As we age, our skin can start to show signs of wear and tear, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. While there are many skincare products available that claim to improve the appearance of aging skin, it can be difficult to know which ingredients are truly effective.
Fortunately, scientific research has identified several ingredients that have been shown to have promising effects on skin health from the perspectives of longevity and youthful appearance. In this exploration of scientifically studied skincare ingredients, we will uncover the most promising ingredients for skin health, looking at the latest research and clinical studies to determine which ingredients are most effective at promoting healthy, youthful-looking skin.
For an even more comprehensive article on longevity skincare, that includes technologies, supplements, and more, click here.
The Contenders for Topical Longevity Skincare
Although all of these are contenders for a topical longevity skincare routine, we don’t recommend all of them. Read on to learn more about the ingredients that are worth including in your routine and those that you should probably pass on.
- Retinoids: a form of Vitamin A that helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, and even out skin tone.
- Facial sunblock: an essential for any skincare routine, facial sunblock reduces DNA damage and the resulting acceleration of skin aging.
- Vitamin C: an antioxidant that helps to brighten the skin, protect against environmental damage, and stimulate collagen production.
- Niacinamide: a form of Vitamin B3 that helps to reduce inflammation, improve skin texture, and regulate oil production.
- Hyaluronic acid: a humectant that helps to hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs): exfoliants that help to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs): exfoliants that penetrate deeper into the pores to help unclog them and reduce the appearance of acne.
- Peptides: small proteins that help to stimulate collagen production and improve skin texture.
Retinoids and Skin Aging
Highly Recommended for Longevity Skincare
Retinoids are a class of compounds that are derived from Vitamin A and have been extensively studied for their skin benefits. They are known to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone, and help with acne. Of all topical skin care ingredients, this is the gold standard, appreciated by dermatologists and skin researchers across the world.
The two main types of retinoids are prescription and over-the-counter (OTC).
Prescription retinoids, such as tretinoin, are more potent and typically used to treat moderate to severe acne, as well as for anti-aging purposes. Tretinoin has been extensively studied and has been shown to effectively reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.
The pros of prescription retinoids are that they are more potent and effective than OTC retinoids and can be particularly helpful for individuals with more severe acne or advanced signs of aging. However, they can also be more irritating and drying to the skin, especially during the initial adjustment period. Additionally, they require a prescription from a dermatologist, which can be inconvenient and more expensive than OTC options.
OTC retinoids, such as retinol, are less potent and are typically used for milder anti-aging purposes. They are available in many skincare products and do not require a prescription. Retinol is converted to tretinoin in the skin, so it can provide similar benefits to prescription retinoids, although it may take longer to see results.
The pros of OTC retinoids are that they are more widely available and affordable than prescription options and may be better suited for individuals with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate prescription retinoids. However, they may also be less effective than prescription retinoids, especially for more severe acne or advanced signs of aging.
It’s important to note that both prescription and OTC retinoids can increase skin sensitivity to the sun, so it’s crucial to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day when using these products. Additionally, it’s best to start with a low concentration of retinoids and gradually increase over time to minimize skin irritation.
Retinoids and Hallmarks of Skin Aging
Retinoids can impact the hallmarks of aging as they are exhibited in the skin. Here’s how:
Stem cells: Retinoids have been shown to promote the differentiation of stem cells into keratinocytes, which are important for skin barrier function and wound healing. They have also been shown to increase the number of stem cells in the skin, which can help maintain skin health and prevent age-related changes. (Kafi R et al. Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Arch Dermatol. 2007 May;143(5):606-12).
Glycation: Glycation is a process that can contribute to skin aging by causing the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can damage collagen and elastin in the skin. Retinoids have been shown to reduce the formation of AGEs and help prevent glycation-related skin damage. (Mukherjee S et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006 Dec;1(4):327-48).
