Healthy Aging

Natural Anti-Aging Skincare: What's The Best Moisturizer for Aging Skin

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Finding the perfect moisturizer is like searching for a superhero for your skin. You want something that'll quench your skin's thirst, beef up its natural defenses, and give it that youthful elasticity. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast.

Here's the tricky part: many of those fancy jars lining the beauty aisle are hiding a secret. Behind their promises of eternal youth lurks a bunch of ingredients that might make chemists scratch their heads – and make your skin-- and your body-- unhappy.

We're talking about those tongue-twisters like PEGs, parabens, phthalates, and mystery "fragrances" that could do more harm than good. But don't worry—nature's got your back. Discover the key ingredients to look for in the best moisturizer for aging skin and the problem chemicals found with many popular moisturizers— in other words, what you should avoid and why.

Key Takeaways

  • As you age, starting as young as 30 years old, your skin starts losing hydration and collagen, your outer skin barrier weakens, and elasticity declines. Therefore, you'll want to take steps to address those issues to keep young-looking features throughout your adult life.
  • The ideal moisturizer should contain ingredients that hydrate, strengthen the skin barrier, and improve elasticity. But many popular products hide a cocktail of potentially harmful chemicals behind their promises of youth.
  • Plenty of natural ingredients can address skin aging with their beneficial antioxidants-- including hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, retinol, sunflower oil, and aloe vera.

Why Your Skin Ages

Ever looked in the mirror and wondered, "When did those lines appear?" Or maybe you're still sporting that youthful glow and are curious about how to keep it. Well, buckle up, because we're about to take a journey through your skin's personal timeline. Here are the common triggers for skin aging:

Loss of hydration

Picture your skin as a plump, juicy grape. As time goes by, it starts to resemble more of a raisin. Why? It's losing its natural moisturizer, hyaluronic acid. Think of it as your skin's built-in water bottle, slowly springing leaks. The result? Skin that feels as parched as the Sahara and looks about as smooth. Dehydrated skin loses its ability to hold moisture, due to lowered production of natural moisturizing elements like hyaluronic acid. Moisturizers can help with hydrated skin and prevent dryness, flakiness, and a dull, rough skin texture.

Compromised skin barrier

Now, imagine your skin as a fortress. Over time, the walls start to crumble. This is your skin's moisture barrier breaking down, leaving it vulnerable to all sorts of environmental nasties. It's like leaving the castle gates wide open! As the skin's natural moisture barrier becomes weaker, the skin becomes more susceptible to environmental damage and moisture loss. Again, moisturizers can help. Read on for tips on how to choose the best moisturizer for aging skin.

Loss of elasticity

Remember those rubber bands from your childhood? Your skin has its own version – collagen and elastin. But just like those rubber bands, they lose their snap over time. The result? Skin that's less bouncy, with lines that stick around long after you've stopped laughing at that joke. Collagen and elastin production naturally decline with age, which can mean loss of skin firmness and elasticity. This in turn leads to fine lines and wrinkles. Moisturizers with ingredients such as peptides and antioxidants can help boost collagen production and improve skin elasticity. They also help plump up fine lines and wrinkles by attracting water molecules, which helps turn mature skin into more youthful looking skin.

Irritated and sensitive skin

Finally, your skin ages, it becomes more prone to tantrums – itching, redness, the works. It's basically your skin throwing a fit because it's not getting enough moisture. Dry skin is more prone to irritation. Keeping skin hydrated and well-moisturized can alleviate these issues and promote healthier, more supple skin.

Now, for the good news. With the right moisturizer, you can help your skin turn back the clock.

Moisturizer: The One Anti-Aging Cream You Need

You don't need a mountain of products taking up space in your bathroom. And your bank account doesn't want that either. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming. But it's better to keep it simple. Less is more, as they say.

The two products you really need are a gentle cleanser to wash your face with at least once per day... and then the best moisturizer for aging skin that you can find.

The best moisturizer for aging skin should keep your skin hydrated while also targeting issues that come with aging, such as dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness.

Some tips to keep in mind as you shop for the best moisturizer for aging skin:

Ingredient list

Those with mature skin should look to address dryness, water loss, and fine lines and wrinkles... while avoiding the common problems with most moisturizes (see below).

