R).
For effective skin rejuvenation, it’s ideal to utilize at least two different light frequencies: one in the red light spectrum at approximately 630 nm and another in the infrared light range around 830 nm. We recommend the Omnilux Contour, which is manufactured by Omnilux, a company known for producing professional photobiomodulation devices for dermatologists. The Omnilux Contour is a facial mask that emits (infra)red light onto the face. There are also lamps that you can put in front of you and that shine their light on your face or body, like BioMax, Joovv, and MitoRed.
3. Microcurrent Devices
Microcurrent devices create a small alternating current in the skin which can activate skin cells like fibroblasts and keratinocytes, and muscle cells, to make the skin more toned and smooth.
Currently, there has not yet been a lot of scientific studies done with these devices in regards to skin rejuvenation, so there is no firm evidence yet that they are effective. One study showed improvements in skin with a microcurrent device, but this was a small study (R). Other scientific studies demonstrate that microcurrent devices can improve and accelerate wound healing and treat chronic wounds like ulcers (R,R,R,R). In vitro studies show that microcurrent can activate skin cells (R).Various dermatologists recommend these devices claiming they can provide benefits, and there are people who notice improvements of their skin with regular use.
It is important that the device is used consistently. Dermatologists also mainly view microcurrent devices as a preventive tool to slow down skin sagging and wrinkles. Examples of microcurrent devices are Foreo, Nuface and Ziip.
4. Supplements For Healthy Skin
We differentiate between skin supplements, health supplements and longevity supplements.
Health supplements are micronutrients like vitamin, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and others. Deficiencies in these micronutrients can undermine your health, including skin health, increase your risk of diseases, and even shorten lifespan. You can read our guide to micronutrients here. However, taking higher amounts of these general health supplements have not been shown to further extend lifespan or slow down the aging process. For this, longevity supplements are needed.
Longevity supplements have shown to extend lifespan by acting on fundamental aging processes. Examples are alpha-ketoglutarate, fisetin or glucosamine, all present in NOVOS Core. We summarized the best longevity or anti-aging supplements here.
Skin Supplements For a Younger-Looking Skin
Oral hyaluronic acid has shown to be absorbed by the gut into the bloodstream (R,R), and can improve wrinkles (R,R,R). NOVOS Core contains hyaluronic acid. Collagen supplements can also improve wrinkles. It’s important to use hydrolyzed collagen. We explain more about the best collagen supplements here.
Health Supplements For a Younger-Looking Skin
For healthy skin, it’s very important to make sure you take in adequate amounts of micronutrients. The skin is your biggest organ and needs many micronutrients to function and maintain itself properly. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, stilbenes and many other small molecules, often found in nature.
Important micronutrients to slow down skin aging are:
- Vitamin A: e.g. 2500 units of retinyl palmitate (not carotenoids) per day
- Iodine: we prefer a high-dose of iodine, like between 1500 and 2500 ug (microgram) per day, ideally both iodine and iodide (e.g. as droplets)
- Vitamin D: e.g. 4000 units per day of vitamin D3
- Vitamin K: e.g. 200 to 350 ug per day, as vitamin K2
- Zinc: 15 mg per day.
- B vitamins, ideally a B vitamin complex
- Selenium: e.g. 100 ug per day, ideally as selenium yeast and not selenium methionine
- Omega-3 fatty acids, ideally high-quality, low TOTOX omega-3’s
You can learn more about the best health supplements to take here.
Longevity Supplements For a Younger-Looking Skin
As we mentioned before, it’s important to differentiate between “health supplements” and “longevity supplements”. Health supplements are mainly vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients you need for an optimal, healthy life. But they do not really extend lifespan. However, if you are deficient in them, they can shorten lifespan. Longevity supplements on the other hand do extend lifespan.
This is because they act on fundamental aging processes, like improving the epigenome, mitochondrial functioning or protein recycling (proteostasis). Examples of longevity supplements are microdosed lithium, fisetin, glucosamine (the sulfate form), alpha-ketoglutarate (the calcium form), all present in NOVOS Core. Given these substances act on fundamental aging processes they also address skin aging at the root cause. Examples of such longevity supplements that also improve skin health are discussed here.
