There are three easy ways to make your over-60 skin look younger. They are tried and true. And they work.
The first one involves water, using products that prevent water from evaporating from your skin (called occlusives) and using products that draw water to the skin (called humectants).
The second way is to use products that reveal the fresher, newer skin underneath your outer layer of skin (called exfoliation).
And the third way is to use a product that stimulates your skin to produce collagen. By far, the best known and most commonly used product for stimulating collagen production is a Vitamin A-based cream called retinol.
Anti-aging products contain specific ingredients
Just about any moisturizer will make your skin look better almost immediately. That’s because moisturizers instantly smooth the skin’s cuticle, causing it to lie flat and thus giving the appearance of smooth, hydrated skin.
But these results are temporary. They last only for a few minutes to a few hours and the results cannot be called anti-aging. Anti-aging products (those that contribute to smoother, clearer looking skin after repeated use) contain specific ingredients that affect the look of your skin long term.
You can buy all the moisturizers and serums you want. But, if they don’t help your skin use water and they don’t remove surface skin cells and they don’t contain retinol, they are not going to do much from an anti-aging perspective.
This is not to say that the positive psychological effect from using a product you enjoy using is worthless. Quite the contrary. Many women swear by the products they use, even if they don’t fall into these three anti-aging categories. If you enjoy the tactile experience and the pleasant scent of the product you use, and it becomes part of a dedicated skin routine, that’s always a good thing.
The anti-aging promise
The truth is that moisturizers are the most frequently purchased beauty category and the product category most likely to disappoint buyers.
Why is this?
Because we are impatient and we are constantly bombarded by the temptation of new products that promise unlined, perfect skin. We are eager to move on in our pursuit of the “holy grail” of moisturizers, a product that will end our hunt once and for all.
Even smart, accomplished women go weak in the knees and open their wallets for the promise of anti-aging ingredients. Cosmetic companies spend millions of dollars on research in their quest for the moisturizer that smooths out surface lines (we know that nothing short of injections or surgery can take care of the deep ones) and makes our faces glow without makeup.
Instead, get back to basics with anti-aging products that work.
1. Hydrate your skin
Occlusive ingredients increase moisture levels in skin by providing a physical barrier to water loss. The classic cosmetic occlusive agent is petrolatum, or petroleum jelly (like Vaseline). It is the most effective occlusive agent, capable of blocking 98% of water loss from the skin. Since many occlusive agents leave a heavy feeling on skin, they are best used as night creams. Occlusive ingredients are ideal for dry and very dry skin types.
When you are choosing an occlusive moisturizer, look for one or more of these ingredients:
- Petroleum jelly
- Propylene glycol
- Silicone derivatives, such as dimethicone and cyclomethicone
- Cocoa butter, mango and shea
- Mineral oil, lanolin, paraffin
Occlusives that really work
Aquaphor® Healing Ointment
Aquaphor is the queen of all occlusives. Unless you have extremely dry skin that sucks up moisture as fast as you can apply it, you would not want to use this as a day cream. Available on Amazon.
Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream
The occlusive ingredient in this cream is squalene. Unlike Aquaphor, it can be worn under makeup and it is better tolerated by those who don’t have extremely dry skin. Available on Amazon.
Humectant ingredients attract water to the outer layers of the skin, making it look “plumped up”.
Glycerin is a common humectant, frequently used due to its low cost and high efficacy. Hyaluronic acid is another.
Humectant ingredients are ideal for normal or oily skin types. Even if you are blessed with normal or oily skin, in our age group our skin still needs help with hydration. Humectants don’t create a film or barrier on the surface of the skin to prevent water loss. Instead, they bond with water molecules and draw water to the skin.
When you are choosing a humectant moisturizer, look for one or more of these ingredients:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Propylene glycol
- Butylene glycol
- Sodium PCA
Humectants that really work
CeraVé® Moisturizing Cream
CeraVé contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid, both humectants that draw water to the skin. It leaves the skin feeling slightly clammy so it is ideal for a night cream. Available on Amazon.
Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Moisturizer
The humectant ingredient in this moisturizer is hyaluronic acid. Its texture is light but hydrating so it is ideal as a day cream. Buy here.
There are two types of exfoliants.
Manual exfoliants are scrubs that you apply to your face in a gentle circular motion. They help to remove surface, dry skin cells, giving the skin a brighter appearance. They also bring healing blood to the surface of the skin. At their core exfoliants contain an abrasive, often from natural sources like sugar or ground fruit pits.