Senescent cells: Senescent cells are cells that have stopped dividing and can contribute to aging and age-related diseases. Retinoids have been shown to promote the clearance of senescent cells in the skin, which can help improve skin health and prevent age-related changes. (Reference: Lopez-Otin, C et al. Loss of MT1-MMP causes cell senescence and nuclear defects which can be reversed by retinoic acid. The Embo Journal. 2015 Jul 14; 34(14): 1875–1888).
Mitochondrial health: Mitochondria are important for cellular energy production and have been implicated in skin aging. Retinoids have been shown to improve mitochondrial function in skin cells, which can help prevent age-related changes and improve overall skin health. (Varani J et al. Vitamin A antagonizes decreased cell growth and elevated collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases and stimulates collagen accumulation in naturally aged human skin. J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Nov;115(5): 972-9).
Sunblock and Facial Aging
Highly Recommended for Longevity Skincare
Sunblock is an essential skincare product for protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation, which can contribute to facial aging by causing DNA damage, oxidative stress, and the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin. By blocking these harmful UV rays, sunblock can help to prevent these damaging effects and promote healthy, youthful-looking skin.
One of the ways in which sunblock protects the skin from facial aging is by preventing the formation of free radicals, which can cause oxidative damage to the skin cells. This damage can lead to premature aging, including the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. Sunblock works by blocking the UV radiation that triggers the formation of free radicals, thereby reducing the risk of oxidative damage to the skin.
Another way in which sunblock can help to prevent facial aging is by protecting the skin from the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are important proteins that give the skin its strength, elasticity, and smooth texture. However, UV radiation can break down these proteins, leading to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin. By blocking the harmful UV rays that cause this damage, sunblock can help to maintain healthy collagen and elastin levels in the skin, promoting a more youthful appearance.
Research has shown that regular use of sunblock can have significant benefits for skin health and reducing the signs of facial aging. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that daily use of sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher can help to prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as other signs of sun damage. (Hughes MC, Williams GM, Baker P, Green AC. Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(11):781–790. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-158-11-201306040-00002).
Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that regular use of sunblock can help to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of age spots. (Mahmoud BH, Ruvolo E, Hexsel CL, et al. Impact of long-wavelength UVA and visible light on melanocompetent skin. J Invest Dermatol. 2010;130(8):2092-2097. doi: 10.1038/jid.2010.92).
Sunblock is an essential skincare product for protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation and preventing facial aging. By blocking the harmful UV rays that cause oxidative damage, collagen breakdown, and other signs of aging, sunblock can help to promote healthy, youthful-looking skin. Incorporating regular use of sunblock into a comprehensive skincare routine can have significant benefits for skin health and maintaining a more youthful appearance.
Which SPF Should I Use?
The recommended SPF for daily use of sunblock is ideally 30, but at least 15, the minimum level that provides adequate protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, which can cause sunburn and premature aging, along with increasing the risk of skin cancer.
In addition to the SPF rating, it’s also important to choose a broad-spectrum sunblock. A broad-spectrum sunblock provides protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, which are two types of ultraviolet radiation that can cause different types of skin damage. UVB radiation is responsible for sunburn and skin cancer, while UVA radiation penetrates deeper into the skin and can cause wrinkles, age spots, and other types of skin damage.
Vitamin C and The Hallmarks of Skin Aging
Recommended for Longevity Skincare, but with exceptions
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the skin from oxidative stress and environmental damage. It works by neutralizing free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to aging. (Farris PK. Topical vitamin C: a useful agent for treating photoaging and other dermatologic conditions. Dermatol Surg. 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 2):814-7; discussion 818).
Vitamin C further plays an important role in collagen synthesis, which is crucial for maintaining skin structure and preventing wrinkles and fine lines. It works by promoting the production of collagen and other extracellular matrix proteins in the skin. (Pullar JM et al. The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 12;9(8):866).
Glycation is a process that can contribute to skin aging by causing the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can damage collagen and elastin in the skin. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the formation of AGEs and help prevent glycation-related skin damage. (Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013 Apr-Jun;4(2):143-6).
