Dermatologists' Top 5 Ingredients for Anti-Aging

Dermatologists' Top 5 Ingredients for Anti-Aging

The goal of every skincare routine is to maintain a healthy, glowing, youthful complexion. Whether you’re in your twenties or your sixties, it’s always the right time to start introducing anti-aging elements into your daily routine. It seems these days that every day there is a hot new ingredient appearing on the market (and in your social media feeds!), but there are also some foundational elements that should be included in every regimen. Here are dermatologists’ top 5 recommended ingredients for anti-aging. 

1. Sunscreens! 

When it comes to anti-aging skincare, prevention is your first and best defense. It’s never too late to adopt the key habit of applying a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen every day, no matter the season. Layered over any treatment serums and under makeup, it protects your skin cells from ultraviolet ray induced DNA damage, which leads to wrinkling and development of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. In fact, the vast majority of facial aging and damage comes from sun exposure - so sun protection is critical to slowing down these changes and help preserve skin health and youthful appearance as time marches on. We like to recommend you find a product that you will like and use daily, at a price point that allows for regular use and reapplication at the recommended intervals (every few hours, and more frequently if sweating or swimming.) 

2. Retinoids 

Topical retinoids are the gold-standard when it comes to anti-aging skincare for several reasons. These vitamin A derivatives directly affect skin turnover and maturation, so dead skin cells are swept away regularly, revealing the new, healthy cells underneath and improving skin town. Retinoids also slow down collagen breakdown in the skin that occurs due to sun exposure and the passage of time, and can help reduce the appearance of or even slow down formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Some studies show retinoids stimulate formation of new collagen to help keep skin youthful appearing. If that wasn’t enough, retinoids can fight dark spots and hyperpigmentation by blocking pigment transfer between skin cells. With both over the counter and prescription options available, retinoids are a key anti-aging weapon that, with regular use, can pay significant dividends over time. Check out our post to help you find the right type of retinoid for your skin and how to minimize irritation and dryness while maximizing its benefits. Remember that retinoids are a no-go if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

3. Vitamin C and Other Antioxidants 

We’ve got the foundational aspects of anti-aging covered above. Think of antioxidants as another member of your skincare’s defense: like sunscreen, these help fight the effects of sun and the elements on your skin over time. Vitamin C, the sunshine vitamin, is a potent antioxidant that works by neutralizing free radicals  created in the skin by exposure to everyday elements (sun, pollution), which reduces cell damage. Vitamin C also helps support collagen production in the skin and inhibits the enzymes that actively break down this key structural element of your skin.  Finally, it has a brightening and evening effect by helping to lighten existing spots and blocking activity of tyrosinase, which is key to development of pigmentation. Regular use of a treatment serum with an effective, stabilized form of vitamin C can help with these aspects of skin aging. And choosing a serum that combines vitamin C with ferulic acid can help even more - the latter ingredient helps stabilize vitamin C and provides an extra boost of antioxidant activity. See our post about the best forms of vitamin C for your skin and how to choose a product that’s right for you. Emdash Vivid Protect Antioxidant Serum contains vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.

4. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is an essential component of the support structure of connective tissues including the skin, eyes, and joints. Used in skincare, it’s a powerhouse moisturizer that helps the skin maintain moisture - it can absorb up to 1,000 times its own weight in water! For dry skin, it helps draw water in, to deliver a noticeable plumping effect and to help maintain the all-important skin barrier. Find this ingredient in cleansers, moisturizers, and treatment serums alike to keep your skin dewy and soft.

5. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) 

Maintaining a youthful complexion involves more than just wrinkle prevention: you also want to help with skin renewal. Studies show that glycolic acid and other AHAs can help increase the skin’s elasticity and smooth out the texture while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Some studies show it can also help lighten dark spots,  stimulate collagen production, and even potentially reverse signs of UV-damage in cells. But don’t overdo it—too much exfoliation may irritate the skin barrier, so just a couple times a week is enough to see the benefits. The Emdash Clear Reveal Resurfacing Serum is a great choice because it contains lots of nourishing ingredients that help soothe the skin barrier.


Disclaimer: As with all of the information on this site, this post is meant to be for informational and educational purposes only, and is not medical advice. When in doubt, please ask your physician.


Teresa Fu, M.D.

Dr. Teresa Fu is a board certified dermatologist and mother of two. She graduated from Stanford Medical School and practices in the San Francisco Bay Area.