Aging is a natural process of growing older in every human. Aging of skin is one of the most common reasons leading people to seek plastic surgery. Many over-the-counter anti-aging products are advertised boastfully, misleading a lot of customers. Today, we’ll have a closer look at the products that proved to be most effective in reducing the process of aging.
What are the causes of skin aging?
Two causes lead to skin aging: the intrinsic aging of the skin which relates to our genetic changes, and environmental and lifestyle processes. The natural aging process plays an important role. Over the time, we will notice that our skin become thinner and drier, causing wrinkles on our face. Environmental and lifestyle choices like sun exposure and smoking can be a reason for our skin to age prematurely (1).
There are a variety of topical preparations available for sale or being studied for ameliorating aging skin. According to Dr. Allen, they include retinoids, tretinoin (Retin-A), tretinoin emollient cream (Renova), adapalene, alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), and salicylic acid. Other useful agents are vitamin C (Cellex-C), vitamin K (Ethocyn), and topical hormone treatments (2).
Vitamin A Derivatives
Vitamin A derivatives are natural antioxidants in the skin. The biologically active form is retinoic acid or tretinoin (Retin-A). Retinoic acid helps proliferate the outer layer of the skin, keratinization, and peeling. It also modifies keratin synthesis, fibroblastic proliferation, and collagen metabolism (1).
In a study by Varani and colleagues in 2000, 53 participants with the ages of over 80 applied 1% retinol for 7 days. The results demonstrated that vitamin A helped stimulate collagen synthesis in naturally aged skin compared with the controlled groups (3).
In another clinical study by Creidi and colleagues, 40 patients applied 0.5% retinaldehyde to the skin for 18 weeks. The research team found that wrinkles, surface stiffness and dryness of the “crow’s feet” area had been reduced (4).
There have been few clinical studies about the effects of vitamin B on anti-aging. To evaluate the effect of topical niacinamide on skin appearance and aging signs, like wrinkles, yellowing, and elasticity, 50 women took part in a study. They applied niacinamide B3 daily to one side of their faces and compared it to the other side as a control. After 12 weeks, the results showed significant improvements in fine lines and wrinkles, hyper-pigmented spots, red blotchiness, and skin yellowing (5).
Vitamin C is known as one of the most popular vitamins in well-designed studies about aging, and is proven to be effective in anti-aging.
In a 3-month, randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled study by Traikovich, 19 volunteers were asked to apply topical vitamin C on one side of their faces, and vehicle serum to the other side for three months. Topical vitamin C and serum vehicle were unlabeled to participants. The researcher concluded vitamin C provided significant improvements compared with the untreated hemiface regarding surface texture, fine wrinkling, tactile roughness, coarse rhytids, skin laxity, and sallowness (6).
We have commonly seen alpha-hydroxyl acids used in cosmetics under the forms of glycolic acid and lactic acid (7).
Stiller and colleagues conducted a double-blind vehicle-controlled randomized clinical trial. Seventy four women applied 8% glycolic acid or 8% L-lactic acid creams twice daily to the face and outer forearms for 22 weeks. Patients had some facial improvements to sun-damaged skin compared with the placebo. On their forearms, treatment with glycolic acid cream or L-lactic acid cream ameliorated the overall severity of sun-damaged skin (8).
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 0.005% pal-KTTS was applied to the right eye area of female volunteers twice a day for 28 days. The result revealed a decrease in wrinkle depth, wrinkle density, and skin rugosity by 18%, 37%, and 21% respectively (9).
Moisturizers such as petrolatum, glycerin (glycerol), nicotinamide cream with white petrolatum have been proven in multiple studies that they help increase skin hydration and improve skin health (10, 11).
Polyphenols include: anthocyanins, bioflavonoids, proanthocyanidins, catechins, hydroxycinnamic acids, and hydroxybenzoic acids (12). Numerous anti-aging creams combine these compounds. Other newer botanicals require more research to formulate conclusions that can be extended to their topical application (13) (table below).
Grape seed extract
Grape seed extract accelerated human healing (14, 15).
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) bark extract applied to the irradiated skin for 3 days resulted in a decrease in erythema (16).
Genistein applied to dorsal skin 60 min before UVB radiation blocked erythema and discomfort (17).
