The anti-aging skin care field has boomed, with hundreds of new products being introduced to the market on what feels like almost on a daily basis. This has resulted in what we may call “skin care overload.” People have become overwhelmed and confused by the countless number of ingredients we are told are necessary for anti-aging. It has become impossible to access and apply even a fraction of these ingredients due to the cost and time involved. We feel compelled to buy multiple products every month and layer them on in order to do the most for our skin. But, as we fill our medicine cabinets with creams and serums, we are faced with the daily questions of which shall we use, which are safe and which actually work?
It has been long overdue that the various categories of anti-aging and the anti-aging ingredients themselves be ordered and categorized so that a comprehensive approach to anti-aging may be put into place. Firstly, there are many features to skin aging and people will show one or more features over time, but may differ in the features of skin aging that plague them. For example, some people develop sagging or laxity to the skin due to genetic factors, but may have little or no sun damage. Others may be covered with sun spots but have no sagging or wrinkling. The following is a validated classification scheme which allows for each clinical feature of skin aging to be assessed separately on a 4-point grading scale (mild, moderate, advanced, severe):
Classification of Skin Aging:
Solar elastosis (Yellowing)
Abnormal growths (keratoses).1
This classification scheme of skin aging includes a severity scale as mentioned above (0=None, 1=Mild, 2=Moderate, 3=Advanced, and 4=Severe) which allows researchers or users to rank each individual person’s skin aging according to feature and severity. This scale was shown to be very useful in testing anti-aging treatments and has been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.1 Older scales tended to lump different features together into broad categories, which became less useful as treatments became more specific in targeting various facets of skin aging; for example as anti-pigment or anti-redness or anti-wrinkle. With this current anti-aging scale, our anti-aging products may be quantitatively tested to determine which individual categories of skin aging they treat and how effective they are in each category. This also allows us to hone our anti-aging regimen to our needs and to compile or group the ingredients in each category that are most effective so as to cover all categories of anti-aging in a logical manner.
The next challenge was to classify the plethora of anti-aging ingredients on the market based on the features of skin aging that they targeted or treated. I then created a classification scheme of the categories of anti-aging targeted by the ingredients that have emerged over the past decade:
Anti-Wrinkle – DNA Defense – Barrier Fortification
Anti-Redness – Cellular Restore – Emollient/Moisturizer
Anti-Brown Discoloration – Damage Reversal – Pro-Skin Thickness
Anti-Oxidants – Aging Repair – Re-Texturize
With this classification scheme, we can appreciate why people have become so overwhelmed and why they have accumulated shopping bags full of skin creams in order to meet their needs! Nevertheless, as anti-aging ingredients have emerged targeting each of these categories, ideally one would want to incorporate the best ingredients of each category in a single daily regimen to optimally treat skin aging.
Each individual may differ in which category of anti-aging they need most, yet in order to prevent and reverse all the signs of skin aging, it is still optimal for all categories to be covered by an anti-aging regimen. It is important to familiarize yourself with which ingredients fall in each category, so that you can incorporate several of each group into your skin regimen, or look for a product that covers the various categories of anti-aging in a logical way. Examples of key active ingredients shown to yield resulst in each category of anti-aging include: peptides for anti-wrinkles, plant-derived polyphenols and bisabolol for anti-redness, amino acids for anti-brown discolorations, vitamins C, E and ferulic acid for anti-oxidant, DNA repair molecules such as acetyl tyrosine and proline for DNA defense, resveratrol for cellular restore, bark extract or phoretin for damage reversal, Helianthus annuus and Ilex paraguensis extracts for aging repair, dimethicone for barrier repair, glycerin and soy lecithin for emollients, hyaluronic acid for boosting skin thickness, and mushroom extracts and sodium lactate for smoothening abnormal texture.
In sum, the field of anti-aging now has validated classification systems for the various categories of skin aging and for the plethora of anti-aging ingredients so that we can assess and determine which anti-aging actives we want in our medicine cabinet and to make certain that we cover the various categories of anti-aging in our daily regimen. With this scientific basis, we may now intelligently assess anti-aging products for their ability to comprehensively cover all the various categories of skin aging and include the various categories of anti-aging ingredients available. Finally, these comprehensive, validated classification and grading scales provide a framework for solving the anti-aging conundrum with a system for categorizing skin aging and classifying anti-aging actives to make sure you cover all your skin’s anti-aging needs.
(C) NY Derm LLC, 2010.
1) Alexiades-Armenakas, M, et al. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2008 May;58(5):719-37; quiz 738-40.
Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.D., Derm-Scientist®, holds three Harvard degrees, a bachelors of arts (BA), a medical degree (MD) and a doctorate (PhD) in genetics, is double Board-Certification in Dermatology in the US and EU and Director of her own Private Practice and Research Clinic in Manhattan. Her 20+ year background in research included plant molecular biology, cell and developmental biology, genetics, photobiology and mammalian stem cell biology. She served as consultant to L’Oreal, ran clinical trials for pharmaceutical and laser companies, and serves as beauty judge to many magazines, including Allure and In Style.