Whether you’re looking for ways to treat existing signs of aging or want to take preventative measures against future wrinkles and sun damage, these FAQs are a great place to start. In Part 3 of our FAQ Handbook, learn about the different types of aging, treatments for the face and body, and the best ingredients to battle everything from crow’s feet to sagging skin.
“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.” – Coco Chanel
Even under the best of circumstances, the aging process can produce unwanted changes in our skin. And with a plethora of anti-aging products to choose from, it helps to have some knowledge about how aging works and what you can do about it. Find out more about reversing visible signs of aging and preventing future damage, as well as tips on effective ingredients and treatments for the face and body.
Skin type, signs & types of aging
» Q: I’m a man in my 40s and already noticing age spots on my hands and arms. Is there a way to get rid of them and prevent new ones?
A: You can lighten your age spots using products with hydroquinone, a skin-lighting staple. If this doesn’t work, professional treatments such as laser therapy, freezing, dermabrasion and chemical peels can remove age spots. Here’s more from renowned dermatologist Nelson Lee Novick, M.D., on removal options. As for prevention, avoid sun exposure and use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on a daily basis. Age spots are usually harmless, but if spots are dark or have altered in appearance, see a doctor to screen for skin cancer.
» Q: How can I treat age spots at home?
A: You can minimize age spots with over-the-counter skin-lightening formulas that contain hydroquinone or natural alternatives such as kojic acid or licorice extract. Here’s an array of OTC options: PCA Skin pHaze 13 Pigment Gel, Dr. Michelle Copeland Pigment Formula, DDF Fade Gel 4, Dermelect Beautone Enlightening Facial Brightener Serum. For more information, see our articles on preventing and treating age spots and using hydroquinone. If these products don’t seem to be working, see a dermatologist for prescription-strength treatments.
» Q: What is extrinsic aging?
A: Extrinsic aging occurs when outside factors, such as UV rays, smoke and pollution, harm the skin and age it prematurely.
» Q: What is intrinsic aging?
A: Intrinsic aging is the natural process of getting older.
» Q: How can I prevent both types of aging?
A: While you can’t prevent intrinsic aging, there are some things you can do to have healthier skin and prevent premature aging. These include: wearing sunscreen daily along with protective clothing, not smoking or drinking excessively and avoiding excess sun exposure.
» Q: What can I do to prevent crow’s feet?
A: Various factors contribute to crow’s feet, including sun damage — undoubtedly the biggest factor — as well as squinting and smoking. So it’s important to slather your face in sunscreen every day, even if you’re just out for 30 minutes running errands. Also, avoid squinting; after years of constantly contracting our muscles around the eyes, permanent wrinkles form, writes dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, M.D., on his blog, The Dermatology Blog. Sunglasses are a huge help with this. Think of how many times you squint in a day, especially when you’re out in the sun. Smoking is terrible for your skin overall — along with your health. It contributes to crow’s feet because it damages collagen and elastin and robs the skin of blood flow and oxygen, according to Dr. Benabio. Plus, he says that when you’re smoking, you squint more often to keep the smoke out of your eyes.
» Q: How can I reduce crow’s feet?
A: According to body + soul, when shopping for products that address crow’s feet, look for the following ingredients: evening primrose, jojoba and sesame oils, which hydrate the skin and uphold flexibility; aloe to boost healing; and antioxidants (such as vitamins A, C and E) to battle sun damage and free radicals.
» Q: I’m in my late 40s and have significantly damaged skin. I have never tried anti-aging products — is it too late to start?
A: It’s never too late. As you look for anti-aging products, include ingredients that reduce the signs of aging such as retinol, peptides and alpha hydroxy acids. You might want to incorporate a retinoid (only available via prescription) to your daily regimen. Talk to a dermatologist to determine if a retinoid might be right for you.
Body & lifestyle
“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” - Franz Kafka
» Q: As far as anti-aging goes, what can I do for my body?
A: To combat the most common concerns, including loss of moisture and dull skin, use an effective exfoliating product once a week or more often if needed. On a daily basis, use a rich moisturizing lotion or body butter, especially during the cold, dry winter months. And always apply sunscreen.
» Q: Is it really important to take care of my hands?
