Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, Retinol: How Effective Are They Really Against Skin Aging According to Science?

Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, Retinol: How Effective Are They Really Against Skin Aging According to Science?

For those looking to stop aging, it hasn’t always been as easy as it is today.

Throughout history, people have used all sorts of wacky techniques to care for their skin and fight aging, like bathing in donkey’s milk like Cleopatra supposedly did, or applying mercury directly to the skin like the Elizabethans did. .

Although the modern age has brought its fair share of strange methods to combat skin aging, such as the afterbirth or the vampire facialsthe latest trend in this field is to use science.

But with solutions full of peptides, antioxidants, and acids all too common on ingredient lists now, it can be hard for someone without a background in biology or chemistry to know if what they’re buying is actually backed by science, or if it’s just marketing hype.

Here, we take a look at three of the most popular ingredients found in many anti-aging products today, and if there is any evidence that they do what they say:


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Vitamin C

Products containing vitamin C often claim to “brighten” the appearance of the skin and encourage collagen production.

The middle layer of our skin (the dermis) produces collagen and elastin, that work together to give skin its tightness and elasticity.

But as we age, the skin produces less collagen and elastin, which is why We develop wrinkles.

Vitamin C is a little hard to manage To the skin.

This is because the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, acts as a barrier against water.

Since vitamin C is soluble in water, this can make it difficult to develop a product that can deliver vitamin C to the skin.

But some research suggests that concentrations greater than 5% of vitamin C they can work on the skin.

For example, one study found that in ten women ages 50 to 60, daily application of a cream containing 5% vitamin C to the forearms for six months showed an increase in collagen production on the skin.

A woman applies cream to her forearm

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Other research also suggests that daily application of vitamin C to the skin can noticeably reduce hyperpigmentation (slightly darker patches of skin) caused by sun damage.

In multiple studies, creams with and without vitamin C were applied to different areas of each person’s skin.

It was found that people who used vitamin C creams for a total of 47 days saw a noticeable difference in their skin color after 12 days of use.

However, there was little further change after the first 12 days.

But whether the results persisted after the study ended is unknown.


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Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, so it retains the water molecules in the skin.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that our body produces.

It is usually found in the fluids of the eyes and between the joints and tissues.

Many skin care products now include hyaluronic acid, claiming that It is a good moisturizer that can help reduce wrinkles.

A 2011 study looking at 76 women between the ages of 30 and 60 found that using creams containing 0.1% hyaluronic acid twice a day for two months improved skin hydration and elasticity.

But improvements in the appearance of wrinkles and skin roughness were only seen in creams where hyaluronic acid molecules were smaller.

This is because the hyaluronic acid molecules that are bigger They may be more difficult for the skin to absorb.

But many skin creams that contain hyaluronic acid they do not say the exact size of the molecules used in the product, which makes purchasing decisions difficult.

It pays to read the label and take note of the type and/or concentration of acid hyaluronic it contains.


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Reassuringly, other studies have shown that many hyaluronic acid products (from creams and serums to injectables) They can help increase skin hydration and reduce wrinkles.

This includes a study from 2021, which showed a significant increase in skin hydration and a reduction in fine lines in participants.

But it’s worth noting that this study used a commercial product that contained a mixture of niacinamide, ceramides and hyaluronic acid applied twice daily, along with daily use of sunscreen.

This makes it difficult to tell if the results were due to hyaluronic acid alone.


Retinol-based products are popular these days, often touted for their ability to reduce the effects of long-term sun damage to the skin (photoaging), including hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.

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Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A.

It converts to retinoic acid once it is absorbed into the skin.

Once absorbed, helps increase collagen production and increases cell turnover.

All of these effects combined help fill in the appearance of wrinkles. and decrease hyperpigmentation.

Studies in human cells, skin samples, and humans suggest that retinol-containing products may have an effect on the appearance of the skin.

For example, a human study showed that using a product with at least 0.4% retinol three times a week for six months the appearance of wrinkles diminished.

Previous studies have shown that even products containing 0.04% retinol can have this effect when used for at least 12 weeks.

Although the effects will not be as pronounced compared to other retinoid products, commercial products containing at least 0.04% retinol should be able to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles if used continuously over a period of months, especially when combined with sun protection.


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what to look for

If you’re considering purchasing an anti-aging skin care product, there are a few things to think about.

First, find out if you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the product and if it is suitable for your skin type.

For example, if you have dry, sensitive skin, retinol may may not be right for you, as it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and further irritate it.

You should also take note of the concentration of the active ingredient inside the product and follow the manufacturer’s recommended use.

This is indicated on the label.

Of course, you should also remember that the purchased product it is not a panacea.

It is equally important to keep a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet and rest enough to maintain visibly healthy skin.

*Szu Shen Wong is Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering at Keele University.

*Neil Grazier is Technician, School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering, Keele University.

His original article was published in The Conversation which you can read here.

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