This is a very special time in my life.
It's the time when I still have baby-smooth skin of an early twenty-something, yet look old enough to be taken seriously. The guys who try to talk to me are intelligent. I'm being called a "woman" more frequently, instead of a "girl." I'm on the cusp of looking just old enough to appear on a morning TV show.
I'm aware that refraining from smoking has served me well thus far, but it's only a matter of time before the tanning bed of my teen years, weekends at the beach and lots of sugar consumption catches up with me. And lately, I've also been having this conversation a lot:
New acquaintance mentions a life event (13-year-old daughter, graduating from grad school 10 years ago).
Me: Wait a second, you don't look old enough ...
Aquaintance: "Oh, I'm 37."
Me: "... wow. What is your skincare regimen??"
So yeah, wrinkles have very much been on my mind lately. I'm going to cut down on the sugar and carb intake (seriously, I promise it's for real this time), but I would feel much more confident armed with a cabinet full of potions to repair the hidden damage before it's too late.
So I tried slew of different non-toxic products that promise to address the signs of aging before they even start (and most address current wrinkles as well!). I can't tell you how well they work--that would require a ten-year-long experiment with a hundred women and some control subjects. But I can stick to products with proven ingredients, and tell you about their look, feel, and smell.
Proven Anti-Aging Ingredients
I pulled my wish list of ingredients from this Prevention.com article. While many anti-aging ingredients--like caffeine glycolic acid--are only good for temporarily perking up your visage if you already have wrinkles, I was looking for ingredients that get soaked into your skin and do their work silently but effectively for the long haul. Here are the four I looked for in my products, excerpted from Prevention:
DNA Repair Ingredients
"DNA repair ingredients" are a host of compounds (some are derived from plankton or rose myrtle extract) that reverse sun damage," says Debra Jaliman MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and media spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. They also have growth factors that stimulate collagen, a skin-firming protein that depletes with age and makes skin look loose. “And these effects are permanent,” she says.
Your skin relies on antioxidants like vitamin C for protection against free radicals that can cause damage and speed up signs of aging. "Since the skin receives the most free radical assault from UV light, replenishing and increasing your skin's antioxidant defense is an attractive strategy for photo-protection and repair," says Lawrence Samuels, MD, chief of dermatology at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis, MO. "Vitamin C is also essential for normal cell growth and collagen production." And unlike B vitamins, it's actually absorbed by your skin.
How cool is this: "Peptides trick your skin into thinking it's lost collagen, so it makes more," says Dr. Samuels. And the skin-smoothing effects are permanent: The cells continue to produce collagen, even after you stop using the product. That's the kind of trickery we can get behind.
"Retinol's a remarkably diverse and unique work-horse that plays a key role in the health of the skin and the aging process," says Dr. Samuels. “When applied to the skin, retinol converts to retinoic acid which helps promote growth of new, healthy skin cells.” Not just that, it can also lighten brown spots and stimulate hyaluronic acid production, which preserves collagen, and firms and tightens skin.
Now that we have that established, let's take a look at the products I tried!
Amala Rejuvenate Advanced Firming Complex
A favorite of the founder of beauty brand ILIA, this serum by Amala is quite the luxurious choice. It's made in Germany from 100% organic, fair trade ingredients grown in their native habitat, and Amala only works with farm partners who commit to regenerative agriculture.
This isn't just for preventative purposes, though the vitamin C will do that. In an independent clinical test, after 28 days, 100% of participants showed a significant reduction in wrinkle depth, 95% showed significant improvement in firmness, and 75% demonstrated significantly increased skin density. And all this with botanical ingredients!
The cocoa bean is rich in collagen-boosting plant peptides and helps stimulate microcirculation while restoring elasticity, fighting inflammation and providing antioxidant protection. Soy improves firmness with proteins and plant peptides that help boost collagen and elastin synthesis, and helps fortify skin’s inner structural matrix. Brown Algae re-densifies by helping to stimulate collagen production and helps improve skin’s ability to fight aging by optimizing its natural respiratory functions. Inca Inchi Seed nourishes skin with nature’s highest concentration of Omega 3 essential fatty acids while quelling inflammation and defending skin from free radical age damage. Acerola infuses high levels of potent Vitamin C to help even skin tone and stimulate collagen synthesis.
