When it comes to the search for healthy skin, the myriad of options can be overwhelming. Each product promises us healthier skin, and they all claim to be the most effective— how are we supposed to know which ones actually work best? The answer lies in the ingredients list. Here are five dermatologist-recommended ingredients that are clinically proven to benefit your skin:
1. Hyaluronic Acid
What is it?
Hyaluronic acid is a gooey compound products by our bodies. It’s most prevalent in our skin, eyes, and connective tissue, and studies have shown that it is a powerhouse of lubricating hydration with the ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
Why do you need it?
Due to both the aging process and environmental pollutants, our bodies greatly slow their production of hyaluronic acid over time, so it’s important to help restore as much of it as we can. This ingredient helps to moisturize skin better than almost anything. Topical applications of hyaluronic acid have shown to reduce wrinkles, plump skin, correct redness, and help prevent acne breakouts. It’s a very gentle ingredient, as it is already being produced by our bodies, so it’s perfect for sensitive skin.
2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
What are they?
AHAs are chemical compounds that have become major players in the world of skin care and cosmetics. They can be derived either naturally or synthetically, and come in varying degrees of strength, from mild cleansers to aggressive chemical peels.
Why do you need them?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids are used for a number of reasons, but their primary purpose in skin care is exfoliation. By stripping dead cells and impurities from your skin, AHAs give way to the fresh, healthy skin below. This is important for a number of reasons, as dead skin cells tend to dull your complexion and lead to wrinkles, acne, and age spots. Alpha hydroxy acids come in a number of forms, but the most common are glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid.
3. Vitamin C
What is it?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid and l-ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant-rich vitamin found in foods, supplements, and skin care. It has proven to have a plethora of benefits for both your health and your skin’s health.
Why do you need it?
Antioxidants in general have been shown time and time again to greatly improve damage caused by free radicals. These free radicals manifest themselves in everything, but they’re particularly harmful via sun exposure and environmental pollutants, which is to say: none of us are safe from free radical damage. Vitamin C not only combats these free radicals, but also works to improve and brighten our skin. It can greatly even out skin texture, correcting sun and age spots, as well as hyperpigmentation. Plus, it does wonders for accelerating the skin’s natural repair systems.
What is it?
Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A. It’s been a long time superstar in the world of skin care for its ability to fight signs of aging skin.
Why do you need it?
Retinol may be the industry gold standard as far as effective ingredients go. Its primary focus is cellular turnover and repair. In other words, it sloughs off the dead skin and impurities and promotes the growth of healthy, new skin cells. As those new cells rise to the surface, your skin experiences something of a “reset.” Because of this, retinol is effective at treating so many things: wrinkles, acne, clogged pores, and redness or uneven skin. A word of caution: retinol is an aggressive treatment, and should be slowly incorporated into your routine. Initially, we recommend using it every other day, or even every third day, depending on the sensitivity of your skin.
What are they?
Peptides are small nutrient-rich proteins. They come in various sizes and work to bond and strengthen existing protein compounds in our bodies.
Why do you need them?
Peptides are experiencing a surge in popularity as of late, and with good reason. Peptides are tiny enough to penetrate into the skin’s dermis, where important proteins like collagen are formed. By helping to strengthen our existing collagen, peptides help to repair damaged skin and smooth the rough parts. Because of their ability to penetrate so deeply, peptides have shown particularly positive results for more delicate, aging-prone skin, like that around our eyes and neck.
What works for your skin, and what’s just hype.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, and that being the case, it has almost everything to do with the appearance of our skin. Simply put: the more collagen we have in our skin, the firmer and plumper the skin looks.
Unfortunately, as we age, collagen production slows and skin starts to wrinkle and sag. Reversing collagen loss could mean healthier, less-wrinkled skin, which is why the recent years have seen a slew of trendy collagen-rich products flood the market. From creams to supplements (like the seemingly ubiquitous “collagen water”), today we’ll explore which products have been proven to be effective, and which ones are simply clever marketing hype.
Collagen-filled creams and moisturizers have been around for some time, but as the collagen-craze has grown, so have the number of creams. It’s important to note that these products can be very good for helping to hydrate your skin, but smearing pure collagen on the outer layer of your skin is very unlikely to actually stimulate any real growth.
The structure of collagen is braided and rope-like. Amino acids combine to form long chains that stick together, forming strands. Those strands bundle and twist to form triple helices, which are then clustered together on top of one another. Which is to say, the final molecules are large and wildly intricate. Their size is ultimately the largest problem, as the molecules are far too large to penetrate the skin’s surface and make it down to the dermis, where collagen is actually produced.
To combat the size issue, companies have started to break down these larger molecules into much smaller sizes, often known as collagen peptides. These peptides theoretically do stand a better chance of penetrating the skin, but so far this theory hasn’t been well-tested, and certainly hasn’t been clinically proven.
