Ask a Biologist: Which Anti-Aging Ingredients Actually Work?


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When it comes to skincare, there are as many philosophies as there are organized religions. There are the homeopaths and holistic gurus who preach the benefits of eating clean and using nontoxic products. There are the traditional dermatologists who believe anything can be fixed with the right drug prescription. There are popular over-the-counter brands who praise the market’s trendiest anti-aging ingredients. And then there’s everything else. For us, as much as we love the ideas and promises of certain ingredients, we don’t always do our research to confirm their efficacy. Sometimes the information isn’t available—or even comprehensible—to the public. So we’re left to trust the brands and experts that recommend them, no matter their skincare philosophy.

But science isn’t a fan of blind faith, and to be honest, neither are we. So we decided to face the music and get in touch with an objective scientist to discover which anti-aging ingredients are proven to work on a biological level, not just a theoretical one. After all, we wouldn’t spend our money on a medication that isn’t 100% backed by science, so why should our skincare be any different?

We spoke with a professor* of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara to ger her perspective on which anti-aging ingredients we can actually trust. (For the record, we are defining anti-aging ingredients as products capable of either preventing or reversing the signs of aging, like fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.) Let’s just say the short list of ingredients is much shorter than we thought. Keep scrolling to discover the only anti-aging ingredients that really work, according to a biologist.

Want more brutally honest skincare info? Don’t miss six common skin conditions that can’t be cured, according to dermatologists.