A: The skin on the back of your hands is very sensitive and thin. Exposure to the sun and other elements ages hands well before their time. Taking care of your hands now helps them get healthier and look younger.
» Q: Is it true that the way I sleep can make me look older, beyond how much sleep I get?
A: Your sleep position can influence your appearance, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. If your head hits the pillow the same way, night after night, your skin gets into the habit of laying a certain way. Men who sleep with their faces smooshed into the pillow see the results in their foreheads, while women usually see their sleep patterns etched on their cheeks and chin.
» Q: If my skin exfoliates itself naturally, why do I need to use scrubs or exfoliators?
A: Oftentimes your skin doesn’t exfoliate dead skin cells fast enough, and these cells can clog pores and leave skin looking dull. Especially as we get older, the rate at which skin exfoliates itself slows down. Using scrubs and other exfoliating products accelerates the exfoliating process, revealing newer, healthier skin. Exfoliants help skin perform this function, sloughing off dead skin cells and refining the skin.
» Q: Do moisturizers prevent wrinkles?
A: Using a moisturizer will minimize the appearance of wrinkles but doesn’t prevent them from forming (unless the moisturizer contains specific anti-aging ingredients like vitamin C or retinol). But you can slow the aging process by avoiding sunlight, cigarette smoke and other factors that contribute to aging.
» Q: Does everyone need to use an eye cream?
A: According to About beauty expert Julyne Derrick, “Eyes are one of the first places to show aging.” If you choose to invest in an eye cream, make sure that it contains sunscreen to prevent premature aging and skin damage. When to use an eye cream is up to the individual. You can also consult with your dermatologist.
» Q: What are free radicals?
A: Free radicals are reactive molecules that cause significant skin damage and contribute to the aging process. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals. Learn about the various antioxidants that can help here.
Anti-aging ingredients, products & treatments
» Q: I’ve noticed that most products designed to correct premature aging are really irritating for my sensitive skin. What can I do?
A: Try using the products only once a day or even every other day when starting out. Many times your skin just needs to get used to a new product. If you still notice sensitivity, look for products with lower concentrations of the active ingredients.
» I react to just about everything I use on my face! Does that mean I can’t use anti-aging products? Will they be way too harsh?
A: Nowadays, there’s an anti-aging product out there to suit just about anybody, even those with the most sensitive skin. Cellex-C Sensitive Serum Starter Kit contains an anti-aging serum made specifically for easily irritated skin, along with an oil-free B-Complex gel that’ll give your skin the nutrients it needs to look and feel healthy and smooth. Start slowly, and use the product only once a day or every other day if you notice uncomfortable dryness. Talk to a dermatologist about any specific concerns you may have.
» Q: What ingredients should I look for in a night cream? I’m interested in a formula that’ll help with the fine lines and wrinkles.
A: To start, try a moisturizer with retinol. A form of vitamin A, retinol helps to stimulate collagen production and smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
» Q: What are wrinkle relaxers and how do they work?
A: GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid is an example of a wrinkle relaxer that works on facial muscles. It’s the movements of these facial muscles that cause wrinkles. However, the effect is only temporary, and lasts about 12 hours. For the best results, dermatologist Elizabeth Briden, M.D., advises applying a GABA cream after exfoliating your skin.
» Q: What makes StriVectin SD better than Botox?
A: StriVectin SD is less expensive than Botox, less invasive and can be used in the privacy of your home. The results also last longer than Botox. Plus, this cream offers various anti-aging benefits. It not only reduces stretch marks and wrinkles, but it also hydrates the skin and improves discoloration, texture and tone.
» Q: What is glycolic acid and where does it come from?
A: Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid, which refers to a collection of compounds derived from the sugar of fruit and milk. Glycolic acid is extracted from sugar cane and boasts multiple skin care benefits, including the ability to exfoliate the skin, reduce the appearance of aging and hyperpigmentation and improve overall texture.
» Q: I’m in my mid-20s and want to start incorporating anti-aging ingredients into my skin care routine. Which ingredients are appropriate for my skin?
A: Sunscreen is your first defense against aging and skin damage. After that, stock up on antioxidants. These powerful, age-fighting compounds support your skin cells with the armor they need to fight off free radical damage, which leads to premature aging.
