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How early do you need to start using anti-aging products?

by Deborah Duffey, Chief Product Development officer and President

As soon as our mid-20s, skin begins to visibly age. Around the age of 20 collagen production, the protein that keeps skin firm and youthful, slows down about 1% per year. This is also when you might begin to notice fine lines pop up, like expression lines around your eyes or mouth.

Of course, in your 20’s this type of aging is natural and expected, but even so, it’s not too early to begin to take measures to prevent aging caused by external factors. The earlier you begin the better, but even beyond your 20s there are products and treatments that can drastically improve signs of aging that have already occurred and slow down the aging to come.

What does anti-aging really mean?

First, we need to define what we mean by anti-aging. Any product that wants to call itself anti-aging can do so—there’s no real industry standard definition. To combat this, we created a list of 6 functions of anti-aging (anything we label as anti-aging at Kara Vita meets these standards). To us, an anti-aging product...

  • Has antioxidant properties
  • Has dermal repair properties
  • Increases capillary blood flow
  • Provides immuno-stimulation to the skin
  • Stimulates the epidermis for new cellular growth
  • Moisturizes and softens the skin

Anti-aging isn’t just smoothing out wrinkles or plumping up skin, it should work deep within the skin to create a healthier canvas. When choosing anti-aging products, you should first decide what anti-aging means to you—or go ahead and use our parameters.

What causes wrinkles?

Wrinkles tend to be what most people think of first when it comes to aging skin. And while fine lines and wrinkles naturally form over time due to a decrease in collagen and elastin production as we age (two proteins that are key are firming skin), outside factors play an even bigger role. Fortunately, those external causes are within your control.

What’s the biggest outside source of wrinkles? Sun exposure. Claims say that the sun is responsible for 90% of visible skin aging, due to the damage UV radiation imparts onto skin. And it not only causes visible changes, but DNA damage that can eventually lead to cancers.

While the sun is responsible for the majority of fine lines and wrinkles, there are other sources to blame. Repetitive movement like scrunching up your forehead, squinting your eyes, and even smiling all cause expression lines. While we’re not suggesting you adopt a full-time stony-faced expression, you should know this is a major cause of wrinkles (but there is a way to prevent some of it!).

Smoking cigarettes contributes to wrinkles too, not only because it’s unhealthy for your body overall, but the repetitive pursing movement of the lips can create lines.

Even the way you sleep can cause wrinkles, and those that repeatedly sleep on the same side of their face or body may begin to notice wrinkles form on just one side.

What can I start doing to prevent wrinkles?

Because so much of premature aging comes from the sun, you can make the biggest difference by wearing sunscreen each and every day, along with taking other measures to reduce your sun exposure, like wearing hats and staying in the shade.

Topical treatments, with ingredients that repair skin, enhance collagen production, and moisturize can prevent and treat wrinkles (the specifics of which we’ll share next!). There are also procedures you can complete with a professional, like Botox, facials, and laser treatments.

Lifestyle changes, like sleeping on your back, quitting smoking, and wearing sunglasses to reduce squinting can also make a big difference.

What ingredients help with wrinkles and help prevent them?

When choosing topicals, like serums, moisturizers, or other treatments, look for a few key ingredients that are shown to target the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.

Retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives, are usually considered the gold standard when it comes to treating current wrinkles and preventing future wrinkles from forming. There are varying subtypes and strengths (including prescription-only treatments that your doctor can prescribe), but they all work in a similar fashion: by boosting collagen and elastin and exfoliating skin to boost cell turnover. Retinoids are not only a good treatment for wrinkles, but also to clear discoloration, heal acne, treat sun damage, and more.

Peptides are another good ingredient to look for in anti-aging treatments. These amino acids already exist in the skin, and one of their functions is building proteins, including collagen (the protein that keeps skin taut and smooth). While retinoids can be drying to skin, peptides work to help rejuvenate skin, easing inflammation, improving your skin barrier, and, of course, reducing wrinkles and fine lines. It’s important that these peptides have the ability to penetrate skin to reach a depth where they can work properly, so look for formulas that focus on this.

Do physical devices really work?

At home devices, from the simple gua sha to more advanced microcurrent treatments can have their place within an anti-aging routine. And when used properly, you will notice changes even if the differences are subtle. These devices must be consistently used to see results, however, and in the case of at-home microcurrent devices, they can also be expensive.

While at home devices aren’t necessary to smooth wrinkles or reduce signs of aging, they can be a helpful—even fun—addition to your routine.

Should I consider medical intervention for wrinkles?

When topicals aren’t giving you the results you want (or if you’re looking for faster results!) a professional can assist you with an advanced treatment plan.

Botox can be used as a preventative before lines or wrinkles are formed, or it can be used to treat existing lines. Keep in mind that Botox works by freezing facial muscles, so it can only be used on problem areas that have formed due to repetitive movement. An experienced injector can help you avoid the “frozen face” look that has given Botox and similar products a bad reputation.

Dermatologists and estheticians can also offer other treatments, like specialized facials, that target your specific concerns.

What causes age spots and discoloration?

Just as with wrinkles, when it comes to age spots and discoloration the sun is mostly to blame. Age spots are caused by overactive melanin, and UV rays from the sun can speed up the production of the melanin that causes these spots.

