Skin care amongst men is skyrocketing, especially for anti-aging. An increasing number of men are reaching for their cash to get gels, creams and masks off of the shelves. There are so much choices, containing strange names in the ingredients. How is it possible to even know what actually slows ageing?
There are morning creams and evening creams and no-one seems to actually know what the difference is. Don’t waste time throwing money away, let’s get down to the nitty gritty! The aim of this article is for you know about what ingredients actually work, so you can look 50 at the age of 100. So let’s start anti-aging!
Vitamin A (Retinol) In Anti-Aging
Vitamin A refers to compounds that have an impact on everything from vision to skin health. It’s actually not a single compound, it’s a combination of compounds such as retinol and carotinoids (which may sound familiar). It also refers to compounds known as beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin, which you can find in vegetables.
Retinol and beta-carotene are the most common forms of Vitamin A. These can be found in food, supplements and skin care. The difference? Retinol is found in animal products. It is the precursor of other forms of Vitamin A and can therefore become active forms (e.g. retinoic acid – more on this in a moment). Beta-carotene is found in plant products and is an inactive storage form of Vitamin A. So far so good?
Interestingly, the different forms of Vitamin A have different effects across the body, which include the slowing of ageing.
Retinoic Acid – The Big Boy
Retinoic acid, which is an active form of Vitamin A is one of the products that has repeatedly been found to have a beneficial effect on ageing, specifically by reducing wrinkles. This happens by slowing down the degradation of collagen (the protein that makes your skin look plump and bouncy).
Wrinkles are reliably reduced with topical application in creams. This works for all ages….assuming it isn’t a baby with no wrinkles.
Not only can this magical thing slow degradation, it can even increase production of collagen in skin. A Large percentage of skin ageing is due to sun exposure. This is where retinoic acid shines and works as an anti-aging product.
How much retinoic acid?
There does appear to actually be a magic amount of retinoic acid. All-trans retinoic acid (AKA Tretinoin) is sufficient in quantities as low as 0.01-0.10%. Lower concentrations have less of an impact but also less chances of side-effects.
Both 0.1% and 0.025% showed similar amounts of improvement in studies, more specifically, on ageing. Although, the smaller dose obviously had less side-effects. In other studies 0.01% had the fewest side-effects but was also the least effective in reducing skin ageing.
The sweet spot for most seems to be 0.025-0.05%.
Tretinoin does have side effects, which vary form person to person, and of course, by quantity applied.
These are not serious enough to stop using it however, and tends to be limited to some skin dryness and mild skin flaking.
Any lotions containing 0.1% or more (which is above the sweet spot) can cause some dryness, peeling and redness. The sweet spot has a greatly reduced chance of producing said side-effects.
When To Use
So when should the lotions or creams be applied to the skin? There is one simple answer, which is in the evening before bed. Why? It makes the skin a little more sensitive to sunlight. Bear in mind that this does pass as the skin adjusts and gets thicker. Evening is safe. The Morning is not the greatest idea as the skin will immediately be exposed to sun following application.
Polypeptides (Peptides) In Anti-Aging
Polypeptides, also known as peptides, are said to boost and preserve collagen. They are essentially made up of amino-acids, the building blocks of protein. As we age our skin loses fat and produces less and less collagen. Because of this, it appears in many creams, face washes, masks and lotions. But does it actually live up to the hype and help with anti-aging?
The theory is that polypeptides pass through the skin and notify the body that it’s running out of collagen. This in turn increases the production of collagen and therefore reduces the wrinkles in the skin. Unfortunately, the jury is still out as to whether peptides help, as they are too large to pass through the skin. Having said that, there does seem to be some anecdotal evidence of it reducing wrinkles. Feel free to try and see if it helps. Either way, it’s commonly part of lotions so there is nothing to lose.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA) In Anti-Aging
AHA is another commonly used skin care product for men. There are a few different AHAs such as lactic acid, glycolic acid and citric acid. These are often natural ingredients that come from fruit and milk sugars. Natural is almost always better, as far as we are concerned.
They are commonly used as they work as exfoliants, meaning they abolish dead skin cells and increase the production of collagen, which results in thicker skin with less wrinkles and no inflammation. Essentially it increases the speed at which skin cells turn-over. In other words, remove old cells and replace them with new, sexier ones.
Since there are a variety of different acids. Don’t be scared by the word acid, it doesn’t mean it will burn or damage your skin.
Lactic acid, which is usually sourced from sour milk helps in the removal of dead skin. The use of lactic acid allows the skin to brighten up. This is a good choice to should bland skin be a problem.
Glycolic acid, in it’s natural form, is usually sourced from cane sugar. It is used to minimise lines and wrinkles, which results smoother skin. More commonly it is found in its synthetic form. Rough skin? Use this to make it smoother.
These two are the only ones worth looking into right now. Lactic acid and glycolic acid are the gold standard as they have the most research to back them. Compared to some other products, they actually have a great track record of proven results.
Glycolic acid works best at concentrations of 5% and up, usually in the 5-10% range IF the aim is exfoliation.
As with Glycolic acid, the magic range for exfoliation tends to be 5% and up, usually 5-10%. Lactic acid can be part of a lotion, in which case it will work at a concentration of 2%, but will not exfoliate. Instead help with hydration of the skin.
Since AHAs are generally used as exfoliants some of the side effects can be stinging and sun sensitivity, so using sunscreen is advised. After-all, new and more sensitive skin is being exposed to the outside world. Exfoliants aren’t used every day however so push on and read the “When” below.
This entirely depends on the product and how much sun damage has been experienced. Some products are suitable every day or even twice a day use. Others should only be used once MAYBE twice a week. Always read the directions for use before you go diving in.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA) In Anti-Aging
A little molecule that has a profound impact all over the body, whether it’s supplemented, applied or injected into arthritic joints. As we age one of the key molecules that helps retain moisture declines. This is an anti-aging key!