» Q. What is an antioxidant?
A. Antioxidants prevent or slow down cellular damage caused by free radicals — a natural by-product of cellular metabolism. Free radical damage can lead to everything from premature aging to cancer. Antioxidants can help to prevent wrinkles and fine lines; however, they can’t reverse wrinkles that are already present.
» Q: How long does it take to see results with anti-aging creams?
A: It can take anywhere from several weeks to six months, so it’s important to be patient. In the first few weeks, it’s common to see smoother skin. A reduction in lines can take up to three months. Dramatic changes such as improvements in discoloration and wrinkling can take up to six months, regardless of the product’s strength, according to dermatologist Heidi A. Waldorf, M.D., in Allure.
» Q: Can collagen creams boost the collagen in my skin?
A: This is a common misconception. Collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, so they don’t affect skin’s structure, writes skincare expert G. Todorov, Ph.D., on Smart Skin Care. Collagen may help to moisturize the skin or temporarily mask wrinkles. Similarly, other components of your dermis, including elastin and hyaluronic acid, can’t penetrate the skin either, according to dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D.
» Q: My skin is really dry, and I have wrinkles. Can certain ingredients in anti-aging treatments make my skin even drier and more irritated?
A: Yes, especially if you’re using an over-the-counter cream with retinol or a retinoid. To keep dryness and irritation at bay, use a retinol treatment every other day instead of daily. For safe and effective ways to use a retinoid, see our article here. You can also “switch to a cream with kinetin or the peptide Matrixyl – they’re less drying than retinoids,” suggests Brooke Le Poer Trench in Allure.
» Q: Alpha hydroxy acids tend to dry out my skin. Is there another anti-aging ingredient I can try that won’t be so harsh on my sensitive skin?
A: Polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), among the newest alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to hit the market, are ideal for sensitive or dry skin types. Since they’re made up of larger molecules than traditional AHAs, PHAs are typically gentler on the skin, causing less stinging, peeling and dryness. They also promote a healthy skin barrier and increase hydration. You can find them in skin treatments such as face lotions, creams, serums and eye products.
Retinol & retinoids
» Q: I just started using a retinol treatment. How often should I use it?
A: For beginners, it’s best to start using a retinol product before bedtime every two to three days for the first two weeks, according to Prevention. This helps to avoid irritation. Also, start with just a pea-sized amount of the product. Remember that retinol is unlike a gentle moisturizer, so a little goes a long way!
» Q: When should I apply a retinol product?
A: The best time to apply any retinol formula is at night. For starters, retinol (and prescription-strength retinoids) leaves your skin extra vulnerable to the sun. As such, be sure to slather on the sunscreen so you’re shielding your skin properly. Another reason for using retinol at night, according to dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D., on her blog, The Skin Guru, is that these formulas are deactivated by the sun.
» Q: Retinol is acclaimed for its anti-aging power. But is it safe to use around sensitive areas — like the eyes?
A: Yes, but start off slowly — like one application every few days — so that skin can build up a tolerance. Be sure to use a cream that’s formulated for the eyes, like Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA Eyes, which is also suitable for sensitive skin.
» Q: I have an upcoming appointment with my dermatologist to talk about using a retinoid treatment. What are some important questions I should ask?
A: According to iVillage, ask your dermatologist about common side effects you might develop and which ones to report immediately; when you should see improvement; how long you'll have to use the product; if it’ll interact with other medications; and if you're hoping to become pregnant at a later time, confirm how long you'll have to wait.
» Q: I’m interested in using a retinol treatment, but I’m not quite sure where to start. What percentage would you recommend?
A: If you’re new to retinol products, it’s a good idea to start with a concentration of 0.5 percent and allow your skin some time to adjust. You may also choose to use your retinol product every other day for the first week or so.
Ready to be proactive with aging skin? Armed with the right products and know-how, you can work with your skin, rather than against it, to keep it healthy and youthful for years to come.
Stay tuned for more installments of our complete Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook.
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook - Part 1: Skin Type & Seasonal Skincare
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 2: Acne
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 4: Pregnancy, Babies & Kids