Again, these creams can be very moisturizing, as collagen does create a luscious texture that feels soothing to the skin’s surface, but as far as actual production goes, unfortunately, it’s just not in the cards. Simply applying collagen on the skin’s surface does not stimulate the actual production of the protein.
Supplements touting the improvement of collagen levels are everywhere. From powders to foods to water, companies are churning out collagen products left and right. The good news is that several studies have shown that your body may retain small amounts when ingesting collagen supplements. The bad news, sadly, is that because supplements aren’t FDA regulated or tested the way drugs are, there’s no way to be sure of exactly what’s in the products or how effective they really are.
Additionally, there’s been no proof that supplements provide a greater collagen boost than a healthy diet would. Protein-rich foods are well known to be high in collagen, so incorporating meat, eggs and beans into your diet is a more natural way of getting your collagen boost.
Getting to The Source
While applying topical collagen, or trying to ingest it, may not achieve the results you’d hoped for, there are other products that have been clinically proven to help stimulate production or slow the decline of collagen.
First: sunscreen. Nothing takes a toll on collagen like the sun’s UV rays. Applying sunscreen is the most effective way to slow the destruction of collagen cells, not to mention a good practice in general. Wear it liberally and daily to prevent the break down of healthy cells.
There are also a number of products that work to stimulate collagen production, rather than just putting it on top of your skin. Retinol and retinoid creams do a wonderful job at boosting collagen, and they’ve been clinically proven to reverse the signs of aging for decades. Additionally, certain products (like our Needle-less Serum, for instance) contain ingredients like Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, and our Copper Complex, all of which have shown significant results in the stimulation of collagen production. Recent studies have shown that by stimulating the collagen cells your body already has, instead of trying to artificially add more, treatments like Needle-less Serum have boosted collagen levels by as much as 190%.
Clinical Interventions in Aging, December 2006, pages 327-348
Biopolymers, March 2012, pages 189-198
Dermatoendocrinology, July 2012, pages 308-319
Nutrients, November 2017, online publication
A balanced diet is a critical part of a healthy life, but did you know consuming certain foods can actually help reverse the signs of aging skin?
We often tout using topical antioxidants to help prevent premature aging, but incorporating antioxidant-heavy foods into your diet can also lead to a brighter, more youthful complexion. Additionally, fats, vitamins and minerals found in these foods often have anti-inflammatory properties, which help relieve redness and uneven skin tone.
Here are 6 foods that will help your skin look its best:
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It may surprise you to learn that high-fat oil can actually help your skin’s health, but Extra Virgin Olive Oil does just that. High in oleic acid, Olive Oil works as an effective anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe and repair inflamed skin. On top of that, Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols, both of which are powerful antioxidants.
These antioxidants help fight damaging free radicals that are found everywhere. Free radicals attack healthy collagen cells, speeding up the skin’s aging process. Luckily, antioxidants work quickly and efficiently to combat free radical damage and restore skin’s youthful glow.
Carrots are very high in vitamin A, or beta-carotene, which has long been revered as helpful for vision. But vitamin A is also a powerful anti-aging component, otherwise known as Retinol in the beauty industry. Increasing your intake of vitamin A can help slow the visible signs of aging skin.
Furthermore, carrots contain a healthy amount of vitamin C, which helps your skin stay plump and elastic by boosting collagen production.
Avocados are extremely high in fat, but contain only trace amounts of sugar, making them a prime candidate for this list. The fat comprising avocados is primarily oleic acid, which, as we mentioned earlier, works effectively as an anti-inflammatory.
The omega-9 fatty acids found in them help lock in moisture, keeping skin cells hydrated. Plus, due to their high carotenoid content, they work to block environmental toxins from entering the skin.
Citrus in general can be wonderfully helpful to the skin, as it tends to have high concentrations of vitamin C, but lemons are the gold standard.
Because they are so potently high in vitamin C, lemons help produce collagen, as well as ward off free radicals. Studies have shown that consuming foods with high vitamin C levels can decrease the likeliness of dry skin and help prevent wrinkles.
5. Red Wine
Yes, you read that right—red wine made the list! Studies have shown that red wine is very rich in antioxidant polyphenols. These have long been recognized as helpful for your heart, but recent research indicates that polyphenols can be equally good for your skin. Antioxidant polyphenols have shown to be exceptionally beneficial in combating aging skin.
That said, remember to consume in moderation. Too many glasses per week can end up damaging skin over time.
Salmon is often recognized for its heart-healthy omega-3s and omega-6s, but in addition to keeping your heart pumping, salmon may have major skin benefits.
The fatty acids found in the fish help improve redness and hyperpigmentation, hydrate dry skin, and improve the skin’s barrier function, making it a great addition to your skin-centric foods!
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