Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


O Magazine: 5 Skincare Ingredients That Reverse Aging

Did They Get It Right?

The cover of this month’s O Magazine featured a huge headline about cosmetics ingredients that can actually reverse the signs of aging. This claim always makes me a little dubious, for a couple of reasons:

1.  Over-the-counter products cannot change the physiology of the skin, by definition of law and, of course, because they do not work on the living tissue.

2.  There is no over-the-counter topical product that can actually stimulate the biological processes of the skin that would actually reverse the aging process since the very process is part of our genetic coding. 


So what exactly could this article be referencing?

O Magazine did get some key information correct but do not be misled; none of these ingredients reverse the aging process. It would be more accurate to say these ingredients help create a more healthy looking skin, in a very cosmetic kind of way. Some will prevent the aging process from speeding up, but none can reverse the already done damage.

Here is the published list, from O Magazine, what they claimed these ingredients can do and, of course what they can actually do:

1. Retinoids. 

O Magazine says:

“Retinoids increase collagen production (plumping your skin), speed up cell turnover (smoothing your complexion) and unclog pores (reducing breakouts).”

What they can actually do: While prescription retinoic acid can actually stimulate collagen synthesis — which in turn makes the skin stronger and able to withstand more environmental aggression — OTC retinols do not. At best an OTC retinol will exfoliate the surface of the skin and provide hydration. Retinol, in all its cosmetics forms, can also aid in the delivery of other active ingredients but in an OTC concentration will not make a wrinkle disappear.  In an OTC product the concentration of retinol is not enough to convert to retinoic acid, which is the potent ingredient needed to stimulate collagen synthesis.


2. Alphahydroxy Acids.

O Magazine says:

“Discolouration is minimized, skin feels smoother, and pores can look smaller. Overall, skin is more luminous.”

What they actually do: Yes. Absolutely, these ingredients (made from fruit and sugar and milk) are one of the best ways to exfoliate the skin while protecting the delicate hydration level of the tissue. AHAs will indeed create a smoother texture, on the surface of the skin, while providing a luminous glow all over. The trick it to use a fairly low level on a regular basis, to avoid irritation, and of course to ensure a sunscreen is worn at all times. All of this does not mean they will actually remove a wrinkle but the skin will look very fresh and radiant.


3. Hyaluronic Acid.  

O Magazine says:

“It draws a tremendous amount of water to the skin—about 1,000 times its weight. Hyaluronic acid not only makes parched skin feel better but also temporarily plumps it.”

What it actually does: This one is 100% accurate. Hyaluronic acid is, arguably, one the best cosmetic ingredient being used today. This compound is skin compatible (the body actually produces it), incredibly effective at preventing water evaporation in the skin and is so gentle even the most sensitive skins can tolerate its activity. The results are very temporary, lasting only about 12 hours at a time, so it is not an age reversing ingredient at all but rather a temporary cosmetic quick fix.


4. Anti Oxidants.

 O Magazine says:

“Disable free radicals, the molecules generated by sun, pollution and other sources, which damage the DNA of healthy skin cells.”

What they actually do: Anti oxidants do indeed disable free radicals, which in turn prevents molecular damage to the skin. O Magazine says that Vitamin C is the best anti oxidant but the truth is there is no one best anti oxidant. All of them work effectively. However, you can avoid most of the damage done, by free radicals, by simply wearing a good sunscreen.


5. Sunscreen. 

O Magazine says:

“The UV filters in sunscreen absorb or scatter UV light before it can damage your skin; in effect, they stop aging.”

What they actually do: O Magazine gets this 100% correct.  By far the best skincare product you can use, to prevent the ageing process, is sunscreen. With less than 50% of sun exposure happening before the age of 40 sunscreens become more critical to the defense of skin as we grow older. Sunscreens do not reverse aging, however, rather they prevent premature aging due to UV damage.