Topical application decreased UVB-induced inflammation and myeloperoxidase activity in skin and decreased pyrimidine fibers (18).
Table. Photoprotective potential of commonly used botanicals
There are many anti-aging products marketed. Some of them have proven to be effective based on some reliable research studies. These include vitamin A derivatives, vitamin B, vitamin C, alpha-hydroxyl acids, pentapeptides, moisturizers such as petrolatum, glycerin (glycerol), nicotinamide cream with white petrolatum, and some newer supplements.
1. Torras H. Retinoids in aging. Clinics in Dermatology. 1996;14(2):207-15.
2. Gendler EC. TOPICAL TREATMENT OF THE AGING FACE. Dermatologic Clinics. 1997;15(4):561-7.
3. Varani J, Warner RL, Gharaee-Kermani M, Phan SH, Kang S, Chung JH, et al. Vitamin A antagonizes decreased cell growth and elevated collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases and stimulates collagen accumulation in naturally aged human skin. The Journal of investigative dermatology. 2000;114(3):480-6.
4. Creidi P, Vienne MP, Ochonisky S, Lauze C, Turlier V, Lagarde JM, et al. Profilometric evaluation of photodamage after topical retinaldehyde and retinoic acid treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 1998;39(6):960-5.
5. Bissett DL, Oblong JE, Berge CA. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al]. 2005;31(7 Pt 2):860-5; discussion 5.
6. Traikovich SS. Use of topical ascorbic acid and its effects on photodamaged skin topography. Archives of otolaryngology–head & neck surgery. 1999;125(10):1091-8.
7. Van Scott EJ, Ditre CM, Yu RJ. Alpha-hydroxyacids in the treatment of signs of photoaging. Clinics in Dermatology. 1996;14(2):217-26.
8. Stiller MJ, Bartolone J, Stern R, et al. Topical 8% glycolic acid and 8% l-lactic acid creams for the treatment of photodamaged skin: A double-blind vehicle-controlled clinical trial. Archives of Dermatology. 1996;132(6):631-6.
9. Lintner K. Cosmetic or dermopharmaceutical use of peptides for healing, hydrating and improving skin appearance during natural or induced ageing (heliodermia, pollution). Google Patents; 2003.
10. Gloor M, Gehring W. Increase in hydration and protective function of horny layer by glycerol and a W/O emulsion: are these effects maintained during long-term use? Contact dermatitis. 2001;44(2):123-5.
11. Fluhr JW, Gloor M, Lehmann L, Lazzerini S, Distante F, Berardesca E. Glycerol accelerates recovery of barrier function in vivo. Acta dermato-venereologica. 1999;79(6):418-21.
12. Manach C, Williamson G, Morand C, Scalbert A, Remesy C. Bioavailability and bioefficacy of polyphenols in humans. I. Review of 97 bioavailability studies. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2005;81(1 Suppl):230s-42s.
13. Huang CK, Miller TA. The Truth About Over-the-Counter Topical Anti-Aging ProductsA Comperhensive Review. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 2007;27(4):402-12.
14. Li WG, Zhang XY, Wu YJ, Tian X. Anti-inflammatory effect and mechanism of proanthocyanidins from grape seeds. Acta pharmacologica Sinica. 2001;22(12):1117-20.
15. Khanna S, Venojarvi M, Roy S, Sharma N, Trikha P, Bagchi D, et al. Dermal wound healing properties of redox-active grape seed proanthocyanidins. Free radical biology & medicine. 2002;33(8):1089-96.
16. Deters A, Dauer A, Schnetz E, Fartasch M, Hensel A. High molecular compounds (polysaccharides and proanthocyanidins) from Hamamelis virginiana bark: influence on human skin keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation and influence on irritated skin. Phytochemistry. 2001;58(6):949-58.
17. Wei H, Saladi R, Lu Y, Wang Y, Palep SR, Moore J, et al. Isoflavone genistein: photoprotection and clinical implications in dermatology. The Journal of nutrition. 2003;133(11 Suppl 1):3811s-9s.
18. Katiyar SK, Perez A, Mukhtar H. Green tea polyphenol treatment to human skin prevents formation of ultraviolet light B-induced pyrimidine dimers in DNA. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. 2000;6(10):3864-9.