If you don’t know your retinol from your retinoids, and kale and quinoa are strictly for eating only, it’s probably time to brush up on your antiaging repertoire. Your 20s are the best time to prevent—and fight!—wrinkles, pigmentation, sagging skin, and more unfortunate signs that you’re growing up (and older).
So in the slideshow ahead, we’ve created a full A-to-Z guide of the antiaging options available to you right now. There are thrifty, natural ways to hydrate your skin, intense treatments that your dermatologist will have to prescribe or perform, and more ways to halt Mother Nature—at least for a little while. Keep clicking!
Let's start with the most obvious—but perhaps the most important—word in your glossary of antiaging terms: antioxidants. They come in many forms, including vitamin E, vitamin C, resveratrol, green tea extract, and niacinamide. They are crucial in antiaging skin care because, according to dermatologic surgeon and RealSelf contributor Dr. Joel Schlessinger, they help to "shield skin against damaging free radicals and fortify it against environmental stressors."
He explained that antioxidants help minimize fine lines, dullness, and hyperpigmentation, and promote repair and healing. "In short, use as often as possible!" encourages Dr. Schlessinger. "Antioxidants can be found in just about any skin-care product and can be applied once or twice daily as directed."
Perricone MD Skin Perfecting Series, $90; at Sephora
Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer, $49.50; at Clinique
You've certainly heard of it, but in case there's any confusion: Botox is an injectable neurotoxin that helps relax facial muscles to smooth the appearance of expression lines, such as crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles.
"Botox relaxes wrinkles caused by repeated facial expressions, leaving skin with a smoother and more youthful appearance," explained Dr. Joel Schlessinger. Of course, there are some potential side effects, like uneven results and eyelid drooping, although Dr. Schlessinger says these risks are "significantly reduced when you see an experienced, board-certified cosmetic surgeon." He explained that a typical Botox treatment will last you about three months, although this varies depending on your body and your skin-care regimen.
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in skin that's responsible for a firm, supple complexion. So, it makes sense that you want to lather that stuff all over your face, right? "Synthetic collagens, or those derived from plant and animal sources, are sometimes found in skin care," says Dr. Schlessinger, adding that products containing it should also include other "star antiaging ingredients like antioxidants" if you’re going to consider them for your routine. These can typically be applied once or twice a day.
As we age, we naturally lose volume in areas like the cheeks and lips due to decreased hyaluronic acid production—and that's where fillers come in. "Dermal fillers are injectable hyaluronic acid solutions that work to fill in areas of concern, such as deep-set lines around the mouth or loss of firmness in the cheeks," notes Dr. Schlessinger.
Basically, like the name suggests, they help fill in lines and sagging, creating a plumper, firmer, and more youthful appearance. Like with all injectables, there are risks too: "The biggest risk that comes with a filler procedure is uneven or undesired results. Seeing a skilled, experienced board-certified cosmetic surgeon is crucial for cutting down this risk and achieving the best outcome," warns Dr. Schlessinger. Fillers can last three, six or even up to 18 months, depending on the type.
"Elastin is a naturally occurring protein in skin that helps to give it its flexibility," says Dr. Schlessinger.
Some skin-care products will contain either plant- or animal-derived elastin, which, while results haven't been thoroughly proven, "may function as a water-binding agent to help skin retain moisture."
Not for the faint of heart, Fraxel is a professional treatment that uses fractional laser technology to help restore younger-looking skin. Yes, it's very uncomfortable (see also: painful!), but the results can be drastic.
In scientific terms, the treatment involves a "semi-ablative procedure that uses a handheld device to create microscopic, evenly spaced wounds across skin to help stimulate collagen and the natural rejuvenation process," says Dr. Schlessinger. This can help with rough texture, large pores, mild acne scarring, dark spots, fine lines, and a host of other delightful side effects of the aging process.
Fraxel can be a little intense, especially for twentysomething skin, but there are less extreme laser options, such as Skin Laundry’s proprietary YAG laser and IPL system that brightens, releases wrinkles, treats acne, and stimulates collagen without any of the downtime (or pain!). "The IPL targets the first signs of aging on the surface of your skin, reducing uneven skin tone and brown spots, and gives you the look of photo-rejuvenation," explains the company's founder Yen Reis.
Here we go with the "A" word again—grape seed extract is packed with antioxidants, which are crucial to your antiaging skin-care routine.
