It seems like every week, we hear about a buzzy new ingredient that will keep our skin frozen in a perpetually 22-year-old state, but separating out the superstar ingredients from the marketing gimmicks can be a real chore. Your skin stops producing as much collagen (aka the thing that makes skin look firm and plump) in your mid-20s. Therefore, we don't have the time or the money to waste on products that don't work.
"It is never too early to start caring for our skin! Prevention is key for looking young and, most importantly, keeping skin healthy," says dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "Facial skin is very susceptible to environmental damage and one of the first spots that we start to see aging." We asked Engelman and other experts to share the essential steps to an anti-aging skincare routine—no gimmicks, no trendy ingredients, just results.
Below, the six essential components to a successful anti-aging skincare routine.
Component 1: Antioxidants
"Pollution and other environmental stressors, including the sun, can deplete your collagen levels. Antioxidants will protect against that damage," says celebrity esthetician Shani Darden.
"I recommend a high-potency vitamin C serum with antioxidant boosters ferulic acid and vitamin E for best results," says Audrey Kunin, dermatologist and founder of DermaDoctor.
A potent serum that contains L-ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), plus ferulic acid, vitamin E, and a blend of pumpkin ferment and pomegranate.
Component 2: Retinol
Retinol is one of the most powerful anti-aging ingredients you can use. "It reduces ﬁne lines and wrinkles, boosts collagen in the skin, and smooths the texture of your skin. … It can also help with alleviating discoloration, creating a more even complexion, and acne," says Darden. She believes you should start using retinol in your 20s: "That's when signs of aging (like fine lines, pigmentation, etc.) start to appear, so it's best to ensure you're on a good skincare routine early." Start using a retinol one to two times a week and slowly build to every day by adding one night a week. "Jumping right into using it every day can cause irritation," Darden explains.
"For patients who cannot tolerate retinoids due to the irritation, I recommend bakuchiol. It's an amazing alternative, and ISDIN Melatonik ($150) contains bakuchiol, topical melatonin (a potent antioxidant), and vitamin C," says Deanne Robinson, dermatologist and president of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut.
This night cream is a powerhouse combo of retinol, seaweed extract, and hyaluronic acid to stimulate collagen production while also keeping skin hydrated.
Component 3: Sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is probably the most important thing you can do for your skin. Darden says that sunscreen is "the best anti-aging product you can use, along with staying out of the sun in general. You have to make sure you're wearing sunscreen every single day, even when it's cloudy or rainy!"
"Antioxidants combined with SPF help protect and repair the skin against UV damage, environmental, and other toxins such as excessive blue light," Robinson adds.
Engelman likes this tinted mineral sunscreen from Elizabeth Arden. "The formula contains antioxidants including idebenone to protect skin against free radicals. Bonus: This weightless formula has a universal tint to blend flawlessly into all skin tones," she says, adding that she applies it after also applying a chemical sunscreen.
Component 4: Eye Cream
"Don't forget eye cream," Engelman says. "The skin around the eyes is 40% thinner than the rest of the face and therefore needs a little extra attention. One of my favorites is Revision DEJ Eye Cream."
This cream is a smorgasbord of de-puffing, dark circle–reducing, anti-aging ingredients like fermented black tea, lychee seed extract, and noni fruit juice.
Component 5: Hyaluronic Acid
As we age, our skin starts to lose moisture—meaning replenishing that moisture is of the utmost importance. Darden recommends a hyaluronic acid serum to boost hydration and plump up your skin.
This glow-boosting serum contains a blend of botanicals like brightening ginseng and hydrating Inca Inchi oil. Plant-based squalene—a potent anti-ager—and hyaluronic acid round out the ingredient list.
Component 6: Supplements
"Oral supplements can help to support the body's natural production through being absorbed through the bloodstream, supporting underlying layers first," Engelman says. "The idea is that the hyaluronic acid is absorbed into the bloodstream, which reaches the foundational layers of the skin providing moisture and supporting skin and joint health." She recommends Reserveage Nutrition Collagen Replenish Powder ($20).
"All age groups, men and women, can benefit from supporting their skin with a skincare drink like Skinade, whether used to prevent skin aging or to counteract the visible signs," adds dermatologist Doris Day. "Skinade is designed to trigger collagen production in the dermis, the lower layer of the skin where it naturally lives and which is difficult to reach from the surface," she explains.
These dissolving tablets are packed with marine collagen, and turn into a fizzy pink drink that supports your skin's natural collagen production.