Your skin type

Skin tone makes a difference. Skin types play a role in the type of moisturizer you choose. As an example, oily skin types do well with lightweight moisturizers that are noncomedogenic (meaning they don't cause clogged pores or blackheads).

Dry skin types should look for rich cream-based moisturizers to lock in water and support the skin barrier. If your skin is sensitive, look for gentle fragrance-free formulas with no irritating dyes.

Type of moisturizer -- humectants, emollients, and occlusives

Humectants form bonds with water molecules that draw water to the skin's surface and make skin appear more plump. Hyaluronic acid is an example. Emollients soften and smooth the skin, and make it supple by filling gaps between cells. Occlusives help prevent water loss, to maintain skin hydration.

The Problem with Common Moisturizers for Mature Skin

Imagine walking into a beauty store blindfolded. That's essentially what we're doing when we shop for moisturizers. Why? Because the beauty industry is like the Wild West – there are no sheriffs enforcing the rules.

The marketplace is absolutely flooded with skin care options and moisturizers for aging skin. However, many of them contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, destroy the protective barrier, and harm your health, including chemicals that are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive issues, and more. Since there are no regulatory standards that companies must comply with, it's really on you to watch out for these chemicals and choose whether to use them or not.

Let's unmask some of the villains lurking in your moisturizer:

Parabens

These are like uninvited guests at a party. They show up to prevent bacteria (good), but they also crash your body's hormone system and might even invite cancer to the party (very bad). Parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben. They're preservatives used to prevent bacterial growth. Parabens easily penetrate the skin and have been linked to many health issues, including hormone disruption, cancer, reproductive problems, and allergic reactions.

Phthalates

Phthalates are used as lubricants (softeners in moisturizers and many other products). They're known endocrine disruptors linked to cancer and reproductive birth defects in both males and females, autism, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and asthma. Unfortunately, phthalates are hidden in many "fragrances" so they're super hard to detect on product labels.

Perfluorooctanoic acid Acid (PFOA)

PFOA is a synthetic chemical used to create a smooth finish and non-stick surfaces in cosmetics, moisturizers, and a huge array of unrelated products. PFOA and PFOS are part of a class of more than 12,000 substances known collectively as PFAS, which is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They've been dubbed "forever chemicals" because that's about how long they last in the environment. Forever.

PFAS have been linked to severe birth defects, infertility, several cancers, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, immune dysfunction, and more. There's evidence that the companies that produced them knew of their dangers 50+ years ago, but hid them from the public.

PEG (Polyethylene Glycols)

Imagine a bouncer that lets everyone into the club – good guys and bad guys alike. That's PEG. They function as an absorption enhancer to move both good and bad ingredients to rapidly absorb deep into the skin. When used on broken skin, they can cause irritation and system toxicity. What's more, PEGs reduce the skin's moisture barrier and accelerate skin aging. PEG compounds are used across the cosmetic industry as thickeners and softeners.

Fragrance

Fragrance: This is the ultimate shapeshifter. "Fragrance" on a label could mean any of 4,000 different ingredients! It's like a mystery grab bag, but instead of prizes, you might be getting allergens, irritants, or even carcinogens.

Fragrances are used in about 50% of all beauty products. Sadly, they actually contain many unknown toxic chemicals without you knowing or realizing it. Be aware that companies also hide behind the words, "natural fragrance" -- which probably isn't as natural as you'd think it is. Try to find products that use pure essential oils distilled directly from the plant instead.

Phthalates are a major toxin hidden in fragrances because they make the fragrance last longer. In addition, fragrances can contain many other toxic ingredients including carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), allergens, and irritants.

The takeaway? Your moisturizer might be a double agent. It promises to make you look younger, but it could be secretly sabotaging your health.

Don't panic! Knowledge is power. By being aware of these sneaky ingredients, you're already ahead of the game. Remember, when it comes to skincare, sometimes less is more. Natural doesn't always mean safe, but it's often a good place to start.

Next time you're moisturizer shopping, think of yourself as a detective. Your mission? To crack the code of the ingredient list and unmask the potential troublemakers hiding in plain sight.

The Most Powerful Natural Ingredients

Fortunately, you have choices... high-quality ingredients loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Here are the best moisturizer ingredients straight from nature for aging skin.

Hyaluronic Acid

A humectant that attracts moisture to the skin like bees to flowers. It helps plump and hydrate the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines.

