5 Natural Anti-Aging Skin Ingredients That Actually Work

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Picking out healthy — yet effective — skin products can be a real consumer nightmare. Especially with a market overly saturated with all natural products. (Step into any high-end beauty mecca — or even a Whole Foods — and you’re bound to see an array of “green” skin serums.)

Many natural skin products promise to keep the fine lines (and deeper crevices) earned by aging at bay. But which are the most effective active ingredients in these products, and how do they work to fend off fine lines?

We consulted with Los Angeles-based dermatologists Annie Chiu, M.D., of The Derm Institute, Christine Choi Kim, M.D., and Kristen Arnett, natural beauty expert and founder of GreenBeautyTeam.com, to glean their collective knowledge on which green ingredients to look for and find out how they work to promote a more youthful look.

The common denominator among these ingredients? Antioxidants!

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1. Vitamin C

Also known as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects skin from damaging UV rays and the environmental pollutants that cause free radicals (highly reactive atoms).

Why does your skin need protecting from them? “Free radicals, as well as external factors like UV radiation, environmental pollution and toxic chemicals, can impair normal regulation of [our skin’s] cellular processes, causing skin cells to be vulnerable to damage,” says Dr. Choi Kim.

The resulting damage to the skin cells can lead to premature aging, and no one wants that. So to fend off those free radicals, she says topical antioxidants with vitamin C can help boost our natural antioxidant system. Another bonus is that it also helps to inhibit pigment darkening in the skin — another term for age spots.

Fortified with 10 percent pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), Dr. Choi Kim says SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF serum can boost protection against the free radicals that cause visible signs of accelerated skin aging and reduce the effects of sun damage on a cellular level as well. Woot!

2. Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is a popular Chinese herb sometimes referred to as the “fountain of youth” because it packs serious power when it comes to softening both superficial and deeper wrinkles, says Arnett.

“It works by regenerating stronger connective tissue, which is important to help aging skin regain a youthful look,” she explains. It also quells inflammation, stimulates new cell growth and builds collagen — all of which is helpful in healing acne or scars.

Arnett says Laurel Whole Plant Organics Facial Serum: Antioxidant is fortified with gotu kola and red raspberry seed, which is known to protect against the sun’s rays. It absorbs quickly into the skin to stimulate collagen production, thus improving cellular renewal and staving off new fine lines.

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3. Camellia Oil

Popular in Japan, camellia oil is extracted and cold-pressed from the seeds of the camellia japonica plant, also known as the tsubaki flower.

Said to contain very powerful antioxidants, it protects skin from future aging by helping it rebuild collagen and shields against free radical damage caused by pollution, smoke and UV radiation, says Dr. Chiu. Bonus: It also contains vitamins A, B, C and E.

Tatcha Camellia Beauty Oil has the same molecular weight as shuman skin, allowing it to absorb quickly and thoroughly without looking greasy.

4. Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids

“Alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHA and BHA) and glycolic and salicylic acids help dissolve dead skin cells to make room for new cell growth, allowing your other antiaging products to penetrate more deeply,” says Dr. Chiu.

She recommends this nifty trick: Apply alpha and beta hydroxy acids in a moisturizer serum rather than a cleanser because they better penetrate the skin and “effectively exfoliate away wrinkles.”

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum is a hydrating gel containing a 12 percent AHA-BHA blend free of parabens, sulphates and phthalates — potentially harmful chemical preservatives often found in popular beauty products, Dr. Chiu says.

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5. Grape Seed Extract

Arnett claims proanthocyanidins, compounds found in grape seed extract, is 20 times more powerful of an antioxidant than vitamin C and 50 times more powerful than vitamin E.

“When used around the eye, puffiness and darkness can fade. Plus, sun damage makes us look older way faster, and antioxidants like grape seed extract hold their own in protecting skin (against sun damage) on a daily basis,” she says.

Blissoma Bright Eye Vitalizing Nutrient Serum contains proanthocyanidins, as well as other antioxidants found in ingredients like organic yerba mate (yes, the kind you drink!), which protect against free radicals and fight inflammation in the eye area. It seeps into skin and penetrates deeply to de-puff the eye area without leaving it feeling greasy.

What Do YOU Think?

Which of these skin ingredients will you add to your beauty routine? What other natural anti-aging products work for you? What ingredients do you steer clear of and why?