I was only able to try a sample size of this product, but that was enough to get me hooked. The white lotion is rich and creamy without being sticky or heavy, absorbs quickly, and leaves my skin feeling soft and hydrated right after application. I especially like the spicy sweet smell, which I'm assuming comes from the highlighted ingredient, cocoa beans. Finally, it helps that it comes in this luxurious packaging.
$248 for 1.7 ounces on Spirit Beauty Lounge
Suki makes synthetic-free, pure beauty ingredients that are proven to work, and this product is no exception. It has coQ-10, resveratrol, vitamin C, retinol vitamin A, and hyaluronic acid, plus rosa-centrifolia of Provence, which combine to get you results. It spreads smoothly over my skin each night with quick absorption and a subtle scent. Since I've started using it, I've been feeling like my skin looks less tired.
Suki never uses parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances/dyes, sulfates, or cruelty. They use as little plastic as possible in their packaging, using glass instead. They buy only organic cornstarch packing peanuts and use unbleached newsprint papers. Their inks are clean, biodegradable and vegetable-based.
MyChelle specializes in whole suites of affordable, nearly edible goodies that are designed to work together to address your skincare concerns. And each product is helpfully numbered, so you know in which order to apply it for most effectiveness. They also strive to be as responsible as possible by engaging in awesomely eco-friendly operations and giving back to community foundations and organizations. They even pioneered renewable packaging.
Mychelle, generously, sent me a slew of products to try, including a whole anti-aging kit. I didn't want to be overwhelmed, so I pulled out only the products that include one of my four featured ingredients. None of the cleansers (step 1) or masks and exfoliants (step 2) had my special ingredients, but when you get into the serums, sprays and creams, you hit the jackpot.
For step 3, you can smooth on the firming serum, which has two effective anti-aging ingredients: peptide and vitamin C. It's a light liquid with a tangy, almost citrusy scent, and dries quickly for quick layering with other products. Phytonutrients and skin-smoothing peptides begin working immediately to visibly improve firmness. Argireline peptide is clinically proven to reduce wrinkle depth up to 27%, while goji Fruit Extract has 500 times more vitamin C by weight than oranges.
$60 for 1 ounce on MyChelle
The Fruit Enzyme Mist (step 4) is a water-like spray that dries fairly quickly. It has a light, fruity scent, and is recommended for all skin types. Antioxidant turmeric strengthens and vitamin c-rich super fruit mangosteen supports collagen to help skin maintain youthful-looking firmness and structure. Pectin and pineapple help resurface by boosting natural exfoliation for ultra-soft and smooth skin. I thought it a good, pleasant addition to my morning routine.
$14.19 for 2.1 ounces on Mychelle
My goodness this cream (step 5) smells good, like when a nice restaurant sets down that fruit-based dessert in from of you on a crisp white plate. Yeah, it smells like that. Luckily, this is actually good for you, with ChroNOline™ Peptide, proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles by 16% in just 28 days. Test results show that another ingredient, monk’s pepper, noticeably reduces line depth, increases hydration and improves skin firmness within four weeks.
$38.39 for 1.2 ounces on MyChelle
This fabulous eye cream (step 5) is another tart-smelling cream to smooth over the eyes and even around the lips if you've been pursing them too much. It nourishes the delicate eye area while minimizing the look of fine lines. Edelweiss plant stem cells inhibit collagen breakdown and are clinically proven to reduce wrinkle depth by 15% after only 20 days of use. Hyaluronic acid binds moisture within the skin, smoothing and firming the eye area. I like the idea of this yummy product going to work on my eyes at night.
$28.39 for .5 ounces on MyChelle
After reading that retinols were truly the key to eternal youth, I walked into Sephora started poking around the skincare section. When I told a sales associate I wanted a paraben-free product with retinols, she picked out Korres for me, pointing out that it uses quercetin and oak as a naturally-occuring retinol. An ultra-powerful antioxidant derived from the oak tree, it works fast to help minimize the signs of aging and keep skin looking younger. According to a clinical trial with self-assessments after 56 days, 100% reported firmer, smoother, more radiant skin, 100% reported fewer visible appearances of wrinkles and 94% reported reduction in the appearance of expression lines. Of course, Korres doesn't contain any parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, GMOs or triclosan.
This cream is light, with a bold, unidentifiable but pleasant scent, making it a pleasure to slather on each night before I head to bed. Korres also makes eye cream with quercetin.
$52 on Sephora.com