5. A Proper Skin Care Diet
A proper diet is paramount for good-looking, young-looking skin. Healthy skin reflects a healthy diet.
There are various foods that make you skin look better, such as:
- Leafy green vegetables, like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach
- Dark chocolate, ideally with at least 70 percent cacao
- Blueberries and blackberries
- Fatty fish like salmon, herring, anchovy, mackerel. Also consume fish roe (eggs), like salmon roe, lumpfish roe and herring roe. They contain very bioavailable phospholipid omega-3s
- Tea and Coffee
- Olives and olive oil
- Tomatoes (contain lycopene, which is more bioavailable when cooked)
- Chia seeds and flaxseed (contain lots of omega-3s)
- Spices and Herbs like oregano, ginger, black pepper, thyme, and parsley
Various foods accelerate skin aging, such as fried foods, sugary foods (e.g. soda, cakes, cookies), starchy foods (too much potatoes, pasta, rice, bread), and milk. Milk accelerates aging, given it activates all kinds of growth (aging) mechanisms (like mTOR, IGF and insulin receptors), and contains galactose, a milk sugar that scientists actually use to induce aging in animals. Furthermore, milk can cause inflammation, and can cause or worsen auto-immune disease in some people, like eczema or asthma. To learn more, check out our article Why Milk Accelerates Aging.
Try to avoid or to find out if specific substances make your skin look worse or older. Classic culprits are gluten-containing foods, eggs, dairy or sugars.
If you want to learn more about the best diet for longevity, we highlighted our NOVOS Longevity Diet here.
6. Science-Based Dermatological Treatments
There are many dermatological treatments available, like microdermabrasion, chemical peels, ablative laser resurfacing (with carbon dioxide and erbium lasers), non-ablative laser resurfacing (e.g. with intense pulsed light), microneedling (with rollers or pens), microneedling with radiofrequency, ultrasound treatments, and so on. So what are the best treatments?
Why Dermabrasion, Chemical Peels, and Ablative Lasers Aren’t Favorable
We do not recommend the use of microdermabrasion, chemical peels, or non-fractional ablative laser resurfacing because these treatments lead to the destruction or damage of entire skin surfaces. This approach is less than ideal because it also affects and impairs many of the crucial stem cells required for proper skin repair. Ideally, the goal should be to target specific areas of the skin for damage, as seen with techniques like microneedling. This way, the majority of stem cells remain undamaged and can migrate to the damaged regions to facilitate repair.
While treatments that involve the destruction or damage of entire skin areas, such as non-fractional ablative laser resurfacing or strong chemical peels, may lead to short-term improvements in appearance, their long-term effects, including potential depletion of skin stem cells, remain uncertain.
Exercise Caution With Laser Treatments
There are two types of laser treatments: fractional and non-fractional
Fractional means the laser light does not hit the entire surface, but only in specific areas, creating small columns of damaged skin. Non-fractional lasers damage the entire surface. As mentioned before, we don’t like the entire surface being damaged, which can lead to too much stem cell damage and exhaustion.
Then there are ablative lasers and non-ablative lasers. Ablative lasers are very powerful and destroy the skin, removing the entire epidermis and heating up/damaging the underlying dermis. This causes in our view too much damage, especially to skin stem cells. Non-ablative lasers are more gentle, just heating up the skin, which can lead to more collagen growth for example.
We have reservations about lasers, even when administered fractionally (targeting specific areas, not the entire surface) or in a non-ablative, gentler manner. There is still the potential for significant skin damage, including long-term harm to a substantial number of stem cells.
Be Careful with Cryotherapy
We are also cautious about cryotherapy, a technique that employs extreme cold to freeze and eliminate skin cells. This method has the potential to harm numerous healthy cells, including valuable stem cells. Additionally, it can lead to the depletion of fat cells in the facial area, which is essential for maintaining a youthful appearance and preventing the characteristic hollowed-out look associated with aging.
Microneedling For Skin Rejuvenation
We are fans of microneedling, with or without radiofrequency, to improve and rejuvenate the skin.
