Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Unlike hyaluronic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs for short) are exfoliators that gently dissolve the "glue" that holds surface skin cells together, letting the dead ones slough away to reveal youthful looking skin. This process encourages cell turnover, which typically slows with age. Getting rid of dead skin also lets moisturizers, serums, and skin treatments penetrate the skin and work more effectively. But look for products with no more than 8 percent AHAs. "In high concentrations, AHAs can help fade brown spots and fine wrinkles, but they make skin extra sensitive to the sun," says Wechsler.
L-ascorbic acid is just a fancy word for "vitamin C." Though vitamin C is a good-for-you ingredient that helps boost the immune system, it's a little more complex when skincare is involved. Think of vitamin C as a wild card — extremely volatile and unstable. "When exposed to air, it undergoes oxidation and becomes ineffective," says Wechsler. When vitamin C is stable and good, it’s really good. It's an important antioxidant that helps build collagen, reduce inflammation, and promote elasticity to plump up skin. But how can you tell if vitamin C in a product is stable? Look for "L-ascorbic acid" in the ingredient list.
If there's one skincare product to swear by, it’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Avobenzone is a common chemical ingredient in sunscreen that blocks UVA rays. It’s often paired with benzophenone-3 or oxybenzone to shield against UVB rays. For maximum protection, apply a chemical sunscreen directly on skin before serum, lotion, or makeup. Hate the thought of chemicals? Go for a mineral block that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, suggests Wechsler. But because of its chalky texture and shield-like barrier, a mineral block should be applied last, after serum and moisturizer.
Slow down the clock with an antioxidant-packed skin saver. "Antioxidants help prevent and repair damage to your body tissue by encouraging cell growth," says Wechsler. More importantly, they neutralize free radicals (unstable, damaging molecules in your body caused by elements such as sunlight, smoke, and pollution). The most popular antioxidants include vitamins C and E, pomegranate, green tea, and coffeeberry extracts.
Originally published February 15, 2013