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Experts Say These Skin Care Ingredients Are Best for Mature Skin

A bottle of lactic acid serum, a woman applies serum, and a squeezed tube of moisturizer.
Sunday Riley/CeraVe/CosRX

As we age, our skin care needs start to change. Naturally, we’re more interested in products that can slow or reduce the signs of aging. But which ingredients can actually help with this, without irritating or harming your skin? We asked the experts!

We spoke to a dermatologist (Dr. Joshua Zeichner), a plastic surgeon (Dr. George Bitar), and a celebrity esthetician (Taylor Worden) about which ingredients you should look for in your skin care products, and how they can help mature skin. Here’s what we found out!

Retinol

A bottle of retinol sits among roses, and a retinol serum swatch is by its bottle.
Drunk Elephant/Paula’s Choice

When it comes to anti-aging ingredients, all of our experts agreed retinol is the gold standard. This is due to its effect on collagen and elastin. Retinol can stimulate both, which strengthens the skin, firms it, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Bitar explained it also helps enhance skin cell turnover, which slows the aging process. Retinol can also protect against transepidermal water loss, which helps the skin remain hydrated, and it can also improve skin texture and hyperpigmentation. Plus, it’s also an effective treatment for adult acne.

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream

Brightens skin and stimulates collagen.

Basically, retinol is a wonder ingredient. However, when it’s first introduced into your skin care routine, retinol can cause some irritation, particularly if you have sensitive skin. This is why it’s best to incorporate it slowly over time.

Worden and Zeichner advise using retinol two or three times per week at first. For particularly sensitive skin, Bitar said once a week is good, and then you can build up your usage from there.

Ultimately, just gauge the reaction of your skin as you start to incorporate retinol. If you notice any irritation or dryness, discontinue use. Then, just work it back in at a slower rate.

You can also use products with a lower percentage of retinol—this option from L’Oreal only contains 0.3%.

Paula's Choice CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment Cream with Peptides

Combats signs of aging, including dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Frequency isn’t the only important part of incorporating retinol, though. You should also always apply a moisturizer after. And don’t forget the sunscreen! Retinol can cause increased sun sensitivity.

Sunscreen

A person squirts sunscreen into their hand, and a woman applies sunscreen to her face.
La Roche-Posay/Innisfree

No matter your age, sunscreen should always be a regular part of your skin care routine. Not only does it protect you against skin cancer, but it also assists in fighting signs of aging.

“We know that sun damage is the single biggest risk factor for premature aging and the development of skin cancer,” Zeichner said. “Wearing sunscreen daily will protect your skin and help prevent you from developing dark spots, crepey skin, and wrinkles.”

innisfree UV SPF Sunscreen Broad Spectrum

Protects your skin from UV damage that can cause premature aging.

Again, sunscreen is even more important if you’re using ingredients like retinol or alpha hydroxy acids (more on those later) to prevent and/or slow signs of aging.

You might be tempted to forgo sunscreen if it’s built into your moisturizer or makeup, but, according to Worden, this is a bad idea. A stand-alone, broad-spectrum formula that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of at least 30 is best.

Vitamin C

A bottle of vitamin c serum sits among oranges, and a woman applies serum to her cheek.
Bliss/CeraVe

When it comes to superstar ingredients that are good for, well, everyone, vitamin C definitely makes the list. Thanks to its myriad benefits, it’s also a must for mature skin due to its anti-aging benefits. Like retinol, vitamin C also stimulates collagen. It can also improve skin elasticity and prevent the formation of wrinkles.

Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C Serum for Face

Improves the look of lines and wrinkles, and prevents more from appearing.

Additionally, vitamin C can also help with environmental stressors.

“Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralize free radical damage in the skin,” Zeichner said. “Think of it like a fire extinguisher that puts out inflammation in the skin caused by environmental aggressors, like UV light and pollution.”

You should always wear sunscreen, whether or not you also apply vitamin C. However, when used together, they make a powerful sun-protection combination—and the benefits don’t stop there. Vitamin C can also brighten your skin, improve its glow, and even aid in correcting hyperpigmentation.

Unfortunately, vitamin C alone is difficult to stabilize for optimal results and long shelf life. That’s why, when searching for vitamin C, Bitar and Worden advised looking for products that feature l-ascorbic acid, as well as vitamin E.

When vitamin C becomes unstable, oxidation sets in, and it’s no longer beneficial to the skin, but both vitamin E and l-ascorbic acid can help. Bitar said that even the type of packaging is important.

“Your vitamin C should be packaged in a dark or opaque bottle,” Bitar said, “as this helps to protect the formulation from light.”

He also advises that you always close the lid tightly and store your vitamin C out of any sunlight to prevent oxidation. When it comes to application, all of our experts recommend applying vitamin C during the day, and then following it up with a moisturizer and SPF.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

A bottle of lactic acid, and a bottle of glycolic acid.
Sunday Riley/Naturium

Just like vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids provide a myriad of benefits and are fantastic to incorporate into your anti-aging skin care routine.

“Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, are chemical exfoliants,” Zeichner explained. “They work by dissolving connections between skin cells so they more easily can be shed.”

What does this mean for anti-aging, though?

Well, when your skin is exfoliated, it’s brighter, has more of a glow, and can even have more of an even tone, resulting in a more youthful-looking complexion. Plus, it can help conceal fine lines and wrinkles.

While there are a few different types of alpha-hydroxy acids, our experts pointed to lactic and glycolic as the two you want most for mature skin.

In addition to its glow-enhancing abilities, glycolic acid can stimulate collagen production, while lactic acid is an excellent exfoliator for beginners because it’s less likely to cause irritation.

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment Face Serum

Perfect for those who are new to chemical exfoliants.

Like retinol, alpha-hydroxy acid can cause irritation when first introduced into a skin care routine. So, again, either introduce AHAs slowly and build up your usage over time, or choose a formula with a lower concentration. If you notice any irritation, cut down on the number of days you’re using the product.

Naturium Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10%

Could aid in collagen production.

Ceramides

A dropper dispenses serum, and a tube of moisturizer sits on a pink background.
Cocokind/COSRx

Those with dry and/or mature skin will definitely want to give ceramides a go. They’re non-irritating, hydrating, and can even give the appearance of more youthful-looking skin.

But what exactly are ceramides?

Zeichner said to think of them as the spackle that fills in the cracks and holds your skin cells together.

In more scientific terms, they’re fatty acids called lipids. They’re naturally present in our skin, but as we age, they start to decrease, which can lead to dull, dry skin that looks older than it is. Thankfully, though, you can incorporate them into your skin care routine.

Cocokind Ceramide Barrier Serum

Keep your skin hydrated and protected.

“Ceramides are vital for maintaining the skin barrier,” Bitar said, “as well as locking in moisture and hydration. They also strengthen the skin surface against environmental stressors.”

While ceramides are most often noted for their ability to hydrate, Worden added that they can also reduce redness and irritation, and even minimize the appearance of wrinkles.

Also, unlike most of the other ingredients we’ve covered, there’s no need to take it slow when incorporating ceramides. In fact, they’re fantastic for sensitive skin, and Zeichner said you can even pair them with AHAs and/or retinol to help prevent any irritation.

COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream

Can balance any potential irritation from harsher ingredients.


Trying to figure out which skin care products will actually combat wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots without irritating your skin can be incredibly confusing. However, armed with these tips from our skin care experts, not only will you know which ingredients to look for, you’ll know how to incorporate them the right way!

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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