Ingredients to Look for in an Anti-Aging Day Cream

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Wrinkles: everybody gets them yet nobody wants them. Even though laugh lines can represent happy life experiences and wrinkles can be seen as a sign of maturity, the wrinkling of skin that comes with age is often considered unattractive. While age is the inevitable cause of wrinkles, there are many other factors that can cause skin to wrinkle prematurely, such as the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, smoking, pollution, and even blue light emitted from your computer, phone, or TV.


Of course, making lifestyle modifications, such as using sunscreen daily is the first step in preventing signs of aging. You can also use skin care products with ingredients that are scientifically proven to prevent and treat signs of aging.  It is important to look for a cream that targets signs of aging with key ingredients such as antioxidants, humectants, skin-replenishing oils, and agents to protect skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays as well as blue light from modern technology. Keep reading below to learn the details of the key ingredients to look for in an anti-aging day cream.


Antioxidant protection

Every single one of us has both free radicals and antioxidants present inside of our bodies at all times. Free radicals are the unstable and highly reactive molecules that are derived either from normal essential metabolic processes in the human body or from external sources such as ultraviolet radiation, blue light, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals.

The body naturally makes certain types of antioxidants to neutralize these free radicals before they can cause damage to important cellular components, such as proteins, fatty acids, or DNA. However, if antioxidant levels in the body are lower than that of free radicals, oxidation wreaks havoc in the body. This can lead to premature signs of aging and may even play a role in the development of skin cancer.

You might have heard that eating a diet rich in high antioxidant foods can help to promote healthier skin. However, there are no blood vessels in the epidermis (the top layer of skin), therefore, your diet will not get antioxidants and nutrients to the epidermis. The only way the epidermis can get these nutrients is through topical application. Applying antioxidants topically is very important to help maintain the health of your skin.

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Vitamin C

One type of antioxidant to look for when purchasing an anti-aging cream is vitamin C. Instead of using pure vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, look for ascorbyl phosphate, a precursor of ascorbic acid. While ascorbic acid is the most chemically active form of vitamin C, it is also the least stable. This means that ascorbic acid is easily oxidized when it is exposed to things like sunlight, heat, air, and water, and it decomposes after three months. Sodium ascorbyl phosphate has been proven in studies to be more stable than ascorbic acid. In addition, sodium ascorbyl phosphate does not cause a stinging sensation upon application like other forms of vitamin C.

Once sodium ascorbyl phosphate is absorbed by the skin, it is converted to ascorbic acid, which provides several benefits to the skin. For instance, ascorbic acid donates electrons to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS, a type of free radical) such as the superoxide ion and peroxide that are generated when the skin is exposed to UV light. By neutralizing ROS, ascorbic acid helps to prevent the formation of lines and wrinkles on the skin. Ascorbic acid also serves as a cofactor for two enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of collagen, a protein that is necessary for skin strength and firmness. Lastly, ascorbic acid can decrease the appearance of dark spots and improve uneven skin tone by inhibiting tyrosinase, a key enzyme involved in the production of melanin.

Vitamin E

In addition to vitamin C, look for a cream that contains alpha-tocopherol, the most active form of vitamin E. Alpha-tocopherol has been labeled as a “chain-breaking” antioxidant for its role in hindering the chain reaction induced by free radicals. Specifically, alpha-tocopherol works by delivering a hydrogen atom to free radicals, which minimizes their damaging effects. The antioxidant activity of alpha-tocopherol can actually become more powerful when combined with ascorbic acid. For this reason, vitamins C and E are referred to as “network antioxidants”. A publication in the journal Dermatologic Therapy explains, “because vitamin C regenerates oxidized vitamin E, the combination in a cosmeceutical formulation is synergistic - particularly in UV protection.” Lastly, alpha-tocopherol is known to strengthen the skin’s barrier function and helps to reduce transepidermal water loss.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant found in the cell walls of plants such as rice and oats and the seeds of apples and oranges, where it plays a key role in the plants' protection and self-preservation. Like other antioxidants, topical application of ferulic acid will help to slow the aging process by protecting the skin from free radical damage. One of the key advantages of ferulic acid is its ability to enhance the efficacy and stability of vitamins C and E.

Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that is formed when you eat foods high in niacin, such as liver or mushrooms. Niacin is converted into niacinamide, which in turn acts as a precursor to the coenzymes NADH and NADPH. These coenzymes play an important role in cellular metabolism, which means they provide skin cells with the energy needed to function properly. In fact, these coenzymes are involved in more than 40 biochemical processes, including DNA repair and cell turnover. Fortunately, niacinamide has a small molecular weight and can easily penetrate the skin.

Once absorbed by the skin, niacinamide provides numerous benefits. For instance, it is well-known as a potent antioxidant. According to the Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, it "increases the antioxidant capacity of skin after topical application by increasing the reduced forms (NADPH), which have potent antioxidant properties." In addition, studies have shown that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling.


Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that follows a circadian light-dependent rhythm of secretion. This means melatonin is secreted when the sun sets in order to help you fall asleep, and secretion stops when the sun rises in order to help you wake up. It’s clear that melatonin plays an important role in the sleep/wake cycle, but what role does it play in skin care?

Melatonin receptors are expressed in many types of skin cells, which suggests that melatonin also plays an important role in regulating skin function and structure. For instance, melatonin has strong antioxidant activity and works by neutralizing mainly hydroxyl radicals, the most damaging of all free radicals. Regarding UV-induced free radical damage, melatonin has the ability to counteract generation of reactive oxygen species, as well as protect against mitochondrial and DNA damage.

Look for a cream that has the combination of melatonin, vitamin C, and vitamin E. There have been  promising results demonstrated in clinical trials using this combination. For instance, one randomized, double‐blind human study evaluated the short‐term photoprotective effects of melatonin, vitamin C, and vitamin E in vivo. These ingredients were topically applied, alone or in combination, 30 minutes before ultraviolet‐irradiation of the skin. The results showed a modest protective effect of the vitamins when applied alone and a dose‐dependent photoprotective effect of melatonin. Overall, better protection was obtained by using the combination of melatonin with both vitamins.

In addition to its powerful antioxidant properties, melatonin has the ability to stimulate growth of fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are cells that synthesize the extracellular matrix and the proteins collagen and elastin, which provide structural support for the skin. Over time, fibroblasts can become dysfunctional, causing them to become less able to produce the right amount of these essential proteins. Applying topical melatonin is thought to support fibroblasts and aid them in producing enough collagen and elastin to maintain strong, healthy skin.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an organosulfur compound derived from caprylic acid that is considered to be a very potent antioxidant. ALA is unique in that it is both water and oil soluble, unlike most antioxidants. After topical application, ALA first concentrates in the cell plasma membrane, where it neutralizes free radicals. Then, it moves on to the watery interior of the cell, known as the cytosol, where it can also stop the activity of free radicals and prevent activation of other pro-inflammatory chemicals. Furthermore, ALA has the capability of regenerating endogenous antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Key moisturizing ingredients

Did you know that youthful skin retains its turgor, resilience, and flexibility due to its high content of water? As the skin loses moisture due to both internal and external factors, it begins to show signs of aging, such as lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. In order to improve the skin’s moisture retention, look for a cream that contains the humectants hyaluronic acid and panthenol, as well as the skin-replenishing emollients argan oil and jojoba oil.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a type of glycosaminoglycan (GAG), which is a long polysaccharide composed of disaccharides called amino sugars and uronic acid. GAGs are negatively charged and thus tend to attract positively charged sodium and potassium ions. In turn, this causes the GAGs to absorb and hold water. Therefore, GAGs play an important role in regulating the water and electrolyte balance of tissues. In fact, hyaluronic acid is the key molecule involved in skin moisture since it is capable of holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water.