There's little evidence that hyaluronic acid is a "miracle substance" for young looking skin. However, the evidence does suggest that it helps aid collagen and elastin production and keeps your skin moisturized. Hyaluronic acid can be used with retinol to reduce sensitivity to retinol.

Vitamin C

Imagine your skin as a superhero, constantly battling against the forces of aging. Now, picture Vitamin C as its trusty sidekick, always ready to swoop in and save the day.

This little powerhouse has become the darling of the skincare world, and for good reason. Think of it as your skin's personal bodyguard, fending off those pesky free radicals that cause wrinkles, dark spots, and roughness. It's like having a bouncer at the door of your skin, keeping the troublemakers out.

But Vitamin C isn't just playing defense. Oh no, it's got some impressive offense too. It's like a cheerleader for your skin, encouraging it to pump out more collagen. Remember collagen? That's the stuff that keeps your skin plump and bouncy. As we age, our body starts slacking off on collagen production, leading to skin that's more deflated balloon than fresh grape. Vitamin C gives your skin the pep talk it needs to keep that collagen coming.

Now, here's the catch (isn't there always one?). Vitamin C is a bit of a diva. It doesn't like the spotlight - literally. Light can turn it from superhero to sideline sitter. So when you're shopping, look for Vitamin C products in opaque containers. Think of it as sunglasses for your skincare.

And one more thing: Vitamin C has a "best before" date. After about six months, it starts to lose its superpowers. So once you buy it, don't let it gather dust on your shelf. Start using it right away. Your skin will thank you for the quick action!

Vitamin E

Vitamin E-- especially the alpha-tocopherol form -- offers potent antioxidant protection. It stands guard, deflecting those free radicals and environmental troublemakers that want to fast-track your skin's aging process.

Now, here's a fun fact for your next trivia night: the best source of Vitamin E for your skin isn't some exotic, hard-to-pronounce ingredient. It's good old sunflower oil! That's right, the same stuff you might use for cooking could be your skin's new best friend.

Retinol

Retinol is an active form of vitamin A. Retinoid is the prescription version. Retinal boosts exfoliation and helps you shed old cells. Because of this, it also helps address acne by unclogging pores, stopping blackheads and whiteheads, and preventing future acne.

Retinol also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by slowing collagen breakdown and helping your skin cells hang onto moisture.

Note that retinal can be irritating to some people, especially if you're new to retinol or have sensitive skin. Apply a thin layer of moisturizer to your face before using retinol. It gives your skin a bit of a barrier.

Retinoid prescriptions have not been tested on pregnant women, so you should avoid them during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Sunflower Seed Oil

Studies show you should use sunflower oil instead of other plant oils including the heralded olive oil. Sunflower seed oil was found to preserve stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin) integrity. It also boosted skin hydration by 18% and cut down on dryness and scaling by 54%, whereas olive oil harmed barrier function and caused erythema (a painful rash). This seminal paper highlighted how sunflower seed oil is rich in linoleic, which helps maintain a healthy skin barrier to prevent signs of aging like dryness and roughness.[4]

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that helps maintain skin barrier function and hydrates the skin. Unlike heavier plant oils, sunflower seed oil is non-comedogenic and therefore less likely to clog pores. What's more, the fatty acid profile of sunflower oil gives it emollient and soothing qualities that help calm inflammation, as well as make it easy to incorporate into anti-aging routines without heavy residue.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a gel-like substance from a cactus plant of the same name. The succulent leaves contain at least 75, and possibly as many as 200, active compounds. [1,2] Known as a sunburn therapy, it offers a whole lot more. It also helps fade stubborn dark spots and moisturizes skin. In one study, the compound aloesin was found to lighten dark spots when applied to the skin four times per day. It's like a gentle eraser for your skin, helping to fade those pesky marks. And if your skin's feeling a bit parched? Aloe vera's there with a tall glass of hydration.

A clinical study was one of the first to show the anti-aging effects of oral aloe vera supplementation on human skin. Researchers found that aloe vera gel significantly improved wrinkles and elasticity in photoaged facial skin, increased collagen production, and decreased levels of collagen-destroying metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1). [3]

Scientists have found that aloe vera doesn't just work its magic from the outside. When taken orally, it's like sending a secret anti-aging squad into your skin. It helps boost collagen (that's the stuff that keeps your skin bouncy) and fights off the bad guys that want to break it down.

