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'10 Ingredients That Can Help Fight Signs of Premature Skin Aging' Jessica Migala

10 Ingredients That Can Help Fight Signs of Premature Skin Aging

When checking product labels, seek out these ingredients that scientific research and dermatologists suggest can improve your skin health and appearance.


Jessica Migala

Medically Reviewed


Susan Bard, MD

Next time you’re shopping for skin-care essentials, check the labels for these beneficial anti-aging ingredients.

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You want to maintain your youthful glow, and you’re willing to spend time and money to help delay premature signs of aging on your skin.

And yet with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to suss out which ones have proven anti-aging ingredients and which ones are smoke and mirrors, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Some ingredients, such as retinol and sunscreen, do have scientifically proven anti-aging benefits, he says. Those aren’t the only ones to consider when building your healthy skin-care routine, though.

Dr. Zeichner and other dermatologists recommend the following as the best anti-aging ingredients to help your skin look firm, bouncy, and glowing for years to come.


B Vitamins for Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails

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These essential vitamins appear in multiple forms and complexes in skin-care products. Yet the function of all vitamin B derivatives is the same: to convert food into energy, notes Mount Sinai. This fuels vital body processes, including those responsible for healthy, firm skin. “Vitamin B and all its derivatives are essential for healthy skin, hair, and nails,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska.

B vitamins can be especially potent when used topically in moisturizers, Dr. Schlessinger says. When these vitamins are among the natural anti-aging ingredients in your skin-care products, damaged cells will heal and regenerate more quickly.


Coenzyme Q10 to Protect Collagen

Coenzyme Q10 (vitamin Q) is a strong antioxidant that can help build the foundation needed for younger-looking skin, as some studies and research have noted. “Coenzyme Q10 helps protect the elastic tissue and collagen that shape your skin,” says Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

As we get older, our natural coenzyme Q10 levels diminish, which may slow the skin’s ability to rejuvenate and protect itself from damage, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. To build levels of the coenzyme, many find that taking a dietary supplement in addition to using topical creams yields optimal results. One randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that taking a specific CoQ10 supplement (the study was funded by the supplement’s maker) daily for 12 weeks improved the appearance of wrinkles and led to smoother skin. Other research concluded that topical application of CoQ10 effectively reduced free radicals (which cause aging) on the skin. 


Copper to Prevent Sagging and Fill Wrinkles

You’re probably imagining pennies, but the copper we’re talking about is found in trace amounts in skin cells, where it binds proteins together, noted a research review. Essential for collagen formation, the anti-aging ingredient helps support the skin to prevent sagging and fill in wrinkles. Clinical studies have shown that copper contributes to the clearing and renewal of fractured collagen, making it an excellent ingredient for those who wish to improve the look of sun-damaged skin and scars. Specifically, sleeping on copper-infused pillowcases for about one or two months helped diminish the depth of crow’s-feet lines compared with control groups, according to the review. “Copper is nonirritating,” says Dr. Wu, “so it’s a good alternative for those with sensitive skin who may not be able to tolerate retinoids.”


Green Tea to Revitalize Your Skin

You may sip a cup of warm green tea to relax, but the ancient plant from which the tea is brewed is replete with nutrients that recharge your skin. Specifically, those would be phytochemicals called polyphenols, as a review in Nutrients suggested. The stimulant qualities of green tea can also have an energizing influence on aging skin. “Green tea has a wonderful effect on dark circles — which is especially striking when combined with caffeine in eye cream,” says Schlessinger. Those polyphenols are antioxidants, which prevent and repair the damage done by oxidation, which breaks down skin cells, per a research review. Along with using creams or serums containing green tea, sip on the brew for additional health benefits.


Peptides to Stimulate Collagen Production

Because of the promising results of clinical research, peptides are becoming increasingly popular anti-aging skin-care ingredients. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, notes the National Human Genome Research Institute. Most topical peptide creams are designed to stimulate collagen to improve the appearance of wrinkles, says Zeichner. But not all peptide creams are created equal, so stick to products that have gone through clinical testing, he recommends.


Retinoids and Retinols to Speed Up Cell Turnover

Over-the-counter retinols and prescription retinoids like Retin-A are derivatives of vitamin A. “Retinoids and retinols speed up and stimulate cell turnover and collagen production for smoother and younger-looking skin,” says Wu. In addition to plumping wrinkles and fine lines, retinoids counter discoloration, lighten small marks and freckles, and improve skin texture, according to research. No other topical ingredient has been more tested and scientifically proven for anti-aging by the medical community than retinoids, Wu says. But don’t expect results overnight: It takes several weeks or even months for retinol to exert its wrinkle-fighting effect, so it must be used over long periods of time, Zeichner says. Plus, retinoids and retinols can be drying, as a study noted, and can make you more sensitive to the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Apply them to your skin in moderation, and counter any retinoid- or retinol-containing product with daily sunscreen use.

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Vitamin E to Reverse Damage and Rejuvenate Skin

Vitamin E is a powerhouse when it comes to protecting against skin damage that may lead to fine lines and wrinkles. Why? The vitamin neutralizes cell-damaging free radicals, which are triggered by environmental factors like sun exposure, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. “Vitamin E is a great antioxidant to look for in rejuvenating skin creams, and it can assist with wound healing as well by strengthening the skin barrier,” says Schlessinger. This is why pure vitamin E oil remains a popular (and inexpensive) salve for cracked cuticles and scars from cuts, burns, and surgery. Topically applying both vitamins C and E together exerts the biggest benefits, as the two antioxidant vitamins work together to preserve and build collagen, according to a research review.


SPF to Prevent Skin Cancer (and Improve Your Appearance)

Not only can broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 help prevent skin cancer, it’s also been shown to improve the cosmetic appearance of the face, even if used by itself, Zeichner says. In a study, sunscreen alone applied to the face for one year resulted in improvements of cosmetic measures like skin tone, texture, and wrinkles.


Vitamin C to Neutralize Damage and Lighten Dark Spots

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralizes damage from free radicals and helps complement the effect of your sunscreen, says Zeichner. “In the morning, I have my patients layer vitamin C underneath their sunscreen,” he says. Vitamin C interferes with abnormal pigment production, helping to lighten dark spots, he adds. What’s more, C-packed products preserve collagen fibers and prevent damage to your skin’s supportive structures, a review noted. One thing to remember when purchasing a topical vitamin C, noted the review authors, is that it is a finicky, unstable ingredient, which will lose potency quickly if not formulated correctly. If exposed to high temperatures, it may also oxidize, rendering it ineffective, according to the skin-care company Vichy. If you’ve ever bought a C serum that’s gone amber, that’s exactly what’s happening. Be sure to purchase a vitamin C product from a company that conducts clinical tests on its products and keep your product in a temperature-controlled area. Some people like to buy mini-fridges to store skin-care products like these, as Today reported.

Along with applying a vitamin C serum, also load up on C-rich foods (such as strawberries and bell peppers), as consuming the vitamin also helps your body create new collagen, notes the National Institutes of Health.



Hydroxy Acids to Exfoliate Dead Cells and Fight Wrinkles

Hydroxy acids like glycolic acid help exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin, according to the AAD. “They’ve also been shown to stimulate collagen and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles,” says Zeichner. Hydroxy acids come in varying strengths and can be found in peels, serums, and creams, so it’s important to check with a board-certified dermatologist to find out which one is right for you.

Additional reporting by Grace Gold.


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