Going under the knife in the name of youth requires time, money and potentially some pain. But a facelift isn’t the only option when it comes to shaving five (or even ten) years off an aging appearance. The last decade has brought major advances in topical lotions and potions for younger looking skin. But with so many choices out there, it's hard to figure out which treatment is most appropriate. To narrow down the options, we asked Charleston, SC dermatologist Todd Schlesinger, MD, for his advice on what to look for when you’re on the hunt for the fountain of youth.
1. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid (or HA) is a sugar-based molecule that’s a basic component of the skin. When you add more HA to your skin, “it serves to hydrate the skin because it draws water to itself,” says Dr. Schlesinger. After applying HA to your face, you’ll see “skin that appears more plump, radiant and smooth,” he explains. HA is most effective in hydrating the skin, but “certain forms of it have also been shown to alter the inflammatory pathways within the skin, increasing certain wound-healing activities while not affecting those pathways that might lead to harm,” he says.
HA is available in various forms such as gels, creams and lotions, where these cosmeceuticals serve to hydrate the skin while improving the texture and tone of the skin, too. “Aging skin is, by nature, drier skin because of the loss of the skin’s ability to retain moisture,” says Dr. Schlesinger. When your skin is hydrated, "it is better able to recover and respond to other agents designed to improve its function and appearance," he says.
There typically aren’t any side effects when using HA. “Depending on the vehicle (or base) that the product comes in, there could be a reaction to an ingredient now and then, but since HAs are a natural component of the skin, true allergic reactions would be rare,” explains Dr. Schlesinger. “Most reactions to skin care products can be classified as allergic or irritant, and these are more often related to preservatives, fragrances or antioxidants, rather than HAs,” he says.
When it comes to aging skin, sometimes a loss of elasticity, a drier dermis, and more fine lines and wrinkles aren’t the only obstacles your face may face. There are many types of spots that may appear as you hit your 30s and beyond, where a topical treatment may assist in fading, or destroying, the unsightly spot. One of these types of lesions, called a raised seborrheic keratosis (or SK), can now be treated topically, thanks to a FDA-approved topical solution called ESKATA® (hydrogen peroxide) topical solution, 40% (w/w).
ESKATA is a topical treatment for raised SKs, which can appear as “stuck-on brown or tan lesions that may show up on the face or neck,” says Dr. Schlesinger. This treatment “is a concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution that is supplied in a unique applicator designed to soak raised SKs thoroughly with solution,” he explains. “The hydrogen peroxide forms bubbles within and around the lesions, which essentially dissolves them,” he says.
“The most common adverse reactions in the studies leading to its approval were redness, stinging, swelling, scaling, crusting and itching. When applied, ESKATA can cause the treated SK to turn white temporarily” says Dr. Schlesinger.
A tried-and-true anti-ager, retinol “is a form of vitamin A and is essential for the correct functioning of the top layer of skin cells,” says Dr. Schlesinger. Retinol improves smoothness, texture, and evens coloration of the skin, “and its related compounds are quite effective at reversing the sign and symptoms associated with aged or sun-damaged skin,” he says.
You can find the vitamin A-derived ingredient in “prescriptions (like Retin-A), office-dispense skincare products, or over-the-counter regimens,” he says. Some of the most common side effects of using a retinol are irritation, dryness, stinging, redness, burning and itching, but “retinol, and its closely related cousin, retinaldehyde, are considered the less irritating versions of vitamin A compounds used on the skin,” says Dr. Schlesinger.
While Dr. Schlesinger sings his praises for each of these anti-aging ingredients and topicals, he always stresses the importance of sunscreen in preventing signs of aging on all his clients. “Sunscreen is vital in protecting the skin from the known harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation,” he says.