Vitamin C has also been shown to promote the differentiation of stem cells into keratinocytes, which are important for skin barrier function and wound healing. It has also been shown to increase the number of stem cells in the skin, which can help maintain skin health and prevent age-related changes. (Zhang, P et al. Vitamin C promotes the proliferation of human adipose-derived stem cells via p53-p21 pathway. Organogenesis. 2016 Jul;12(3): 143–151).
When it comes to topical vitamin C, we overall recommend it, but with caveats. Vitamin C creams and serums are touted as ways to improve skin health, but the vitamin C in skin creams is very unstable and oxidizes very quickly.
Skincare companies try to remedy this with different versions of vitamin C (like using palmitated, ethylated or glycated versions of vitamin C), and by combining it with antioxidants, but even then vitamin C oxidizes and degrades quickly and only a fraction of the vitamin C is active inside skin cells.
Another problem is that some vitamin C creams contain a lot of vitamin C (e.g. up to 30%) which can be too acidic for some people’s skin.
Nonetheless, many people anecdotally report benefits to skin tone and luminescence after using vitamin C creams and serums, so assuming you find one that is shelf stable and does not irritate your skin, you may want to consider it for your longevity skincare routine.
It’s worth noting that vitamin C when taken orally doubles as a longevity ingredient, as we explain here.
Topical Niacinamide Creams and Serums
Not Recommended for Longevity Skincare
Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, is a water-soluble vitamin that has been extensively studied for its many health benefits when consumed orally. However, when applied topically, we aren’t yet convinced.
The reason is that niacinamide can inhibit sirtuins, which are important proteins required for maintaining the DNA and epigenome (R).
So while niacinamide containing creams and serums may improve visible signs of skin health in the short-term, they could theoretically accelerate skin aging in the long-term.
With all of the other powerful skincare ingredients that we can take advantage of, we currently take the position of not advising the use of topical niacinamide. As with everything, as new research is published, we will reevaluate our position.
Note that while some people take niacinamide orally for anti-aging purposes, we explain here why NMN is better than niacinamide or its derivative, nicotinamide riboside (NR).
Hyaluronic Acid and the Hallmarks of Aging
Highly Recommended for Longevity Skincare
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means that it attracts and holds onto water molecules. This can help to hydrate the skin and improve skin texture, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. (Juncan, A et al. Advantages of Hyaluronic Acid and Its Combination with Other Bioactive Ingredients in Cosmeceuticals. Molecules. 2021 Aug; 26(15): 4429).
Hyaluronic acid has been shown to reduce inflammation in the skin, which can help improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of redness and irritation. It works by inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines and other mediators in the skin. (Jegasothy SM et al. Efficacy of a new topical nano-hyaluronic acid in humans. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Nov;7(11):27-9).
Glycation is a process that can contribute to skin aging by causing the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can damage collagen and elastin in the skin. Hyaluronic acid has been shown to reduce the inflammation caused by AGEs and help prevent glycation-related skin damage.
Hyaluronic acid has been shown to improve mitochondrial function in cartilage, which can help prevent age-related changes and may extend to improving overall skin health. (Grishko, V et al. Effects of Hyaluronic Acid on Mitochondrial Function and Mitochondria-driven Apoptosis following Oxidative Stress in Human Chondrocyte. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2009 Apr 3; 284(14): 9132–9139).
Hyaluronic acid can be applied topically in the form of a serum, or as a component of a moisturizer. There are different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, which allows for the lower weight particles to permeate deeper into the skin, and the heavier particles to stay closer to the surface. While this is a good approach, you don’t want the molecular weight to be too low, because it can lead to irritation in the form of inflammation. Keep a close eye on how your skin reacts to the hyaluronic acid and make sure there is no reddening.
Did you know that hyaluronic acid can also be ingested orally? Doing so can provide benefits to the deepest layers of your skin, and then go well beyond that for overall longevity. It is contained in NOVOS Core and you can learn more about oral hyaluronic acid here.
