How to find the right anti-aging cream for your skin

From retinol to hyaluronic acid, AHAs to SPFs, NEWBY HANDS unpicks what you need to put on your face to see fresher, brighter, younger-looking skin


Know your anti-aging ingredients

While many products claim to de-age skin, very few ingredients actually do. And it makes little difference whether you choose a cream, gel, mask or serum – it’s the ingredients that count. For guaranteed change (ie a difference you can actually see), the undisputed, science-backed star is retinol, derived from vitamin A, aka the youth-repairing vitamin. Used in various forms, it is converted in the skin to potent retinoic acid. But with so many versions on offer, the difference is in how many steps that conversion takes – the longer the pathway, the slower the results, with the prescription-only Retin-A being the strongest and so the fastest to change the skin. “Retinoids do it all,” says Elliot Isaacs, founder of skincare company Medik8. “They increase collagen production and cell turnover, they decrease collagenases (the enzyme that degrades collagen), plus they limit free radicals, increase hyaluronic acid and decrease inflammation.”

But retinol is also known for irritating the skin (as well as varying degrees of redness, peeling and breakouts, a potent retinol can see skin get worse before it gets – so much – better), so the thinking now is to limit this by layering your retinol with a cream or serum. “I have very reactive skin, but I still use retinol, even Retin-A,” says LA dermatologist Dr Karyn Grossman. “I just use a moisturizing cream over it; it doesn’t dilute the effect, but it does make my skin soft, comfortable and much less reactive.”

Revisit AHAs

We love them for their peeling, resurfacing and polishing effects, but their real skin-transforming results go far beyond just what we see on the skin’s surface. “AHAs are proven to stimulate new collagen and elastic tissue, and new hyaluronic acid,” says dermatologist Professor Beth Briden. “Back in 1996 we had the first studies that showed they could reverse aging. Alternatively, BHAs are more moisturizing and you get the effects of the cell turnover without the visible peeling – they are also good for oily skin types. PHAs moisturize too, plus they inhibit skin glycation and so protect from future aging.”

SPFs are non-negotiable

These are a daily essential if you want great skin. The general consensus among the experts is to use a separate daily SPF rather than relying on a favorite day cream with SPF added. SPF30 is the ideal (SPF50 provides only 2% more protection), but back it up with a daily cocktail of antioxidants. No matter what brands may claim, there is no one perfect antioxidant, so a blend will provide better anti-aging protection.

Dehydration or aging?

All too often, fine lines and crepey-looking skin is the short-term effect of dry skin, not the long-term result of aging. Ensure you are not over-stripping your face (excessive peeling, needling, cleansing) and damaging the protective barrier, and add an HA-rich, hydration-boosting serum or mask to your regime. Plus, use a face cream: aestheticians report that many women today prefer using serums, oils and masks to a classic face cream, and as a result they are seeing far more clients with dry, dehydrated skin.

The model in this feature is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown