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Navigating Through Anti-aging Ingredients

By: Kristina Valiani
Posted: May 1, 2013, from the May 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Anti-aging Ingredients

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Glycolic acid. The smallest molecule in the AHA family, glycolic acid is a colorless, odorless, hygroscopic crystalline solid that is highly soluble in water. It is used in various skin care products and is found in some sugar crops.

Mandelic acid. Also known as amygdalic acid, there is research showing mandelic acid to be an effective alternative to other AHAs, though it does have germicidal activity. Unlike glycolic acid, mandelic acid is light-sensitive and should be packaged in an opaque container.

AHAs must be formulated properly to be effective. Percentage and pH will determine what strength the acid will be and just how the ingredient will perform once applied on the skin.


Antioxidants reduce free radical damage—most clients are already aware of that. Free radical damage occurs on a molecular, unseen, unfelt atomic level, but it is nevertheless one of the most destructive internal processes that causes both the body and the skin to age. What exactly are free radicals and why are they so destructive? Molecules are made of atoms and a single atom is made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Electrons need to be in pairs in order to function properly. When oxygen molecules are involved in a chemical reaction, they can lose one of their electrons. Now the oxygen molecule has only one electron and is called a free radical. Free -
radical damage causes mutation and damage to the DNA in your cells, and damaged DNA means your skin, now not able to generate healthy new collagen, creates malformed cells and slows the skin’s ability to heal. Antioxidants can stop free-radical damage, but they lose their potency when repeatedly exposed to oxygen and sunlight. Ironic that the two share that weakness, yes, but it’s actually proof of how antioxidants work in the presence of oxygen and light. With this issue, an antioxidant-focused product should be packaged appropriately to deliver at its highest potential. Alpha lipoic acid, beta glucan, coenzyme Q10, grape seed extract, green tea, soybean, vitamins C and E, and pomegranate all have antioxidant ability.


Retinoids are an important topic to discuss when it comes to skin care. “Retinoid” is a general term referring to a vast range of ingredients derived from vitamin A (retinol is the technical name for vitamin A). Topically applied, retinoids are significant for skin because they can positively affect the way cells are formed deep in the dermis. Retinol is a cosmetic ingredient and, when it is absorbed into skin, it can become the more active form of all-trans retinol. All-trans retinols, in descending order of potency in cosmetics, are retinol, retinyaldehyde, retinyl palmitate, retinyl propionate and retinyl acetate. A misconception about retinoids is that they are exfoliants, which these ingredients are not. Exfoliants, such as AHAs, primarily affect the top layer of skin, improving its appearance and cell production.

For more information about aging skin, purchase the Aging Skin lesson from the Physiology of the Skin video series on Skin Inc. Video Education!