Melasma is another form of discoloration and can often couple with hormonal changes (like a pregnancy) and is exacerbated by sun exposure. Skin can also become discolored after acne or injury and leave behind post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can take months or years to heal.

What ingredients help with age spots and help prevent them?

Many of the same ingredients that prevent wrinkles and other age-related skin concerns can also help diminish and prevent age spots, but there are also key ingredients that specifically target discoloration.

Vitamin C helps improve dark spots by impeding melanin production, so it’s a good ingredient to look for if discoloration is a problem for you. It not only fades dark spots, but it also brightens and evens skin tone overall. And because it’s an antioxidant, it can also work against the oxidative stress caused by sun damage. Pair it with sunscreen during your morning skin care regimen to further protect yourself from UV rays.

Hydroquinone is a powerful skin lightener that reduces the melanin output produced by melanocytes. which make melanin. It effectively can clear current dark spots. It may be better tolerated for those with lighter skin tones, and its safety profile has been questioned in the past, so speak with your doctor if considering adding a hydroquinone product to your routine.

Acids, including glycolic, salicylic, mandelic, and lactic acid, exfoliate the skin and increase cell turnover, helping slough away dark spots. Each acid has its own unique benefits (and varies in strength), so you can choose based on your skin type and what you’d like to achieve.

While sunscreen is vital for slowing down premature aging in any context, it’s especially important for preventing new dark spots from developing. Don’t skip it!

Can I get rid of existing spots?

Yes, with patience, existing dark spots can be removed. Depending on your skin, you may see results within a month of starting a new product or regimen. But keep in mind that it can take several months and even up to a year to see full progress, and it’s important to continue to keep treating skin to avoid developing new dark spots.

How do I prevent new spots?

One of the best ways to prevent new spots is to apply sunscreen every day. This will go a long way to prevent new spots from forming and is a must if you want to keep old dark spots from returning.

Using the suggested ingredients and products that target dark spots can also keep new ones from forming and may treat them faster in the case that they do.

What about laser treatments?

Laser treatments can be a good choice to quickly remove the discoloration you already have more quickly than topicals alone can. Lasers are available in varying levels of intensity, some which require no downtime and others that have a week or longer healing period.

Keep in mind that multiple sessions may be needed, and your options vary by skin tone—those with darker skin need to be sure the provider understands how to treat skin of color to avoid hyperpigmentation and to get the best results.

What causes skin sagging?

When we’re young, skin snaps back into place quickly. But as we age collagen and elastin production slows, and skin becomes less firm and may sag around your eyelids, chin, and jawline. Weight loss can also cause skin to sag, due to the stretched skin not bouncing back after fat is lost in the cheeks.

What ingredients help with skin sagging and prevention?

Loss of firmness can be a more difficult condition to reverse without surgical or at least professional procedures. Some ingredients, like caffeine, temporarily tighten skin but don’t provide major long-term changes in skin firmness. This can be a good quick fix day-to-day, but this isn’t truly transforming skin.

Thankfully, peptides can make a difference in sagging skin (along with improving just about every other age-related skin concern!). Because it works by boosting collagen and elastin production, two necessary proteins for firm skin, it can help improve sagging skin.

Will I need surgery eventually?

Undergoing surgery is a serious decision and requires considerable cost and time. Procedures like face lifts and blepharoplasty (eyelid lift) can, however, give you dramatic change that you may never be able to achieve with topicals alone or even with other professional treatments.

Depending on your starting point, it’s absolutely possible to treat skin so that surgical interventions can be avoided.

If I started to do just a handful of things now, what should they be?

No matter your age or what skin concerns you’d like to treat, there are things you can begin to do immediately to mitigate premature aging.

Number one suggestion on the list shouldn’t be a surprise: wear sunscreen, every single day. Because damage from the sun’s UV radiation causes almost all premature aging, blocking them out will give you the most protection from the number one cause of wrinkles, sunspots, and skin sagging. Even those younger than 20 can take advantage of sunscreen to get a head start on protecting their skin.

Another task you can begin to do now (if you’re in your 20s or older, or with the advice of a dermatologist) is to begin using at home topical treatments. Keep in mind those 6 functions of anti-aging we discussed earlier when choosing products. Starting a retinoid treatment can be a good idea to target nearly all premature aging concerns. There are powerful over the counter retinoids that are available without a doctor’s prescription that won’t be as irritating as prescription options. But whichever you choose, it’s important to use high quality products in order to see real changes. Look for products that are proven to work and that have real science behind them. For example, we formulate our skincare with a nano-encapsulation delivery system, which means the ingredients are able to better penetrate the skin, rather than sit on the surface where most ingredients won’t make a substantial long-term difference.

Finally, lifestyle changes can promote whole body health that slows down or prevents premature aging. Consuming fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water, and exercising support a healthy body and, in turn, healthy skin. Smoking cigarettes can also speed up aging, due to the nicotine, the smoke, and the repetitive motion of smoking.

It’s never too early to start taking anti-aging seriously. Just a few products and lifestyle changes can make a big difference in how your skin looks over the years.

And the good news? It's never too late, either. Whether you find success with topicals or turn to more advanced interventions, there is an option for you.

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