I’ve always said that growing older is a privilege, and I truly believe that! There are so many wonderful things that come with age, like wisdom, confidence, and experience. That said, there are other things that come with age that aren’t so wonderful—like changes in the skin, for instance.
Over time, signs of aging like lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and loss of tone can become apparent. And while these things are normal and highly common, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to slow down their progression and minimize their appearance.
In this post, I’ll share 10 of the best anti-aging ingredients in skincare. As a product formulator and esthetician with over 30 years of experience, I can confidently say that these ingredients are capable of creating real change in the skin. They’re what I recommend using to encourage and maintain more youthful-looking skin.
The 10 Best Anti-Aging Ingredients in Skincare
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of niacin (vitamin B3). It’s a very effective anti-aging ingredient, as it can brighten the skin, minimize the appearance of pores, and boost collagen production. It can even stimulate microcirculation in the dermis in concentrations as low as 0.5% to address the dullness that can come with age. Most ingredients that boost circulation tend to have a high potential for irritation, but niacinamide is unique in that the risk for irritation is very low.
It even has antioxidant properties that help protect the skin from photoaging (AKA the breakdown of collagen caused by damaging UV rays). If you’re using this ingredient to address signs of aging, I suggest looking for products that contain niacinamide in concentrations closer to 5%. (Read more about the benefits of niacinamide.)
2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs, which include glycolic and lactic acids, are helpful in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, and age spots. They’re able to do all of these things through exfoliation—AKA lowering the pH level of our skin to dissolve the bonds or “glue” that hold dead skin cells together. This allows for expired cells to be shed and fresh, live cells to be revealed. (Learn more about how exfoliating acids work).
The favored AHA is glycolic acid, because it has the smallest molecular structure, and can penetrate deepest into the skin. Lactic acid, on the other hand, can’t penetrate as deep but is gentler and more hydrating. Generally speaking, though, AHAs are more effective in higher concentrations, which is why I recommend using them in a serum format.
Note: Using exfoliating acids too often can lead to irritation, which then triggers an aging and inflammation response. Make sure you’re not overdoing it! Find out how often you should really be exfoliating.
3. Vitamin C
I believe vitamin C is one of the best preventative aging ingredients out there, as it’s one of the most extensively researched antioxidants in skincare, and it’s found to be extremely effective in interfering with damaging free radicals. I recommend wearing it daily under moisturizer and sunscreen. Not only will it give your skin a daily dose of anti-aging power, but it can also help with discoloration and brown spots. It’s truly a win-win.
The most important thing when dealing with vitamin C is stability. This ingredient is notorious for oxidizing quickly (which is why it’s so common for vitamin C serums to turn brown. Once it has oxidized, it loses efficacy and can actually cause more harm than good, causing irritation and blackheads. That’s why using a well-formulated vitamin C serum in opaque, airless packaging is key. (Check out the five most important things to look for in a vitamin C serum.)
4. Sodium Hyaluronate
I always say that skin cells are like fish in that they need water to survive. Beyond that, water is essential for making the skin look plump and youthful. So, how can you boost water levels in your skin? It’s easy—try using sodium hyaluronate.
Sodium hyaluronate, which is the salt form of hyaluronic acid, helps recharge the skin’s moisture levels by attracting and binding water in the skin. It’s generally used more often than hyaluronic acid because of its heightened ability to penetrate the skin. And thanks to its salt form, it’s also less likely to oxidize, meaning it’s a more stable ingredient than hyaluronic acid.
The important thing with sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid is that you apply an occlusive afterward to lock moisture into your skin. This will prevent something called transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which happens when the dry air pulls water from the skin. That’s why I always recommend following a hydrating serum with a moisturizer!
Peptides help build and protect collagen and elastin, which are two major components of the skin that keep it firm and tight. Chemically speaking, peptides are part of larger protein molecules, and they work by communicating with and directing skin cells to thicken the support structure of the skin. Interestingly enough, different types of peptides influence different types of cells. That’s why I formulate my products with a mix of different peptides, such as dipeptide-2, palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl hexapeptide-12, and palmitoyl tripeptide-38.
This anti-aging ingredient is extracted from the skin of red grapes, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, and pomegranates. Research shows that these fruits have incredible antioxidant content, which is why consuming them on a regular basis can help your body defend against aging free radicals. When used topically in well-formulated products, these fruits offer powerful anti-aging benefits and skin protective properties.
7. Marine Algae Extracts
Researchers believe this ingredient to be an immune system enhancer. It’s also an exceptional moisturizer, offering soothing and strengthening benefits for environmentally-stressed skin. In nature, marine algae are constantly being exposed to extreme conditions. Over time, these plants have developed defense systems against the elements that can be beneficial when applied to the skin.
Clinical studies show using marine algae extracts can improve everything from hydration levels to skin firmness, strength, and elasticity. Not only that, but this anti-aging ingredient can offer long-lasting skin softness. It’s a true multitasking skincare ingredient, which is why I chose to formulate so many products in my skincare line with it.
8. Coenzyme Q10 (Co Q10)
Co Q10 (or ubiquinone) increases the accessibility of cellular fuel. Translation? It helps provide energy to cells and facilitates the building of new tissues. Unfortunately, as we age, the amount of usable Co Q10 diminishes and the metabolism of the cells slows down. This ingredient positively influences cellular metabolism and enables us to combat signs of aging starting at the cellular level. The topical application of Co Q10 is extremely beneficial, especially for dull, sluggish skin. It plays a key role in keeping skin looking youthful, healthy, and vibrant.
The purest form of vitamin A, retinol is a cell-communicating ingredient and antioxidant that stimulates collagen, activates cellular metabolism to encourage faster turnover, fades dark spots and discoloration, and improves skin firmness. While it’s certainly not a quick fix, when used long-term, it can give remarkable results. Simply put, it’s an anti-aging powerhouse.
Renée Rouleau Products: Advanced Resurfacing Serum
The final anti-aging ingredient I want to talk about is astaxanthin. This is the most powerful member of the carotenoid antioxidant family. It provides powerful protection against lipid peroxidation and oxidative damage from free radicals. On a visible level, it can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and encourage smoother, more youthful-looking skin.
There you have it. While there are many amazing anti-aging ingredients available on the skincare market today, these are 10 of my favorite ones. I hope this sheds some light on specific ingredients and how they can create positive change in the skin.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”