Having thick skin isn’t just a saying, it’s literal when you’re younger and have more collagen and elastin in your skin. As we get older, our skin can get weaker, less bouncy, and thinner, but aging isn’t the only factor for thinning skin.
How does thinning skin occur?
“The biggest culprit is the usual suspect: sun exposure,” explains Dr. Ava Shamban, a board-certified dermatologist based in Beverly Hills. She says that UV rays stimulate a protein in our bodies called interleukin-8 that “chews up” collagen and fat in the skin. “Extended exposure to ultraviolet light and resulting photo damage deteriorates the collagen and elastin within the layers of the dermis so the skin thins and becomes fragile,” she says.
- Ava Shamban, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills
“With the lack of protein and lipids intracellularly, we lose that sponge-y, dense firmness in the skin of our youth.” Combined with water loss from the epidermis causing dehydration, Shamban likens it to “removing all the filling between layers of a pastry leaving just the thin, fragile filo dough.”
Genetics can also play a role in thinning skin and volume loss. “Skin volume is related to both intrinsic and extrinsic factors,” says Shamban. “As far as ethnicity, Caucasians have a tendency to show the visible signs of aging—or premature aging—with the thinnest skin. Caucasians will most often experience wrinkles, elasticity losses, and even reduced volume in lips earlier.
Black or African American skin has a thicker, more dense and more compact dermis. Black skin has a bonus layer in the epidermis called the stratum lucidum, but a thinner dermis layer than Asian, Latinx, or Caucasian skin. Asian and Latinx skin is in between.” Other lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, and using tanning beds can contribute to thinning skin, as well as nutritional deficits, she says.
Which skin-care ingredients can help with thinning skin?
If you’re looking for a new face serum that might be able to help with thinning skin, it’s all about hydrating ingredients. Shamban says that natural moisturizing factors and humectants are key. “They will bind to water in the skin cells and draw water in from the environment to contribute to the plumpness of the skin.”
When it comes to serums for thinning skin, Shamban says to look for polyglutamic acid, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate or glycerin in the ingredients list. “These will give skin a thicker appearance with a ‘juicy,’ plump effect,” she says.
Keep scrolling for 8 face serums to try for thinning skin, co-signed by Shamban.
Best 8 Serums For Thinning Skin
A favorite of Shamban’s, this treatment serum is “chock full of the good stuff,” aka a complex blend that contains over 380 naturally occurring growth factors and cytokines. Growth factors are naturally occurring proteins in our body that support cell function and growth, so they can repair damaged skin, stimulate collagen and elastin. Use it with the HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, which has five types of hyaluronic acid to boost and retain hydration.
This serum contains a 3 percent polyglutamic acid complex that helps reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Polyglutamic acid, or PGA, is a naturally derived peptide that draws moisture into the skin. “PGA is a great plumper holding onto more than four times the moisture than hyaluronic acid,” says Shamban.
Field Trip is a newer skin-care brand that uses a minimalist ingredient list. This serum contains the superfruit camu camu, which contains one of the highest contents of vitamin C on Earth, as well as moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid, ultra-hydrating sea buckthorn berry oil, and vitamin E. Looking at the ingredient list, Shamban says it has a “good basic range of ingredients.”
Sweet Chef’s products feature a mix of skin-loving veggies and vitamins, such as this gel essence that contains beets, which boost moisture and help with skin texture, as well as retinol from the antioxidant vitamin A, and hydrating seaberry fruit extract. “Retinol will help to build structure and thicken skin, so this has what it takes,” says Shamban.
This double-duty serum can be used on both the face and eyes, which is great news as it has 4D hyaluronic acid, as well as cactus and rambutan peel. “The 4D HA, along with cactus and rambutan, is all about humectants to hole moisture in, so this will go a long way in longer term hydrating and plumping,” says Shamban.
This serum is interesting because it contains a natural alternative to hyaluronic acid—tremella mushroom— that offers powerful hydration. “Tremella mushroom is a very good humectant, so this has my vote,” notes Shamban.
Dimethicone, glycerine, panthenol, and palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 can all be found in this Olay serum, and Shamban says these are “all good ingredients for hydrating, smoothing, and plumping, as well as cell turnover.”
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