Many factors impact the youthfulness and clarity of one’s skin including genetics, smoking history, and use of unsuitable topical products. However, unprotected exposure to UV radiation, emitted by both the sun and indoor tanning devices, is the most preventable cause of early skin aging including wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. Therefore, any meaningful anti-aging regimen should include daily sun protection measures as follows: seeking shade when possible, avoiding prolonged sun exposure between the hours of 9 am to 3 pm (“high sun”), applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher, wearing protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when exposed to direct sunlight. For sunscreens to be effective they must be applied daily even on cloudy days and reapplied regularly (on average every 80 minutes). Make up should be applied after sunscreen unless one’s makeup is a mineral powder foundation containing a SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. Many dermatologists, including myself, favor a “physical” sunscreen (sometimes referred to as mineral or natural blocks) containing zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide. I highly recommend newer formulations of these physical blockers that use micronized ingredients thereby avoiding a white residue and thus cosmetically more appealing. For specific recommendations suited to your skin type please seek advice from a board-certified skin care specialist.
Besides sun-protection there are a number of “anti-aging” ingredients that have scientifically proven properties aimed at minimizing the appearance of fine lines and sun damage. Chief among these is tretinoin, a topical prescription cream in the vitamin A family, which is applied nightly as a thin layer to thoroughly dried face and neck. While over time they can provide powerful correction of fine wrinkles, large pores and uneven skin tone, tretinoin creams may cause irritation and dryness for many who use them regularly. These individuals can still benefit from a milder, much more tolerable ingredient in the vitamin A family called retinol which is available in many over-the-counter anti-aging products. Another notable ingredient is stabilized vitamin C (pure L-ascorbic acid), which is formulated in majority of “antioxidant” serums. These serums may be applied either in morning or at night and help neutralize skin-damaging free radicals caused by sun exposure. With regular use they can lead to improvement in fine lines and uneven skin tone. Another favorite among dermatologists are moisturizing creams or cleansers containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) which help exfoliate the skin surface thereby improving skin tone and texture, fine lines and clogged pores. Among the AHAs glycolic acid is my preferred ingredient as it has the smallest size and thus the greatest skin penetration.
Finally moisturizing is essential to maintaining the healthy barrier protective function of the skin and improving its texture. Patients with oilier or acne prone skin should use oil-free and non-comedogenic (does not clog pores) moisturizers. Those with drier skin will benefit from moisturizers containing ceramides and/or hyaluronic acid. These two later molecules are naturally produced by skin cells and have enhanced barrier-protective and moisturizing properties.
For more specific recommendations on anti-aging skin care products or ingredients suitable to your skin please consult with a board-certified skin care specialist.
Daniel Navi, M.D., F.A.A.D