The magic around HA is that it can store up to 1000 it’s weight in water. Now, there is an element which can be a little confusing about HA and that is its molecular weight. This essentially dictates size and whether or not it can pass into the skin and moisturise it. It also changes the depth of wrinkles and increases elasticity, one study even found a 20% increase in elasticity!
How much HA?
As a general rule somewhere between 130 and 500 kDa is what you’re looking for. Closer to 130 kDa is probably better as it has an easier time passing through the skin. If you’re not sure about the product, ask the manufacturer.
When To Use?
Anytime, generally speaking it’s used as Serum (this post explains the steps), which is an important step in skincare.
If you suffer from damaged skin then test it first, as it may carry unwanted molecules into your skin as it passes though. Besides this exception there are no known side effects.
Antioxidants In Anti-Aging
Since this topic could be incredibly broad all antioxidants will be lumped together in order of efficacy. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, molecules that are produce on a day to day basis. Free radicals the body, increase inflammation and increase the risk of many diseases such as cancer.
By reducing inflammation antioxidants give the skin some time to repair itself and eradicate damage.
Antioxidants are found in abundance in fruit, vegetables and some animal products. Usually, the more colour the food contains the higher the amount of antioxidants such as vitamins.
Examples include: Vitamin A, E, C, beta-carotene and selenium.
Another fun bonus is that anti-oxidants actually fight the sun’s rays and therefore reduce the chance of getting burned and slow any damage! Therefore reducing ageing of the skin, especially useful for those over 50 (and this under 50 wanting a head start).
An additional bonus is that anti-oxidants delay and reduce the appearance of those pesky blotches of uneven skin colour that one commonly sees in elderly people. Let’s have a look which one’s are actually useful in a men’s skincare routine.
This is one of those antioxidants that stands out due to its profound impact on many elements of anti-ageing. First off, it can protect the skin from sun damage but works best in conjunction with vitamin E (below), so if possible, always use both in conjunction with one another.
To get even more out of it, combining sunscreen with vitamin C at a percentage of 10% reduced sunburn cell formation by 40-60%. It also helps with skin depigmentation, meaning that it delays and reduces the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone.
The final great thing vitamin C does in men’s skincare is regulate collagen production and as we know, increased collagen means better, thicker and more vibrant skin.
How And When To Use?
Ideally after sun exposure or with sunscreen at 20%.
A powerful antioxidant which helps the skin heal itself by battling free radicals in much the same way as vitamin C. In an ideal world this would be used in combination with Vitamin C. This is why one it is often found in creams, lotions and other topical products.
This is one of those magically little compounds for which red wine is touted to be healthy. It’s found in the skin of grapes as well as other dark berries. Unlike Vitamin C, which has a large amount of research to back it, resveratrol is still being examined in more depth in the scientific world in relation to skin care. This is because it has shown promising results in reducing acne and also having a potentially positive impact on protecting the skin from cancer and many other skin disorders. As with other antioxidants it fights free radicals. All in all nothing to lose with this one.
CoQ10, which you may have also see as Ubiquinone, is an antioxidant crucial for energy production in cells which diminishes in the body with age. Like the other antioxidants already mentioned it fights free radicals. In addition to this, it may also increase energy production within the cells of the skin when applied topically. This can lead to improved skin elasticity and texture, which again we lose as we age.
Niacinamide or vitamin B3 helps with energy production of the skin cells, as it readily passes through the skin. Unlike some other products, it has quite a few positive effects which include reducing skin redness, reducing yellow skin and lightening hyperpigmentation AKA dark spots, all WITHOUT any known side-effects. It also helps to enhance the natural skin barrier and improve its function AND increase collagen production to smooth wrinkles. A win-win all around. Bear in mind that it can reduce the impact of vitamin c. Vitamin C is expected to be less effective when combined with Niacinamide.
Other Plant Derived Antioxidants (e.g. Polyphenals & Flavanois)
There are a bunch more antioxidants which are found in products. These act in very much the same way as all the ones mentioned above, in that they fight free radicals. From that perspective, there isn’t much to lose if they are included within products, however, going outside of one’s way to purchase these may not be worth the hassle. If budget is an issue or you know very little about skincare to begin with, these can be ignored. They are interesting but don’t provide the same bang for your buck as all the rest, so we’ve minimized the text on these.
Sun Screen In Anti-Aging
Even though the use of sunscreen has been on the rise, there has also been an increase in skin cancers. That does not mean that sunscreen is bad but it may mean that some of the ingredients are not desirable, at least from our perspective.
There are 2 types of sunscreen, those that use chemical blocks to absorb rays and those that use physical blocks that reflect and scatter run rays. Some sunscreen use a combination of both to protect the skin.
The chemicals in the first version of sunscreen have an impact on wildlife as well as humans potentially by getting into the food chain. The chemicals have been found to have profound negative effects on animals (bear in mind that we are also animals). Examples are negative effects on brain health, testosterone production and excessive estrogen production as well as neurotoxic effects. These have also been shown to pass through the human skin potentially impacting our health and that of fetuses.
Physical blocks, especially Zinc Oxide, are less worrisome as it is difficult for them to actually pass through the skin barrier (as long as you keep it healthy). Unfortunately, because of their structure they make the skin look white while applied, which some people may not like. The only time they can cause issues is when ingested or inhaled so avoid eating with hands covered in this.
The best advice is really to use clothes and hats to prevent over exposure and keep yourself looking fresh and stylish. When necessary use a physical block e.g. if surfing or paddleboarding.
My recommendation for face and hands (the areas often exposed so sun) is this sunscreen. It contains no rubbish and will do the job.