The internet is awash with articles, blogs and posts full of product recommendations for which anti aging products are the best, what anti aging products actually work (in the writers opinion), what anti aging products celebrities use, what anti aging products do dermatologists recommend and by extension answering that question “what anti aging products should I use?”
As you might expect there’s no real right or wrong answer, almost all anti-aging products will have some effect to reduce wrinkles and fine lines, decrease sagging and under eye bags or improve skin texture but whether one serum is going to perform better for your skin than another or whether a certain cream is the best anti aging cream that really works is more nuanced. To answer the question, we have to start back in the science of what is anti aging and how we age.
How we age
When Cindy Joseph quipped ageing is just another word for living she wasn’t wrong. We age because we live and there are a whole bunch of theories why it happens (if you want to go down that rabbit hole try googling programmed vs damage vs genetic vs evolutionary aging theories). Whatever theory you might believe it’s generally accepted by all of them that aging is caused by many individual interacting and overlapping processes, rather than one reason. These can be categorized into two types called intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic aging is a genetically predetermined process that occurs naturally. Our body is made of cells. Each cell is like a Lego block, and builds various organs for different functions and are capable of dividing to produce new cells for the growth and repair of body tissues. But the more cells divide the older they get and cell division is not limitless. In fact on average, human cells can only divide between 50 and 70 times before they lose their ability to function properly and can no longer divide. At this point, they may die, or stay in the body as malfunctioning cells. This causes our bodies to deteriorate and age.
Extrinsic aging is a result of outside factors which result from your lifestyle choices such as stress, diet, smoking, drugs and our environment. These extrinsic factors have an effect on our cells and directly accelerate the cellular aging process. Psychological stress for example releases a stress hormone, cortisol, which increases heart rate and blood pressure. But repeated or prolonged psychological stress results in chronically high levels of cortisol which directly causes cell damage through oxidative stress.
Everyone experiences both types of aging – but we can control the extent of extrinsic aging. After all, better nutrition and improved hygiene has increased life expectancy around the world (globally life expectancy increased from less than 30 years to over 72 years over the last two centuries).
Can we slow the aging process?
Although we cannot escape from ageing we can slow down the process. The true secret to slowing down the process of aging is by reducing the impact of extrinsic factors. A study by the University of California, showed that lifestyle changes lead to longer telomeres (a part of the cell which shortens each time a cell divides and determines when a cell no longer functions). Participants in the study adopted a vegetarian diet, took moderate exercise and reduced stress were found to have longer telomeres. This shows that we can actually do something to slow down ageing on a cellular level.
So how do anti-aging creams work?
Anti-aging products work on the skin and are all about how we look visibly, although they can still act on a cellular level. In terms of skincare, a lot depends on the formulation. Without going OTT on the different skin actives ingredients around, they typically fall within with into a regenerating, firming, antioxidant, brightening, moisturizing or cellular activating function.
- Tackle your stresses and get enough sleep. Keeping active can help alleviate stress and exercise reduces the physical and mental effects of aging. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Limit processed foods
- Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen protects your skin from UV radiation, which can lead to premature aging.
- Avoid tobacco and reduce your alcohol intake, but be careful not to swap booze for sugar – both are ageing promoters.
- Engage your brain. Protect your cognitive function by doing brain exercises.