Your skin is your largest organ. It acts as your body's first line of defense against pathogens and irritants, which means you want to keep it healthy and strong for as long as possible. As we get older, though, our skin inevitably gets weaker as our we lose collagen. While this collagen loss can lead to wrinkles and a thinner-looking face, Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, Califonia says it can also make your skin more prone to injury and infection.
"We think about strong skin as meaning not prone to bruising and not prone to ripping or tears that we can see with older people," says Dr. Lee. And "if you're trying to maintain bouncy, thick, hydrated skin, collagen is really the thing that you need to maintain" adds Elyse Love, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
To keep skin fortified as we age, Dr. Lee and Dr. Love say we need to be using ingredients that strengthen skin by protecting the collagen we do have and stimulating the production of more.
3 non-negotiable skin-care ingredients to strengthen skin as we age
"You need to think about sun protection and sunscreens," says Dr. Lee. UV exposure leads to oxidative stress in the skin, which can lead to collagen degradation over time. As any derm will tell you, broad-sepctrum SPF is best, because it defends against both UVA and UVB rays. "For SPF, I usually recommend SPF 50 or above, and I recommend this to be applied to wherever the sun is exposed to" says Dr. Lee. This means your face (of course), plus your neck, decolletage, and hands—all of which are the first places to show signs of sun damage. And if you're looking to up your protection in other areas, sun-protective clothing can help.
Dr. Love is a huge fan of this sunscreen-moisturizer because it’s moisturizing yet lightweight, making it perfect for the transitional weather of spring. It’s only got SPF 30, though, so be sure you’re reapplying it regularly for maximum protection.
Dr. Lee loves this SPF 50 mineral sunscreen from EltaMD. It uses zinc oxide to physically protect your skin from the sun and has a light tint that makes it easy to blend into skin without leaving behind a white cast.
"Antioxidants are extremely helpful for protecting the skin from environmental assault," says Dr. Love. These ingredients defend against free radicals before they can break down your skin's collagen. "When we think about pollution, antioxidants are very helpful. They also just help your sunscreen to work a little bit better," she adds. Plus, Dr. Lee adds that antioxidants like vitamin C can help boost your body's production of collagen.
Dr. Lee says this is a great beginner vitamin C (which, by the way, is one of the most powerful antioxidants out there), especially for those with sensitive skin. It contains 15 percent vitamin C to visibly minimize pores, brighten dark spots, and defend against free-radical damage.
For those with less reactive skin, Dr. Lee says to get vitamin C from The Ordinary. This formula suspends the ingredient in hyaluronic acid, which gives it a hydrating and dewy finish.
Retinoids "are workhorse ingredients that we love," says Dr. Lee. "These are vitamin A-derived ingredients, retinol being the over-the-counter strength, and then there are prescription strengths vitamin A-derivatives. This is in the family of Tretinoin and Tazarotene that are really helpful and best used in the evenings where they can really help you build that collagen." Even if you can't get your hands on a prescription-strength retinoid, over-the-counter retinol will do just fine in the long term "to help decrease that slow thinning and bumpiness that happens with the skin" as we age, says Dr. Love.
This Drunk Elephant retinoid serum is another great moisturizing option, says Dr. Lee. It mixes retinol with a triple peptide blend to boost the age-fighting benefits of retinol and vitamin F to help calm the skin while smoothing its texture.
Get more info on retinol straight from a derm:
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