Ceramides

Now, let's talk about ceramides. No, we're not discussing fancy pottery here. Ceramides are long-chain fatty acids found in your skin cells and they act like the bouncers at your skin's exclusive moisture club. They create a VIP rope line, keeping all that precious hydration locked in.

Here's the kicker: your skin naturally produces these nifty little compounds, but as you age, they start slacking off. It's like they're taking more and more coffee breaks. The result? Fine lines and wrinkles start crashing your skin's party.

But don't worry! Science has our backs. While we can't extract ceramides from natural sources (unless you want to walk around covered in wheat germ oil), clever scientists have figured out how to make synthetic versions that work just as well. That's right, all of the ceramides in skincare products are made synthetically. While they don't fall under our natural skincare umbrella, they have, as of yet, not been proven dangerous. Look for ceramides in combination with antioxidants, peptides, and retinol, for maximum effect. They should be in opaque air-tight containers.

Choosing The Best Natural Moisturizer For Your Aging Skin

In order to select the best natural moisturizer for your aging skin, you need a set of criteria to judge them by. The best moisturizers meet these criteria:

Few irritants

Though the name "natural" has no standard definition, natural moisturizers are still less likely to contain synthetic fragrances and preservatives that may cause skin irritation.

Nutrient rich

The best ingredients contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants such as vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to nourish and protect the skin.

No harmful chemicals

Avoids potentially harmful chemicals and toxins such as parabens, phthalates, and fragrances found in most synthetic products.

Eco-friendly

Plant-based products are generally more sustainable and environmentally friendly than synthetic ingredients.

Other Things You Can Do for Youthful Looking Skin

Besides choosing the best moisturizers for aging skin and keeping to a consistent skincare routine, there's more you can do to look young and vivacious as you age.

Drink more water

Water is a potent elixir for your body, brain, and skin. Dehydration can take up to 15 years off your life and raise your risk of premature death by 21%. It goes way beyond hydrating your skin cells.

Don't smoke

Tobacco smoke is toxic for cells including skin cells. Research shows that smoking speeds many aspects of the aging process and induces premature skin aging. Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of the skin and damages collagen and elastin, causing sagging skin and wrinkles.

Protect your skin from the sun

UV light exposure speeds natural skin aging and triggers wrinkles and rough, blotchy skin. Limit the time you spend in midday sun. Wear a hat or visor to keep the sun off your face.

Summary

Given that your skin starts its aging process by around age 30, most adults should start taking steps to protect it and avoid the appearance of wrinkles starting in early adulthood. This includes selecting the best moisturizer for aging skin as well as a gentle cleanser -- and then using them on a daily basis on your face, neck, and hands in particular.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between moisturizer and anti-aging cream?

A moisturizer helps hydrate and hold water to the outer layer of skin and protect the barrier from harm. It can address superficial wrinkles. But it doesn't have antioxidants that protect the skin and reduce oxidative stress. Anti-aging active ingredients include hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, collagen, and retinol.

What age should you start using an anti-aging moisturizer?

Skin aging starts to be a thing at about age 30, with the slowing of collagen production and consequent appearance of wrinkles and dehydration. Collagen continues to decrease at the rate of about 1% per year. So starting about age 30 it's important to start using an anti-aging moisturizer and select your best moisturizer for aging skin. From that point on, consistent use will produce the best results for mature skin.

How do moisturizers work?

A layer called the hydrolipidic film protects the epidermis from external toxins. The hydrolipidic film retains water to the cells, which helps the skin maintain hydration. Using a moisturizer helps maintain that film layer. A moisturizer contains both the ability to hydrate and nourish the skin while protecting it.

  1. Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(4):163-6. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.44785. PMID: 19882025; PMCID: PMC2763764. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19882025/
  2. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(4):163-6. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.44785. PMID: 19882025; PMCID: PMC2763764. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19882025/
  3. Cho S, Lee S, Lee MJ, Lee DH, Won CH, Kim SM, Chung JH. Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo. Ann Dermatol. 2009 Feb;21(1):6-11. doi: 10.5021/ad.2009.21.1.6. Epub 2009 Feb 28. PMID: 20548848; PMCID: PMC2883372. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20548848/
  4. Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, Lavender T, Chittock J, Brown K, Cork MJ. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013 Jan-Feb;30(1):42-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x. Epub 2012 Sep 20. PMID: 22995032. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22995032/
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