Doing Acid… On Your Face
Recommended for longevity skincare, but with care
AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are two types of exfoliating acids that have become popular skincare ingredients due to their ability to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and unclog pores. While both AHAs and BHAs are effective at exfoliating the skin, they have some differences in their properties and effects on the skin.
AHAs are water-soluble acids that work by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be easily removed from the surface of the skin. The most common AHAs used in skincare products are glycolic acid and lactic acid. AHAs are generally best suited for people with dry or sensitive skin, as they are less likely to cause irritation than BHAs. They are also effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin texture.
BHAs, on the other hand, are oil-soluble acids that work by penetrating into the pores and dissolving excess sebum and dead skin cells that can cause acne and other types of blemishes. The most common BHA used in skincare products is salicylic acid. BHAs are generally best suited for people with oily or acne-prone skin, as they can help to reduce inflammation and prevent breakouts. BHAs are also effective at improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
In general, both AHAs and BHAs have many benefits for the skin, including:
Exfoliation: AHAs and BHAs are both effective at exfoliating the skin, removing dead skin cells and other impurities to reveal smoother, brighter, and healthier-looking skin.
Acne prevention: BHAs are particularly effective at preventing acne and other types of blemishes by penetrating into the pores and dissolving excess sebum and dead skin cells that can cause breakouts.
Anti-aging: Both AHAs and BHAs have anti-aging benefits, such as reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin texture and tone.
Sun damage repair: AHAs can help to repair sun damage by promoting skin cell turnover, which can help to reduce the appearance of dark spots and other types of hyperpigmentation.
It’s important to note that both AHAs and BHAs can cause skin irritation and sensitivity, especially at higher concentrations. It’s best to start with a low concentration and gradually increase it over time to minimize skin irritation. It’s best to use AHAs and BHAs under the guidance of a dermatologist or skincare professional, and it’s essential that you use sunblock after use.
The Newcomers: Skin Peptides
Some are highly recommended for longevity skincare
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins, and they play a vital role in many biological processes in the body, including skin health. Peptides can signal to the body to turn certain processes on or off, and in topical skincare, peptides are commonly used to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
When applied topically, peptides can penetrate the skin and signal the body to produce more collagen, which is a key structural protein that gives skin its elasticity and firmness. Some peptides also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce redness and inflammation in the skin.
According to a review of the scientific literature, peptides have shown promising results in improving skin texture and reducing the signs of aging, and are considered a safe and effective ingredient in topical skincare products (Gorouhi, F., & Maibach, H. I. (2009). Role of topical peptides in preventing or treating aged skin. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 31(5), 327-345. Schagen, S. K. (2017). Topical Peptide Treatments with Effective Anti-Aging Results. Cosmetics, 4(2), 16.).
There are several promising peptides for skin health that have been studied, including:
- Copper peptides: known to have antioxidant properties and promote collagen synthesis, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture.
- Matrixyl 3000: a peptide blend that has been shown to stimulate collagen production and improve skin firmness and elasticity.
- Palmitoyl oligopeptide: a peptide that has been shown to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Palmitoyl pentapeptide-4: a peptide that has been shown to stimulate collagen and elastin production, helping to improve skin firmness and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Acetyl hexapeptide-8: a peptide that has been shown to reduce the appearance of expression lines and wrinkles, particularly around the eyes and forehead.
Longevity Skincare From The Inside Out?
While there are many scientifically studied skincare ingredients that have been shown to have significant benefits for skin health and maintaining a youthful appearance, it’s important to address the underlying aging processes to truly impact skin health for the long term. To slow down the rate at which the skin ages, it’s essential to address aging from the inside out. This can be accomplished by taking a proactive approach to our overall health and wellness, including nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits.
One product that can help to achieve this is NOVOS Core, which is designed to support healthy aging and promote optimal cellular function. By taking a comprehensive approach to skin health and focusing on the underlying mechanisms of aging, we can maintain healthy, youthful-looking skin for years to come.
For an even more comprehensive article on longevity skincare, that includes technologies, supplements, and more, click here.