Microneedles create tiny holes in the skin, activating surrounding cells, including stem cells, to repair the damage. There are different devices to do microneedling, like dermarollers and microneedling pens. We prefer pens over rollers, because with dermapens the needles are inserted directly into the skin, perpendicularly, while with derma rollers the needles create more torn-out wounds, given the needles have to roll into the skin, ripping the skin open. Microneedling can also be combined with radiofrequency (RF). The small needles, when penetrating the skin, also emit radiofrequency waves, which heat up the surrounding tissue, leading to increased collagen production for example.
You can combine microneedling with platelet-rich plasma (PRP). PRP is made from your own blood (after drawing blood, centrifuging it and extracting a specific fraction of it that contains lots of platelets and growth factors). After microneedles have punctured many holes in the skin, the PRP is applied, allowing it to penetrate the skin through the thousands of little holes. Microneedling can also be combined with stem cell medium (R) or specific growth factors, like epidermal growth factor (EGF) or granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF).
Ultrasound Therapy For Skin Rejuvenation
Ultrasound devices emit high-energy ultrasound waves into the skin, leading to increased collagen production. We like this kind of treatment; it can lift the skin and make you look younger, without the need for more drastic invasive procedures like a facelift. Some people however complain the treatment is rather painful. An example of such a therapy is Ultherapy, which is available at dermatologist offices.
Fillers and a Younger-Looking Skin
Fillers (e.g. injecting hyaluronic acid) can also improve skin appearance, but are temporary (e.g. they work for about 6 months to a year). They can smooth out fine lines and create a more younger-looking, lifted face. Be careful not to use too much filler, which can make the face look too pumped up and too unnatural. Examples of fillers are Teosyal, Juvederm or Restylane.
Is Botox a Good Idea?
Botox paralyzes the muscles, preventing contraction of the skin and thus skin wrinkles. One needs to be careful with applying too much botox. Repetitive botox injections, paralyzing the muscles, leads to dwindling of the muscles (atrophy), which in the long-term can make you actually look older. After all, one of the reasons why a face looks old is because of dwindling of facial muscles, and the dwindling of bone mass (e.g. because the facial muscles exert less pull on the bone, which is needed to keep the bone healthy).
Reduced facial muscle mass and changes in facial bone structure contributes significantly to looking old. There are patients that have used botox for such a long time that some of their muscles, like the one of the forehead, are so thin you can almost see the bone structure underneath. This is not ideal. Most dermatologists won’t tell you about the long-term drawbacks of botox use; they like using botox given it’s such an easy and quick treatment. However, judiciously applying botox in small amounts in specific areas with (deep) mechanical wrinkles could be helpful in some cases.
Final Thoughts on Dermatological Anti-Aging Treatments
In the last two decades, we have seen the rise of various new treatments, and the improvement of various existing treatments. Thanks to these new developments, it’s not really necessary anymore to undergo invasive procedures like facelifts to look younger. In fact, non-invasive skin rejuvenation treatments, like microneedling and ultrasound therapy, can enable people to look decades younger, while still having a natural look, especially when they also combine these treatments with long-term use of tretinoin cream, proper moisturizers and sunscreen.
7. Silicone Patches
As previously mentioned, cells are highly responsive to their surroundings. The specific pressure and shear forces applied by silicone patches to the underlying skin have the potential to gradually diminish wrinkles. Traditionally, silicone patches are employed to expedite wound healing and encourage proper collagen formation. However, their effectiveness on regular skin may not be as pronounced.
For optimal results, these silicone patches should ideally be worn for extended periods, typically overnight. After several weeks of consistent use, there may be a noticeable reduction in wrinkles. Silicone patches facilitate the creation of a moist environment, which could be one of the mechanisms contributing to their “wrinkle-reducing” effect.
A notable example of anti-wrinkle silicone patches is SiO patches.
Skin Rejuvenation: A Science-Based Approach
From the precision of well-structured skincare regimens to the latest cutting-edge technologies like low-level light therapy and microcurrent devices, we have explored the science behind popular rejuvenation strategies. One thing is abundantly clear: Science empowers us to make informed choices and opt for strategies that not only enhance our immediate appearance but also promote the enduring health and vitality of our skin.