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Honesty hour: we get that “anti-aging” is a bit of a fraught term. We’re all aging. Isn’t it something we should embrace?
The truth is when we discuss “anti-aging” strategies, we’re really just talking about keeping our skin healthy for as long as possible. The majority of visible signs of aging are caused by environmental stress. The more of these signs we see—the older our skin looks—the more damage we'll need to work to reverse.
In that sense, anti-aging strategies are worth pursuing even if aesthetics aren’t your goal.
In this post, we’ll discuss the essential ingredients of a healthy anti-aging routine, from environmental stressors to proven ingredients, and offer tips to help you put your best face forward for years to come.
Preventing free radical damage
We know that most of the visible signs of aging are caused by environmental stress. There are a few main sources of environmental stress we should avoid:
UV light: our skin’s biggest source of exposure to free radicals is UV light. It’s especially problematic because it both creates free radical damage and depletes our natural antioxidant reserves. There’s some evidence that non-UV wavelengths of light, like the blue light from our screens, also cause free radical damage.
Pollution: another major source of skin aging, this includes gases like ozone, which has been linked to wrinkles, and particulate pollution. And, like UV light, it also reduces antioxidant levels in our skin. Another upsetting double-whammy!
Stressors like lack of sleep, poor diet, chronic stress, and smoking: if you’ve ever suffered a breakout after a particularly stressful week, you know just how much these sneaky little stressors can add up. By placing even the additional strain of daily life on our skin’s reserves of antioxidants, we leave our skin unprotected
When free radical damage goes unchecked, the results are obvious: signs of premature aging like wrinkles, uneven skin tone, spots, think skin, dry or cracked skin, and impaired wound healing. Antioxidants, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E Vitamin A, Carotenoids, and Polyphenols mitigate this damage.
Skincare products to slow aging
Sun protection is an essential first step, but for many of us, some damage might already be done. In that case, a few well-supported workhorses are worthy additions to your routine.
The first is retinol. Retinol is derived from Vitamin A, a nutrient responsible for increasing cellular turnover. Retinoid ingredients treat dark spots and wrinkles by causing skin cells to turn over and die more rapidly, and by thickening the skin.
Retinol is well-supported in the scientific literature and widely recommended by the dermatology community since side effects are relatively mild. The retinol products you’ll find on drugstore shelves and the ones in prescription formulations like tretinoin work similarly, but prescription formulations tend to be more powerful.
This list of over-the-counter retinol products has some great solutions for starting with a gentler formulation. For problem areas, high-dose retinol as prescribed by your dermatologist is also a helpful solution for existing dark spots, discoloration, and wrinkles.
Though it’s tempting to stock your cabinet with as many smooth-talking anti-aging ingredients as you can find, it might not be necessary. With proper sun protection and perhaps a topical retinol, we can achieve some pretty remarkable anti-aging results.
If you’re looking for even more anti-aging, check your products for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B3 (niacinamide).
Vitamin C works as an antioxidant and may help brighten skin, especially when combined with Vitamin E. Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) reduces redness, swelling, and inflammation (including the occasional breakout) with anti-inflammatory properties.
These nutrients are also well-supported in research and may boost your anti-aging efforts.
Exfoliate and moisturize (yes, you!)
The simple yet magical duo of exfoliating + moisturizing is another all-ages secret for preventing premature skin aging.
First, let’s talk aesthetics. Much of what we view as “dull,” or “tired” skin (titles we often bestow on our skin as it ages!) is actually just dry skin. Exfoliated, hydrated skin just looks better—fuller, plumper, and healthier.
Exfoliating refers to physically sloughing off dead skin cells. Hydroxy acids are a great solution for achieving high-quality exfoliation at home without paying for a chemical peel. These naturally-occurring chemicals are derived from foods and work to remove the top layer of skin.
Just be careful to avoid any exfoliator with plastic microbeeds—they’re harmful to the environment and may be problematic for our own health, too. Sugar scrubs (a recipe to make your own can be found here) are a simple DIY alternative.
Once you’ve exfoliated, moisturizing is an essential next step. Moisturizing not only prevents dry and flaky skin but may prevent wrinkles as well. In one study by the British Journal of Dermatology, drier skin was more associated with the development of wrinkles than hydrated skin.
Moisturizers are divided into three classes: humectants (which attract water), occlusives (which trap water in the skin) and emollients (which provide hydration themselves). The important thing to note here is skin tends to dry out as we age, meaning we’ll need progressively stronger and thicker moisturizers, and perhaps to combine moisturizers from a few different classes, as the years pass.
Some good heavy-duty options include hyaluronic acid (a humectant), glycerin (an occlusive), and ceramides (created by humectants and available topically, too).
Keeping skin properly moisturized isn’t quite the same as maintaining cellular hydration, which necessarily includes actually drinking water. So let’s round out this post by talking hydration and nutrition!
Internal solutions: hydration, diet, and nutrients
Time to address what we’re all loathe to admit: hydration and nutrition play a big part in skin health.
Drinking enough water daily promotes healthy cellular hydration, which in turn helps our skin look plumper, less flaky, and younger. It doesn’t seem that the old “8 glasses a day” rule has any scientific basis, but it’s worth experimenting with your own intake to see if drinking more water improves your skin. At the very least, there isn’t much to lose.
Since our diet is our first source of many of the nutrients our skin needs to thrive, keeping it in balance is an easy way to “supplement” our skincare routine without actually taking supplements. A diet rich in vegetables will also be rich in skin-healing nutrition. Plus, research on the link between gut health and skin health supports a diet full of plant fiber.
It’s also crucial that we eat a complete range of amino acids, the building blocks of hair, skin, and nails, especially as we age. This is an especially important note for vegetarians and vegans, who may need to pay attention to their protein sources to achieve a diet with the full range of these proteins.
Whatever your age or skincare goals, environmental stress is worth avoiding. And since we know that 90% of the visible signs of aging are caused by environmental stressors, a healthy anti-aging routine starts with The Base Layer and other ways of fighting back. The earlier you start, the better your results will be.
Maintaining proper hydration and exfoliating regularly can also go a long way toward getting that youthful glow. Remember, too, that hydration starts from the inside out, as does nutrition. Drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet are great foundational steps for healthy skin at any age.
Finally, topical ingredients retinol and Vitamins C, E, and B3 are well-supported solutions to many of the most common skin-aging woes.
But no matter what anti-aging solution you choose to tackle first, make sure the proven antioxidant-rich botanicals in The Base Layer is a regular part of your routine! The Base Layer's botanical skincare formulation uses the power of Polypodium leucotomos, an antioxidant-packed fern extract which prevents free radical damage.
Start your subscription and get this win-win for healthier skin in your toolkit today.