According to the scholarly journal DermatoEndocrinology, the most dramatic histochemical change observed in aging skin is the marked disappearance of hyaluronic acid in the epidermis. It is unknown why this occurs. Due to this finding, hyaluronic acid has become a very popular ingredient in the skin care industry, particularly in anti-aging products. Topical application of hyaluronic acid will help to attract moisture to the skin, resulting in smoother, softer skin with decreased wrinkles and a more plump appearance.

Panthenol

Panthenol is the alcohol form of pantothenic acid, commonly known as vitamin B5. It is a highly effective humectant. A humectant is a hygroscopic substance that has a molecular structure with several hydrophilic (water loving) groups. This structure allows humectants to attract and retain the moisture in the air nearby via absorption, drawing the water vapor into or beneath the surface. Humectants improve moisture retention and may also help other topical skin care ingredients to perform better.

Argan oil

Native to Morocco, argan oil is derived from the fruit of the Argania spinosa tree. Argan oil contains several beneficial fatty acids that promote skin health, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. Oleic acid is an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid that functions as a penetration enhancer by disturbing the skin barrier. Linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, possesses anti-inflammatory properties and also replenishes the skin’s barrier function. Palmitic acid and stearic acid are both saturated fatty acids that also aid in replenishing the skin’s barrier function. While argan oil is mainly composed of unsaturated fatty acids (80%), the unsaponifiable fraction (1%) is full of antioxidants, notably gamma-tocopherol. Gamma-tocopherol is a form of vitamin E that is very efficient at scavenging free radicals.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is extracted from the seeds of the jojoba plant, Simmondsia chinensis, a perennial evergreen desert shrub. Inside the jojoba seed, you’ll find a light, golden liquid wax ester that is mostly comprised of long-chain fatty acid esters (97%), but also contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals, triglycerides, phospholipids, and tocopherols. Interestingly, the chemical composition of jojoba oil mimics the skin’s natural sebum more closely than any other oil. Research has shown that jojoba oil improves the skin’s barrier function and helps to prevent transepidermal water loss. It also has proven anti-inflammatory effects and can provide soothing effects upon application. Overall, jojoba oil promotes softer, healthier, and better hydrated skin.

Chronogen: an anti-aging peptide

The final key ingredient to look for when purchasing an ant-aging cream is a type of synthetic anti-aging peptide. Peptides are fragments of proteins that are formed when amino acids bond together. For example, when two amino acids are joined together by a single bond it is called a dipeptide, three linked amino acids are a tripeptide, followed by tetrapeptides, etc. Chronogen is a type of tetrapeptide, specifically, tetrapeptide-26.

So how does Chronogen provide anti-aging benefits to the skin? In simple terms, Chronogen improves the expression of clock genes. As the name implies, clock genes can be thought of as internal clocks of the cells in our body, including skin cells. The expression of clock genes regulate specific cellular activities according to the time of day. However, clock genes can be desynchronised by external factors such as UV radiation. By improving the expression of proteins involved in this clock mechanism, Chronogen helps preserve skin from UV damage during the day and encourages better DNA repair at night.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many very useful and powerful ingredients to look for in a day cream that can not only protect your skin from the environment, but can also help you look your best.




References:

Dr. Axe, “Top 10 High Antioxidant Foods”, May 7, 2018

Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 143–146

Dermatol Ther. 2007 Sep-Oct;20(5):314-21

The Skin Care Edit, “How Niacinamide Can Help Your Skin: What It Is, What It Does and Why It Treats Almost Every Skin Concern”, December 13 2018

J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Feb; 3(2): 22–41

https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2133.1998.02447.x

Forever Young by Perricone MD, “Alpha Lipoic Acid: The Cellular Rejuvenator”

Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 245–252

LifeExtension.com, “Getting Your Beauty Sleep with Topical Melatonin”, April 2010

Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 253–258

Dermatology News, “Update on argan oil”, October 11 2016

Alternative Field Crops Manual, “Jojoba”

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan; 19(1): 70.

Cosmetics Business, “Chronogen keeps cell clocks ticking”, August 16 2010