<p>By Andrea Cheng</p>
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, making it a milder version of retinoids (a prescription-only wrinkle fighter). While it takes several weeks to see results, retinol is the most effective over-the-counter anti-aging ingredient when it comes to "smoothing wrinkles, unclogging pores, lightening superficial brown spots, and improving the texture of the skin," says Amy Wechsler, New York City dermatologist. Because of retinol’s potency, skin irritation is common, especially in direct sunlight. Apply retinol-based products at night on dry skin to avoid sensitivity and be sure to apply a moisturizer with SPF every morning.
If you have dark spots resulting from acne scars, sun damage, or old age, lighten them with niacinamade, a vitamin-B3 derivative that prevents melanin, or pigmentation, from rising to the surface. "It may help to improve the skin's moisture barrier and collagen production, all of which reverses the appearance of sun damage," says Wechsler. Plus, it's known to reduce inflammation, and even acne.
Though you probably associate the word "acid" with harsh and abrasive, hyaluronic acid is the exact opposite. It's a humectant, meaning that it draws out water from the air and dermis (the skin that lies below the surface). Look for a lotion that contains hyaluronic acid, "which can add to the moisturizer's hydrating qualities, and may even spur new collagen production," says Wechsler.