If you turn on the telly, open a magazine or take a wander into Boots, then you’re bound to be overwhelmed by the amount of products that claim to be anti-ageing. Unless a well-known brand has gotten in a Delorean and shot off to see Marty McFly, there’s no scientific formula currently in existence that can prevent ageing – if there was, we’d all look as good as Kate Moss did in the 90s. There are some ingredients, products and formulas that can ensure skin is in a great condition so that nobody can guess your age, but the term ‘anti-ageing’ is pure marketing madness created to shift face creams.

In a nutshell, anti-ageing products are classified as predominately moisturisers, serums and skin care products that claim to make the skin look younger. They do this by reducing wrinkles, blemishes, pigmentation change and sun damage – the way that we can easily tell the difference between ‘older’ and ‘younger’ skin. Essentially no product can reverse the ageing process, but certain ingredients can help plump and refreshen the skin to give the appearance of a more youthful glow. However, these effects will only ever be temporary – as soon as you stop applying the creams, serums and lotions, the effect will wear off and you’ll be left with your natural skin tone once again. Here’s a run down of some of the commonly known (but misunderstood) ingredients in our skincare products and on our television sets.

One of the derivatives of Vitamin A, an essential ingredient for skin’s heath, Retinol can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by encouraging the production of collagen. It’s also able to complement the skin’s natural process of reducing the appearance of pore size, so it’s often been labeled the ‘miracle’ ingredient. Retanoids have also been proven to stimulate new blood vessels in the skin, providing a rosier and therefore more youthful appearance. Although this all sounds fantastic, it can take 6-12 months for any visible difference to appear and retanoids are known to cause inflammation and irritation in skin. It’s definitely an ingredient to take with a pinch of salt, especially as you won’t instantly see the results that are promised.

Like many things you see on the sides of bottles, this is a name and ingredient created by Procter & Gamble (who produce skin products such as Olay.) When initially launched, it claimed to be ‘at least as good as Retinol’ but with significantly reduced side-effects. Pentapeptides, a collection of Amino Acids, can help to renew the skin’s outermost layer to reveal smoother, younger-looking skin – however, there’s no absolute evidence that this works outside a laboratory! Again, it’s worth taking this with a massive serving of skepticism; unless it’s been proven to work effectively on the face of real women (and not in petri dishes,) I’m not convinced.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are molecules found in fruit and milk that can be used to dissolve dead skin cells and reveal the newer cells underneath. Facial scrubs can be used to exfoliate manually with small kernels or granuals, but AHAs have the ability to penetrate the skin and get between the bonds of old and new cells more effectively. They cheekily dissolve the bonds and allow the dead skin to be subtly washed away, revealing the radiant skin beneath. More commonly known as Glycolic or Lactic Acid, AHAs can now be found in everything from moisturisers to cleansers. These can be exceptionally effective and remove the need for intensive scrubs, which can be abrasive and irritating. However, the downside is that your skin will be more sensitive to the sun and other free-radicals for up to a week: extra SPF is therefore a must.

In the simplest terms, coenzymes are the molecules that enable other molecules to work effectively. On their own they have no function, but when in the presence of enzymes or other molecules they enable to reactions to be more efficient and require less energy. So if a product says it contains coenzymes, all it’s saying is that it contains an ingredient to make the other ingredients actually work. This is a perfect example of those cheeky marketing types making a product sound all complicated by using words you don’t really understand.

For all the scientific language and confusing claims, on the whole skincare and anti-ageing products are just trying to say they put good stuff into your skin and hope for the best. Anti-ageing products tend to contain a higher percentage of active ingredients than non anti-ageing products, but there is no absolute proof that they provide the results they suggest. The key to a youthful glow is to eat properly, drink lots of water, avoid vices such as alcohol and cigarettes, wear SPF religiously and use a decent face cream every day… There’s no need to spend a fortune on complicated and expensive products that may not even be able to deliver on their expansive promises.

Want to find out more about The Science Bit? Delve beneath the surface of skincare and beauty with my new e-book, available now for only £2.05! 



  1. Clare Elise
    October 13, 2013 / 7:52 am

    This post was really interesting …. I love finding out about ingredients its important to understand how things work and what you are actually putting on your face. I'll have a nosey at your book for sure…. :)Clare Elisewww.clareelisesparkles.com

    • Hayley Carr
      October 13, 2013 / 9:20 am

      Glad you found it interesting Clare! I think there's so much misunderstadning and marketing language floating around that it's hard for people to make informed decisions and have realistic expectations. Hope you enjoy the book!

  2. Simone Woods (Freelance Copywriter)
    October 13, 2013 / 8:21 am

    Just bought your book and look forward to reading it. As a big fan of the No7 Lift and Luminate range I am very interested to understand a lot more about what is actually in the products.

    • Hayley Carr
      October 13, 2013 / 9:21 am

      Hope you enjoy the book Simone! I think it's really important to understand what the ingredients are and claim to do in order to have realistic expectations of how they're going to help you.

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