Retinoids, vitamin C, and AHAs are some of the most sought after ingredients in skincare, whether you want antiaging benefits or are just looking to brighten dull skin. I have very sensitive skin that seems to have a mind of its own about what can be an irritant, so I generally stick to basic lotions and potions - regular moisturizers - and despite being halfway through the 30's, I haven't really embraced much of the antiaging/peel theory. I do like trying out new creams and samplers, though, and without really intending to do so, I have collected a few products that do feature AHAs, retinoids, and/or vitamin C in their ingredient listing. If like me you have sensitive skin or are just new to these ingredients, here's a quick guide on how to get the maximum benefit from these products while minimizing the risk of skin irritation.
- AHA - alpha hydroxy acids: These include natural acids such as lacitc acid (derived from sour milk) and glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane). These are relatively milder ingredients and good ones to start with if you are new to antiaging. AHAs speed up skin's exfoliation cycle resulting in softer, youthful-appearing skin and help give a more even appearance to the skin. AHAs can cause thinning of the outermost layer of the skin making it sensitive to sun damage. Use a sunscreen - SPF 15 or higher - to protect the skin during the day. Also, avoid using more than one AHA-containing product at a time.
- Retinoids - Derived from vitamin A, retinoids help with exfoliation of the skin as well as building collagen. They also help reduce skin discoloration. If new to retinoids, start gradually and then slowly build up the skin's tolerance to this ingredient, for example, starting every other night for about a week or two and gradually moving to daily applications if your skin tolerates it. Retinoids can increase skin's sensitivity to the sun so it's better to use these products at night and use high SPF protection during the day even when you are not using the product. Avoid other skin-exfoliating treatments, scrubs, waxing, etc., while using retinoids and do not use if pregnant (can cause birth defects due to skin absorption).
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C is an important antiaging ingredient to look for because of it's antioxidant properties. It helps fight free radicals and diminish effects of pollution, sun damage, etc. Vitamin C is a common ingredients in a lot of skin-brightening products and helps brighten up dull-looking skin. I am quite convinced this is one ingredient my skin is realllly sensitive to! I tried a vitamin C based mask a while back and had red, splotchy areas on my face afterwards (it was all back to normal by morning but was a bit worrisome while it lasted). Even if you don't have skin as sensitive as mine, avoid using vitamin C containing products along with those containing AHAs to prevent skin irritation.
These are just three of the many antiaging and skin-brightening ingredients found in a lot of skincare products. In general when starting any antiaging regimen, it would be best to use only one main ingredient at a time - if you are using a retinoid cream, for instance, then avoid using a vitamin C containing serum. Also, most of these ingredients do cause the skin to become fragile and much more prone to sun damage, so using a good (high-SPF) sun protection product is a must. Just to be safe, I use keep any antiaging skincare product for days when I am staying indoors or at night.
Have you tried any of these antiaging skincare ingredients? What's your experience been like so far? Do share!
Disclaimer: Please check with your dermatologist/doctor to find the best skincare regimen for your skin type and your health and lifestyle. This article is an overview only and not qualified/medical advice.
Know the Ingredient: Alpha-hydroxy acids