Deeply Clarifying Face Oil, $125; at Uma
Using hydroxy acids on your skin can create a smoother, more youthful complexion and a more even skin tone–but be careful if your complexion is on the touchy side, as this can cause redness.
"Hydroxy acid is a great exfoliant, and exfoliating is an important step to help keep skin looking young and fresh," says Nina Patino, an aesthetician at Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in New York.
Philosophy Hope in a Jar, $44; at Sephora
This soy-derived ingredient can brighten the skin, decrease redness, boost collagen production, and even help improve overall skin tone.
If you're looking for all-natural hydration that won't cause a breakout, this is it. "Jojoba oil is exceptionally effective because it has a molecular similarity to the building block oils of the skin," explains a spokesperson at beauty brand Ogee.
When applied, it moisturizes and strengthens the top layer of the skin, helping to prevent the formation of fine lines, which will eventually prevent deeper wrinkles. It also absorbs better than a lot of other oils, so it won't leave you with an uncomfortable greasy residue.
Jojoba Restore Face Oil, $44; at Ogee
Believe it: We've moved beyond just obsessing over kale in our salads and smoothies, and now it's in our skin care. The superfood is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, and can help with aging due to sun damage.
Farmacy Hydrating Coconut Gel Mask, $24; at Sephora
You probably only know lactic acid from your middle-school physical-education classes, but this is a powerful weapon against aging, too. It's an "alpha-hydroxy acid derived from milk that works to gently exfoliate skin," explains Dr. Schlessinger. This creates a smoother, more youthful complexion and a more even skin tone.
Be careful if you have sensitive skin or a milk allergy—lactic acid could cause mild peeling and irritation. This ingredient can also leave skin more sensitive to sun exposure, so high-quality sunscreen is crucial.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Fortifying Neck Emulsion, $75; at Sephora
Here's the basic rundown: Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive professional treatment that uses physical exfoliation to create smoother, more even skin. It's commonly used to treat light acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage.
"Microdermabrasion is really about treating the signs and symptoms of aging rather than preventing aging," says Mariola Barcewska, an aesthetician at Haven Spa in New York. However, with regular treatments every few months, microdermabrasion can "enhance cellular performance by removing the topmost layer, thereby encouraging cellular turnover," notes Barcewska.
Niacinamide is a crazy-effective antioxidant and cell-communicating ingredient that can help out with multiple skin issues—it's particularly found in products geared toward treating sun damage, acne, and inflammation.
"This ingredient can improve skin’s elasticity; promote a brighter, more even tone; calm redness; and improve barrier function, preventing water loss throughout the day. It also works well for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other types of acne irritation," says Dr. Schlessinger, adding that products containing niacinamide "can typically be applied twice daily for the best results."
Hydrating Radiance Facial Treatment Mask, $12; at Skin Laundry
Nia24 Skin Strengthening Complex Repair Cream, $93; at Lovely Skin
Sarah Kugelman of Skyn Iceland (which makes a brilliant oxygen-infused treatment) explained that as we age, we lose oxygen from our skin: "By the time a woman reaches 60 years old, she loses one-third of the oxygen in her skin. She needs to replenish this oxygen, and the best time to do it is at night, when skin is going through its own renewal process and can metabolize oxygen most efficiently," she explains.
While the jury's still out as to its actual effectiveness, proponents believe that it helps boost skin’s health and rejuvenation. "It literally brings a glow and translucency to the skin," notes our expert. "Everyone pays to get expensive oxygen facials at the spa, but you can get the benefits of using a cream with oxygen at home."
Skyn Iceland Oxygen Infusion Night Cream, $65; at Ulta
When peptides are mentioned in reference to skin-care products, proteins composed of chains of amino acids are what is meant. "They help bind moisture to skin and act as cell communicators to help aging, damaged cells repair themselves," explains Dr. Schlessinger. Antiaging benefits include plumping skin, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, and creating a more even complexion.
Dr. Brandt Do Not Age Triple Peptide Eye Cream, $82; at Ulta
Another superfood, quinoa—or more specifically, quinoa-seed extract—delivers vitamins, antioxidants, and proteins directly to your skin when slathered on topically. It can promote collagen and elastin production, giving a moisturized, evenly toned complexion.
