The “anti-aging” segment of the beauty industry has long thrived on promising solutions to age-related skin concerns like wrinkles, dark spots, and under-eye circles after they’ve taken up residence on your face. But as any dermatologist will tell you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And as savvier consumers have begun prioritizing efficacy in caring for their body’s largest organ, they’re looking for more than just the standard SPF and antioxidants (the gold standard for staving off the stamps of time caused by oxidative stress from the environment) to keep their skin healthy as they age. In 2022, this has paved the way for a new crop of “skin longevity” products that work to improve your skin’s health and function at the cellular level.
“A lot of derms don’t like the term anti-aging, because we’re all going to age—it’s an inevitable process,” says Tiffany Jow Libby, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Brown University and one of Well+Good’s Wellness Trends Advisors. “So with skin care, it’s more optimizing how you age instead.”
Consumers are thinking long-term when it comes to their skin health and for many, this means adding steps to their skin-care routines that increase their skin’s longevity long before they see the physical signs of aging on their skin. “I’m having conversations with my younger patients about prejuvenation, and what they can do for their skin now to ensure they have longevity in their regimens,” says Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York who’s collaborating with Lancôme on the brand's Rénergie H.C.F. Triple Serum, a new-to-market serum that uses peptides and antioxidants to protect and stimulate new collagen production. “We now have educated consumers who understand the importance of overall skin health in preventing age-related problems, so they won’t have to chase them later with Band-Aid fixes.”
This prevention-focused thinking has primed the industry for a boom of products that address the root causes of age-related skin issues. “The whole science of longevity and how to slow—or reverse—the process of aging is a really hot topic,” says Dr. Libby. “Certain processes and cellular functions that lead to aging slow down as we get older, so the idea is to [use products to] boost and optimize those cellular processes so we can see less of their effects.”
“We now have educated consumers who understand the importance of overall skin health in preventing age-related problems, so they won’t have to chase them later with Band-Aid fixes.” Michelle Henry, MD
One of these functions that slows as we age is autophagy, a regular biological process in which our body’s cells break down any dead or damaged cell parts. This cellular “cleanup,” which happens in all of the body’s organs and tissues, allows our cells to work as they should. When this process slows or declines, that cellular debris accumulates, leading to cellular dysfunction or disease. What does this all mean for your skin? Autophagy allows your skin to carry out its main jobs of acting as a protective barrier, regulating your body’s temperature, retaining moisture, and more. Visible signs of these processes diminishing are the wrinkles, dryness, sagging skin, and dark spots associated with aging.
Research has found that certain topical ingredients like caffeine and antioxidants can help kick autophagy into high gear. Accordingly, brands are increasingly seeking to harness the longevity-boosting powers of these ingredients in new products. Acaderma and Herb+Flora launched autophagy-stimulating serums this year and Olay’s new Vitamin C + Peptide 24 line, which came out in September and saw multiple products (the eye cream and serum) sell out within five days of launch, lists a proprietary autophagy-stimulating niacinamide complex as one of its hero ingredients (we wouldn’t be surprised to see that same complex included in future formulations—hint hint). In 2022, Heraux, the makers of a serum that targets stem cell proteins to ramp up the skin’s autophagy, will launch a more concentrated version of its formula.
Beyond autophagy, other cellular processes that stall as we age include our bodies’ natural production of elastin and collagen, which keep our skin firm and buoyant. In early 2021, a new brand called Eighth Day launched with a peptide-rich plasma serum (peptides are the amino acids that act as “building blocks” for proteins like collagen and elastin) with the aim of getting these systems back up to speed. Next year, the brand will expand with an SPF and a moisturizer. The latest launch from Augustinus Bader, released in November, also uses amino acids to support your skin’s collagen protection, along with a bevy of other vitamins, botanicals, and synthesized molecules that are naturally occurring within the skin to smooth wrinkles, retain moisture, and more.
Another science-y brand that’s looking to keep your skin cells operating in prime condition as you age is Ideo. Ideo launched its flagship “Skin Memory Serum” in September, which uses a blend of antioxidants to keep your skin cells’ metabolic function ticking along at top speed, thus staving off visible signs of aging like laxity, discoloration, and uneven texture. “The metabolic cycle is dozens, maybe even hundreds, of chemical reactions that turn fuel into energy to do all the things that the cell has to do,” explains Ideo founder Andrew Shemin. “When the metabolism slows down, you get oxidative stress...which leads to cells dying, wrinkles, discoloration.” Shemin was inspired by research into Alzheimer’s disease that identified malate as a key chemical compound in keeping cells metabolizing at a healthy speed and created his skin-care line to specifically target malate. In the early part of 2022, Ideo plans to release a cream that uses the same technology.
"When I ask people what they want out of their skin, it’s that they want it to be glowing and healthy again,” says Jess Richards, founder of Brooklyn beauty retailer Shen Beauty and a Well+Good Wellness Trends Advisor. And according to Richards, it’s this pursuit of skin health at every age that’s at the heart of so many of today’s top beauty trends. “At the end of the day, [the unifying thread is] skin health, taking care of your skin, and learning what's actually going on with it.”
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