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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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Retinoids affect the lower layers of skin in the dermis, where new skin cells are produced and are considered to be cell communicators, sending messages to other cells to develop normally instead of as genetically malformed skin cells. Why do both skin care professionals and consumers get confused that retinoids are not exfoliants? Primarily, it’s due to the fact that products containing many different percentages of retinoids can cause irritation and inflammation, resulting in flaky, dry skin. The flaking and dryness is not exfoliation, nor is it a desirable result. Retinoids can only be prescribed through a physician. Over-the-counter products use another form of vitamin A—retinol. The professional should find out if clients are using topical or oral medications. For example, if a client is using a retinol topical product, she should discontinue use for a minimum of three days before services, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser treatments.


Peptides are relatively new up-and-coming ingredients for the skin care industry. The average client is consumed with a busy schedule and little time off to recover from treatments. Peptides are effective with few-to-no side effects compared to other beneficial anti-aging ingredients. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, which are found in protein fragments, and are cell communicators that send signals to the dermal layers of the skin to perform specific functions. For example, the combination of palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 is a popular peptide. It works to mimic the appearance of broken-down collagen, causing skin to react by producing more collagen, as well as elastin (responsible for the skin’s elasticity) and hyaluronic acid (which plumps up the skin and gives it that healthy, full look). Peptides do more than build collagen in the skin—there are four different categories and all have functions to help reverse the signs of aging.

  1. Carrier peptides enhance delivery of active ingredients to reach the live layers of the skin.
  2. Signaling peptides help produce collagen.
  3. Neurotransmitter peptides help relax wrinkles.
  4. Enzyme-inhibitor peptides improve under-eye circles and hyperpigmentation.


The most important ingredient to prevent and reverse signs of aging is wearing a properly formulated SPF every day, rain or shine. A large percent of aging occurs from UVA and UVB rays produced from the largest free radical to the skin—the sun. Without protection from the sun’s rays, just a few minutes of exposure each day over the years can cause noticeable changes to the skin. Freckles, age spots, spider veins, rough and leathery texture, fine wrinkles that disappear when stretched, loose skin, a blotchy complexion, actinic keratosis (thick wartlike, rough, reddish patches of skin) and skin cancer can all be traced back to sun exposure. With repeated exposure to the sun, the skin loses the ability to repair itself and the damage accumulates. Repeated UV exposure breaks down collagen and impairs the synthesis of new collagen. Sun-weakened skin also ceases to spring back the way skin protected from UV rays does. It becomes wrinkled and leathery much earlier, as well.

Trial and error

In the end, remember: Not every anti-aging ingredient will be the right fit for every skin type or aging concern. It will take trial and error to navigate through what an individual’s skin responds to best. Luckily, there is so much additional information from researchers and dermatologists available to consumers and estheticians. Continue your education by attending trade shows, taking courses and subscribing to industry magazines in order to find the appropriate regimen for every client.

Kristina+ValianiKristina Valiani is a licensed esthetician and educator for a leading skin care brand, and conducts professional training and continuing education classes for estheticians throughout the United States. She can be reached at

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