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Youth in a Bottle

Anti-aging moisturizers demystified by Paget Kagy
Nov 16, 12:50 pm

Womankind —and a growing share of mankind — is on an ages-old quest for a face-lift in a jar. We’ve all seen hundreds of creams that claim anti-wrinkle breakthroughs. The vocabulary they use sometimes sounds impressively technical but look closely and it turns out to be just jargon and doubletalk.

All right ladies, let’s roll up our sleeves and down to the business of hacking through the jungle of claims. We have to start by understanding the vicious mechanism of skin aging.

The problem of skin aging begins with decreased production of dermal collagen. We’ve all heard of collagen injections, but what is collagen and why is it so important for our skin? Collagen is a protein that gives skin its structure, firmness and elasticity. Fibroblasts are responsible for the creation of collagen. With age they become less active, leading to a decrease in collagen production. Exposure to UV rays also inhibits the ability of fibroblasts to produce collagen, accelerating the aging effect.

Collagen fibers last as long as 30 years. With age and UV exposure they deteriorate and fragment. In turn the fragmented collagen further impairs the collagen-producing function of fibroblasts. As fragmented collagen accumulates, new collagen production decreases and the connections between fibroblasts and the collagen weaken, leading to wrinkles.

Let’s demystify some of the popular ingredients found in today’s anti-aging skin creams:

Hydroxy Acids

Hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin—removing old skin so that newer, younger skin is exposed. Ultimately, the effect is to make fine lines and superficial wrinkles “disappear”. Among them are lactic acid, glycolic acid (fruit derivative), and salicylic acid. Their effectiveness is dependent on concentration. Glycolic acid in prescription-only concentrations of 30% of higher is known to increase collagen production and skin elasticity and thicken the epidermis (outermost layer of skin).
   Over-the counter alternatives, however, do little more than remove the top layer of skin, making skin appear brighter. This can lead to sunburn and irritation. Beware: stripping your skin of the outer protective layer makes it more vulnerable to deeper sun damage.


Antioxidants are often presented in the form of green tea, vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q-10 and superoxide dismutase. Antioxidants “hook” onto the unstable free radicals generated by UV light and neutralize them, preventing them from doing damage. Some dermatologists claim that certain antioxidants can help promote collagen production.


Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that come in both prescription and nonprescription strengths. Retinoids suppress collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down collagen after UV exposure. They have also been shown to increase the amount of new collagen formed. After applying retinoid to the skin, the skin is extra sensitive to UV rays, requiring resort to large amounts of sunscreen. The unfortunate side effects include irritation, dryness and peeling of the skin for the first two months. Retinoid formulas provide benefits only with regular and continued use, according to Dr. Gerald Weinstein, UC Irvine’s dermatology chair.
   Tretinoin (typically packaged as Retin-A) is the stronger prescription formulation of retinoid found to significantly build collagen, regenerate elastin in the skin, and diminish abnormal pigmentation. But users should know that regular use of expensive tretinoid formulas can make skin become heavily dependent on them.
   Retinol is a milder, over-the-counter alternative to tretinoin and is found in a number of skin care products. Oil of Olay’s Pro-X Intensive Protocol uses a retinol formula as its main wrinkle-fighting ingredient.


Resveratrol is a compound found in some plants like raspberries and mulberries. It is most commonly known for its high concentration in grape skins. Researchers believe resveratrol is what gives red wine its health benefits and explain the “French paradox” — why the French live longer than Americans despite heavy wine drinking and fatty foods.
   In some studies resveratrol has been shown to mimic the proven anti-aging effects of severe diet restriction. Researchers found that a severe limit of caloric intake for mice (the equivalent of under 1000 calories per day for humans) led to a significant increase in life span. When food intake is cut down, the compound responsible for converting glucose into energy seeks to carry out other tasks in the body. The suppression of glucose conversion from food turns on the anti-aging genes SIRT1 and SIRT2.
   The top-secret “Youth Molecule”, Resveratrate, found in Estée lauder’s Re-Nutriv Ultimate Youth Crème harnesses resveratrol’s anti-aging properties in a concentrated and stable topical form.


We try to avoid infectious bacteria that can make us ill. Probiotics are the bacteria that naturally exist in the human digestive system. Sometimes termed “good” bacteria, probiotics help with the digestion of food, the absorption of minerals and nutrients and the proper functioning of the digestive and immune systems. Additionally, probiotics combat “bad” bacteria, free radicals, pollutants and allergens.
   Their beneficial effect on our body include numerous benefits to the skin. In fact, probiotics are used to treat skin problems like aczema and acne. On the skin probiotics act as both an enhancer and a protector in the same way they function within the digestive tract. Their power to assist nutrient absorption and act as a barrier against harmful environmental factors provide a natural solution for anti-aging skincare.
   Lancôme’s Génifique cream uses the anti-aging properties of probiotics in its Bio-lysat formula.


Peptides are small chains of amino acids (the basic building blocks of proteins) that act as messengers within the skin to encourage collagen and elastic production. Proteins have two functions — provide the structure of the skin and act as messengers within the communication centers responsible for collagen and elastin production. As we age these important proteins in our skin become damaged, slowing collagen production. Topical application of peptides aim to regenerate collagen production in skin cells that have been slowed by aging and UV damage.
   Among other patented ingredients, Dior’s Capture Totale Multi-Perfection Cream utilizes the restorative powers of peptides to minimize the effects of aging.

When shopping for the right anti-aging moisturizer it’s important to consider the formulation of the cream you are buying as well as its active ingredients. It’s prudent to trust brands that have the funding to devote to intensive research and development. Beware of creams that boast the number of anti-aging ingredients in its formula. Most either have no real benefit or are formulated without properly testing for long-term side-effects.

There are other practical ways you can minimize the appearance of wrinkles and prevent their development. Get plenty of Z’s to allow your skin to rest and rebuild. On the subject of sleep, resist the urge to sleep on your side. The friction between the side of your face and the pillow case pulls on the skin, gradually wearing down its elasticity. Avoid harsh soaps. Use a gentle cleanser suited for your skin type and always remove your makeup with makeup remover.

To minimize the appearance of wrinkles choose oil-based makeup as opposed to water-based ones. Be sure to retouch your face with powder every couple of hours to prevent creasing. Cover your mouth with foundation and set with powder before applying liner and lipstick. For eyeshadows, choose muted colors with a matte finish.


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