Glamglow Daily Exfoliating Cleanser, $39; at Sephora
Quinoa Hydrating Daily Moisturizer, $50; at Cowshed
This buzzy ingredient is a common acne treatment, but it can also help with aging skin. It's FDA-approved for over-the-counter use, which is convenient.
NYC dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery explained that retinoids and retinols are vitamin A derivatives that help stimulate collagen production, reverse sun damage, and improve skin's texture and tone.
"Retonoic acid is an extremely effective cell-communicating ingredient that has the ability to connect to almost any skin cell receptor site and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger skin cell. It also functions like an antioxidant that can interrupt the free-radical damage process that causes wrinkling and other signs of aging. Moreover, it has been shown to increase collagen production, help fade discolorations from sun damage, and there is emerging research pointing to its potential for building elastin," she elaborated.
If you're just starting out with vitamin A creams, you should probably start slowly with a low dosage: "While an over-the-counter retinol isn't quite as effective or speedy as prescription-strength, it's less likely to cause irritation, redness, and peeling—so it can be better suited for anyone with sensitive or drier skin," she explained.
Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, $105; at Sephora
Have you ever heard that prevention is better than a cure? Well, yeah, same goes for your skin care. SPF stands for sun protection factor, and it is basically the best way to prevent aging, period.
"Sun damage is the top cause of premature signs of skin aging, showing up on the skin in the form of wrinkles, coarseness, and brown spots/hyperpigmentation," explains Beth Bialko, global curriculum developer for Dermalogica.
Basically, when sunlight touches your skin, it strips it of a barrier of lipids, causing inflammation; the production of free radicals, which impact healthy cell growth; and stimulates collagen-destroying enzymes, leading to wrinkles and loss of elasticity. For that reason, she suggests you "look for sunscreens that are not only broad spectrum but have age-fighting ingredients such as peptides and white tea," and then apply religiously.
Multi-Active Day SPF 20, $53; at Clarins
We're circling back to that A-word again—antioxidants. "Green tea and white tea extracts are potent antioxidants that help protect skin against environmental damage and premature signs of aging," says Dr. Schlessinger. He notes that tea extracts can also help to reduce inflammation, boost collagen, and minimize the appearance of fine lines.
Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask, $92; at Fresh
Intensely Hydrating Body Cream with White Tea, $37; at Origins
During this particularly expensive treatment (we're talking up to $2,000 for one session!), ultrasound waves heat deep layers of your skin, which in turn promotes the production of collagen while short-cutting past the skin's surface.
Vitamin C: It's not just for your immune system, folks. When applied topically, it's also an effective antiaging ingredient—Dr. Schlessinger even called it "one of the most highly dermatologist-recommended ingredients."
It's basically an antioxidant that protects you by "shielding skin against damaging free radicals and preventing premature signs of aging." It can come in several botanical and lab-created forms, including L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, and citrus extracts—so, they're the words to look out for on the back of your serum.
In addition to protecting and strengthening skin against environmental stress, vitamin C leaves the complexion brighter, firmer and more even—and (bonus!) he said it also boosts the efficacy of sunscreens.
As for the risks, vitamin C can cause "mild redness and peeling when first added to a skin-care regimen," but this usually subsides within a matter of days.
Start out by adding a product containing a low percentage of vitamin C to your routine (10 percent or less) once a day two to three times a week. Slowly work up to once or twice daily and higher concentrations.
Peter Thomas Roth CC Cream, $48; at Sephora
In case you've never read a celebrity interview before, just about every beautiful, famous person on the planet swears that simply drinking lots of water is the secret to their youthful complexions. It does make sense to stay hydrated, though: About 64 percent of your skin is made up of water, so drink up!
A natural way to lock in moisture and soften the skin, ximenia oil is derived from the small trees and shrubs of the same name that are native to Southern Africa.
Ren Rose 012 Moisture Defense Oil, $80; at Sephora
Pronounced "ee-lang, ee-lang," ylang-ylang is commonly known as an antidepressant and aphrodisiac among herbalists and aromatherapists. It helps your skin, too: it's high in antioxidants and is also slightly antibacterial, making it safe for acne-prone skin.
If something says it contains zinc oxide, think sun protection. According to Dr. Schlessinger, it's actually "one of the most effective physical sunscreen ingredients available on the market," and key in protecting the skin against harmful sun exposure.
Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 with Sunboost ATB, $32; at Josie Maran
Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50, $64; at Colorscience