How young is too young to start an anti-aging regimen? According to Sherry Ingraham, M.D., it’s a question that she fields almost daily at her dermatology practice in Texas. “If you think of sunscreen as the most important anti-aging product, you should start as soon as you possibly can!” she says. In other words,now is the time to become better acquainted with your skin-care products—and, more specifically, with the near-inscrutable ingredients found on the label.
A solid preventative routine established in your 20s can go a long way toward protecting and maintaining healthy skin cells through your 30s, Ingraham explains, and there are a number of key ingredients to include. “When you’re buying a product, absolutely read the label and know what you’re looking for,” she says. “You want to optimize and give your skin the building blocks we had in our youth.” Here, Ingraham demystifies eight anti-aging ingredients every woman should know about by age 30—and beyond. “It’s never too late, and the changes to your skin will be measurable and enjoyable,” she says. Why wait?
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen with SPF 30 or Higher
“This should be the core of your regimen, and it’s imperative you pick a broad-spectrum formula with SPF 40 or higher. I recommend that all my patients seek one with zinc, as well. It’s one of the most important ingredients you can find in makeup products. You want a physical component that reflects light—micronized zinc has teeny microscopic particles that do that—as opposed to a purely chemical sunscreen that absorbs it.”
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
“A lot of the time in your 20s, you’re still contending with acne. Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and other alpha hydroxy acids gently exfoliate the skin to give it a smoother, brighter appearance and simulate new collagen. You might start with a light glycolic toner or wash in your 20s and switch to a serum with antioxidants and glycolic acid in your 30s.”
“Antioxidants are crucial for anti-aging, to protect our skin, our collagen, and our elastin from free radicals that cause damage to the DNA in our cells. Not all antioxidants are created equal—you get what you pay for with certain things, and antioxidants are a splurge-worthy product. You want a serum specifically formulated with about 15 to 20 percent vitamin C to be absorbed properly. Resveratrol, which we find in certain red wines, is a great antioxidant, as well.”
“Niacinamide is a vitamin B3. It’s a great brightener, but also a very good moisturizer. It helps with pigmentary conditions, evens the skin tone, and brightens the skin. You want to look for products where these are the top five ingredients, that’s where you want to get your value.”
“Our skin can get dry and dull, and we want to reinfuse it with lipids to get that plumpness back—they’re essentially the mortar between your skin cells that helps maintain your skin barrier as you age. Lipids are often listed as ceramides and fatty acids. Ceramides are essentially the skin barrier molecules deficient in dry skin. Fatty acids help drive the production of cholesterol and ceramides, and might be listed as sunflower or other oils.”
“Retinoids are a vitamin A derivative that promote healthy cell turnover, inhibit the formation of acne lesions, and can inhibit pigmentation, as well. You want to get on a retinoid in your 30s, as your collagen and elastin might start to decline. It can be listed as retinol, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid. With retinoids, there are many inexpensive over-the-counter options that are more potent, so you have a little more freedom here than you do with antioxidants.”
6 Anti-Aging Skin-Care Ingredients Every Woman Should Be Using by 30