Twice a week use is recommended for dry skin.
Facial scrubs are not complicated products and you do not need to spend a lot of money on this aspect of your anti-aging regimen.
Manual exfoliants that really work
Equate Beauty Blemish Control Apricot Scrub
One of the best deals around is this Equate scrub. Ground apricot pits act as the abrasive. It is unscented, incredibly inexpensive and very effective. Available on Amazon.
Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
Acure’s exfoliator is infused with botanicals like walnut shell powder and lemon peel. It is not only exfoliating but also great for removing makeup. Available on Amazon.
Chemical exfoliants are more complicated than their manual cousins. They come in creams and lotions that you apply to the skin and leave on for a period of time.
The best chemical exfoliants contain alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids. AHAs and BHAs help to dissolve the intracellular glue that holds dead skin cells together on the skin. Once those bonds are broken, skin naturally sheds its spent cells.
Over time you will see and feel smoother, younger-looking skin. Chemical exfoliants are much more effective than manual exfoliants because they can get down to a deeper level of the skin.
Chemical exfoliants that really work
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Universal Daily Peel
NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross created these at-home exfoliating pads to mimic the peel treatments he uses for his in-office patients.
It’s a two-step process. Step 1 is packed with AHAs in the form of glycolic, citric, lactic, and malic acids, and the BHA salicylic acid–powerful yet gentle exfoliating acids. Step 2 controls the alpha hydroxy acid activity, delivers anti-aging actives that nourish skin while keeping it balanced, smooth, and radiant
Apply the first pad. Wait 2 minutes. The apply the second pad, Available on Amazon.
Kate Somerville Liquid ExfoliKate
For an intense AHA treatment, the Kate Somerville Liquid ExfoliKate combines three AHAs — glycolic, lactic, and malic acids — in a 10 percent concentration. Available at Sephora.
3. Stimulate collagen production in the skin
Collagen is the principal structural protein that holds our skin together and makes up about 75% of the dry weight of our skin. It is the mesh of fibers in the skin. It consists of amino acids wound together to form elongated fibrils (a small fiber or filament). It is mostly found in fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and skin.
Collagen occurs naturally in the body. Our bodies have the most collagen when we’re around 20 years old. As we age, we break collagen down faster than we can replenish it. From age 20 onwards, our collagen production declines at about 1 percent a year. By the time we turn 60, we have only around 40% left.
You can’t apply collagen to the skin
According to MedicalNewsToday, “one of the biggest myths about boosting collagen levels is that you can apply it directly to the skin. For many years, body creams, lotions, medicated ointments, and moisturizers containing collagen have claimed to boost collagen levels. However, in truth, collagen molecules are too big to cross into the lower layers of the skin and are of no real use.”
What are retinols?
But you can trick collagen into perking up production. How? A product called retinol, which when applied, “damages” you skin.
Think of it as first responders (collagen) rushing to an emergency call (the spot where your skin is damaged). Your skin will manufacture more collagen to protect the area that has been damaged. The “damage”, when you apply retinol to the skin, is typically some flaking and redness, depending upon your skin type. There are many products that mitigate flaking and redness caused by retinols with other ingredients.
Retinol products range from prescription (called retinoids) to over the counter products.
The prescription products are more potent and as a result, cause more “damage” to the skin, but stimulate more collagen production. They create a “plumping” effect that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores. At the same time, retinol has an exfoliating effect on the skin’s surface that can further improve texture and tone.
Retinols or retinoids may sound like just the ticket for your aging skin and they can be. But they require a lot of patience.
Your skin has been losing collagen for years and although retinols can help restore some collagen, it may take six months to a year to see definable results. Take a picture of your skin when you start and a picture in the same light and the same place six months to a year later so you can see the difference. If you look the same, it’s a success since you are six months to a year older with no discernible aging effects.
Retinol (OTC) products that really work
PCA Skin Intensive Age Refining Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol
Mona Gohara, M.D., assistant clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine likes and uses this product. “When it comes to retinol, I don’t compromise. I like to have the science (knowing it’s been tested to build collagen), the right percentage (at least 0.5%), and the ability to use it regularly without irritation,” she says. “When I find a product that has all those things, I stick with it.” PCA Skin Intensive Treatment fits all criteria. Available on Amazon.
Avene RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream
Avene RetrinAL 0.1 is a silky yet potent cream that contains a pro-elastin peptide to stimulate collagen production and vitamin E to fight free radicals that lead to aging. Available on Amazon.
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