We’re all looking for that miracle anti ageing cream that will transform our skin into what it looked like 10 years ago. Or if that’s too much to ask for, to at least stop any new wrinkles from appearing.
Unfortunately turning back the clock is never going to happen. And we can’t even promise you that you’ll never get another wrinkle again. But what we can do is tell you what ingredients you should be looking for in your anti ageing cream to make sure that you’re giving your skin the best chance possible to age gracefully.
Read more: Your personal anti ageing plan
1. Hyaluronic acid (HA)
Hyaluronic acid is a familiar skincare staple, but what does it actually do? It has many functions in the body, but we’re interested in what it can do for your skin. Because it can retain over 1000 times its weight in water in your cells, it helps to keep skin smoother and softer with fewer wrinkles. As the body’s own superhero hydrating molecule, it keeps skin plump and dewy, but as we age levels of HA become depleted.
Although collagen keeps skin firm, HA basically looks after collagen, keeping it nourished, hydrated and elastic. So the first step to maintaining youthful skin and preserving the collagen in your skin is to up your levels of hyaluronic acid.
Sodium hyaluronate is a salt derived from hyluronic acid, and it has a molecular weight that’s even lower than HA — making it more likely to penetrate the skin. So look out for it as an ingredient in your anti ageing cream.
If your anti ageing cream lists hylauronic acid or sodium hyluronate as one of the last ingredients, this indicates there’s not that much in there compared to the other ingredients. Something to remember if you’re choosing between brands!
If you’re looking for an anti ageing cream that will actually work, containing hyaluronic acid is a good place to start. If you already have a favourite cream that doesn’t contain HA, try Nivea Cellular Anti-Age Skin-Refining Serum, R220 – it’s an intensive concentrated serum that you apply before your cream.
2. Vitamin C
Antioxidants are often included in anti ageing creams because they help protect the skin from damage caused by everyday exposure to the sun and pollutants. They do this by destroying free radicals, which harm our skin’s DNA, elastin and collagen. Vitamin C also soothes inflammation and helps build collagen, plus it evens your skin tone.
Sounds fabulous right? One of the drawbacks of vitamin C is that it is quite unstable and as soon as it’s exposed to air it oxidises and becomes useless. That’s why if you choose an anti-wrinkle cream with vitamin C, it must be stored in a way that protects it from air and sunlight (think opaque tubes or pump-action dispensers, never glass tubs). And go for smaller tubes because vitamin C only stays effective for a short period once you’ve opened the product.
Look for L-ascorbic acid in the ingredient list, as this is a more stable form of vitamin C — but make sure there’s no more than 20% L-ascorbic acid, as it can also irritate the skin. If you have the budget, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is an even more stable form of vitamin C found in anti ageing creams, but it can be pricey.
Vitamin C will also help your sunscreen work more effectively and last longer, so it’s a good idea to look for a product that combines the two, or use a vitamin C serum with sunscreen on top.
Ceramides are the lipids that help form our skin’s protective barrier. A type of oily wax, ceramides hydrate, moisturise and fortify the skin’s natural barrier, protecting it from damage caused by the environment. They’re most effective when combined with other oils, so look out for products that combine cholesterol and free-fatty acids.
Replenishing your skin’s ceramide levels will help it look and act younger, leaving wrinkles looking less pronounced and protecting skin from environmental damage. As well as the term ‘ceramide’, look out for names like phytosphingosine or cetyl-PG hydroxyethyl palmitamide in the ingredients.
Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Overnight Firming Mask, R740, is an intensely hydrating mask that locks in moisture for up to 8 hours and restores the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
A derivative of vitamin A, some beauty experts call retinol “the vampire of the skincare world” because it works best in the dark, so stick to using it at night for maximum effect.
Retinol is a great anti ageing all-rounder, as it helps to stimulate collagen production by stimulating cellular repair to keep skin looking firm and elastic. Its antioxidant properties mean it fights cell-damaging free-radicals and it’s also a powerful exfoliant — helping skin cells to turn over more quickly and keeping pores unclogged. In fact, it’s been described as the most effective over-the-counter anti ageing ingredient!
It’s not all good news though; retinol can irritate the skin, so pay attention when you apply it. Avoid the eye area, only apply it to freshly washed, but completely dry skin and apply a moisturiser afterwards. Forms of retinol like retinyl palmitate and retinyl linoleate are less irritating to the skin, but also less effective.
Dermalogica Overnight Retinol, R1495, is a powerful anti ageing treatment that accelerates skin renewal overnight. It comes with a moisturising buffer cream that will help your skin tolerate the highly-active form of retinol.
If you’re really looking for an effective anti ageing ingredient, make an appointment with your dermatologist and get a prescription for a retinoid cream — an even more potent wrinkle fighter.
5. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs are powerful exfoliators, removing the upper layer of dead skin cells and revealing the radiant skin underneath. This ultra-exfoliation also helps the ingredients in your anti ageing cream penetrate the new skin cells, instead of being wasted on cells that are already dead.
Alpha hydroxy acids come in many forms, which means your anti ageing beauty product may not actually list alpha hydroxy acid as an ingredient. Look out for words like citric acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, or tartaric acid.
Some dermatologists recommend only using AHA-containing products twice a week, as more regular use can damage the skin barrier. AHA can also make you more susceptible to sunburn, so make sure you apply sunscreen if your beauty buys contain AHA. And make sure you apply an anti ageing serum and cream right after you use the AHA — your skin will be perfectly primed for absorbing all those anti ageing ingredients!
Try adding the Environ Alpha Toner Forte, R305, to your skincare regime. The toner will gently exfoliate, reducing the appearance of uneven skin tone and leaving you with a smooth glowing complexion.
Yes, we may all know it, but how many of us actually use sunscreen on our faces every day? The sun is responsible for around 90% of the signs of premature ageing, so wearing sunscreen is a really effective way to prevent wrinkles forming before they’re meant to. That way you won’t even have to worry about anti ageing cream for years!
Boost your sunscreen’s effectiveness by combining it with a serum that’s rich in antioxidants, or go for a sunscreen that is formulated with antioxidants. And remember to apply AT LEAST a teaspoon to your face if you’re going to fully reap the anti ageing benefits. Products like a foundation that have an SPF are great for extra protection, but they shouldn’t replace your sunscreen.
Zinc oxide is great for sensitive skin, so if you’ve been avoiding sunscreen on your face because it irritates your skin, try a zinc-oxide-based product.