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Modified & Updated: 07 Feb 2024

Anti-Aging Products: Science-Backed Skincare or Modern-Day Snakeoil?
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Far from being an invention of the modern-day beauty industry, anti-aging treatments have been around for centuries. Cleopatra famously bathed in goat milk every day to maintain her complexion, while Mary, Queen of Scots preferred to take a dip in a freshly drawn bath of white wine.

Both measures might seem a little extreme by today’s standards, but there’s some actual science behind the beauty regimes of these legendary monarchs. The hydroxy acids found in milk and the tartaric acid of white wine are both now known to be effective exfoliants. However, while these early pioneers might have been onto something, the advent of mass marketing in the 20th century would open the floodgates for all manner of skincare scams and anti-aging products backed with unsubstantiated claims.

Early Attempts to Turn Back the Clock

Until the 1900s, any serious attempts to cheat the aging process were dubious, to say the least. However, scientific advances finally caught up to the concept of rejuvenation during the 1920s. The treatment of injured soldiers in the wake of the First World War led to breakthroughs in reconstructive surgery techniques. This in turn would inspire a new wave of cosmetic surgery procedures.

Misconceptions about the aging process also led to a questionable market for so-called skin foods. It was thought that wrinkles and thinning skin were the result of a loss of subcutaneous fat. Replenishing this with replacement animal fats and vegetable oils seemed like a logical response. However, with no industry regulation as such, consumers had no guarantee about what they were actually rubbing into their skin.

It wasn’t until 1938 that the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) was passed by Congress. Finally, formulas could be regulated, with cosmetics manufacturers issuing stern warnings regarding false advertising and misleading claims.

What Does the Science Say About Today’s Anti-Aging Treatments

Today, anti-aging products continue to prove popular with consumers. The anti-aging market was valued at an estimated $54.5 billion in 2023. By 2027, that’s expected to grow beyond $72 billion. Consumer demand is one thing, but do the anti-aging products of the 21st century actually deliver what they promise?

To answer this, let’s take a look at some of the star ingredients you’ll find used in many anti-aging products. Ceramides are particularly common, perhaps most famously used by brands like CeraVe. Dehydrated skin is a hallmark of the aging process, but ceramides can help counter this thanks to their water-retention credentials. As well as being hydrating, ceramides hKWave been shown to combat harmful free radicals, which are known to wreak havoc on youth-boosting proteins like elastin and collagen. If you’re noticing unsightly lines around your eyes, regular application of something like CeraVe repairing cream is definitely worth considering.

What About Retinoids?

As we age, levels of retinoids like vitamin A begin to diminish. However, replenishing this fat-soluble vitamin can be easily replenished with topical treatments. These products, known as retinoids, can be picked up relatively inexpensively and have been scientifically proven to deliver noticeable results. They’re particularly effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines, although you’ll need to commit to them for some time before you start to see results. Eventually, topical retinoids can lead to thicker collagen, resulting in a more youthful-looking appearance.

While beauty brands are quick to point out the positives of retinoids, one thing they don’t tend to make a song and dance about is the side effects they can cause. Topical retinoids aren’t a great idea if your skin is easily irritated. Likewise, it’s best to sidestep this anti-aging solution if you’re prone to dry skin.

On the topic of dry skin, let’s take a quick look at hyaluronic acid. Another ingredient heralded for its anti-aging properties, hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the body and helps skin retain moisture. However, we begin to produce less of it the older we get. Making up for the shortfall with topical treatments and enriched moisturizers is therefore a good idea.

Are Anti-Aging Treatments Worth the Hype?

Even if you’re skeptical about skincare, the science behind some of the biggest cosmetic brands does demonstrate actual benefits. However, just express caution if you’re eager to combat the aging process with a new beauty regimen. It’s never a good idea to overload the skin with a slew of new ingredients, even if you’re using them to replenish dwindling reserves of naturally occurring vitamins and proteins. It may also be worth consulting a certified dermatologist before embarking on your anti-aging endeavor.