What Dermatologists Wish You Knew About Anti-Aging Treatments

State of Skin is our monthlong exploration of what women love, hate, and need to know about their skin — from the most common concerns to the best kept secrets in beauty.

Anti Aging Products
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Fact: We're all getting old everyday. But even though aging is a completely natural and normal life experience we all go through, what it looks like in terms of changes to your skin can be dramatically different for you than it was for your mom, older sister, or favorite aunt. This air of mystery is why aging continues to be such a hot topic — especially in skincare.

If you're someone who is concerned with how your skin may evolve as the years go on, you're not alone. When InStyle surveyed a group of 1,800 racially diverse women, from ages 17 to 74, across the U.S. on their biggest skin concerns, 59% were focused on fine lines and wrinkles.

So if you're part of the 59% who wants to turn back the hands of time, or maybe just hit pause, the good news is that there are a number of treatment options available, like over-the-counter and prescription creams, to injectibles like Botox, which all promise major results. But, can these popular anti-aging treatments actually prevent and erase the inevitable?

We turned to four top skin experts to find out what they wish they could tell you about how anti-aging treatments really work, as well as what your expectations should be.

Don't Expect to See Results Overnight

"Nothing will solve anything overnight, it’s all about consistency," says Dr. Howard Sobel cosmetic dermatologist and director of Sobel Skin. "Look for products that contain preventative ingredients such as ceramides to maintain skin's hydration, and peptides which are rich in antioxidants that act like a shield to protect your skin."

It's also important not to give up if you don't see quick results. "These products take time to kick in, sometimes you need to play around with various brands and formulas to find the right regimen for your specific needs," explains Dr. Sobel.

Ceramides Are an Anti-Aging Ingredient That are Just as Effective as Retinol

"Ceramides are lipids abundantly present in the skin. It is responsible for effective skin function, retaining moisture, and creating a natural protective barrier," says Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a Boston-based board-certified dermatopathologist. "However, after age 20, our ceramide production decreases by one percent each year. While the results of this decrease in production won’t be noticeable until you hit your thirties, using ceramide infused moisturizers would be a way of combating this aging process."

That Being Said, Yes, Retinol and Other Retinoids Can Be Transformative

"If there’s one ingredient that could be considered the fountain of youth, it’s a retinoid," says Dr. Sobel. They work to promote skin cell turnover and even out the skin."

"Retinol is a preform of vitamin A, and it is extremely popular in beauty today because it helps stimulate cell turnover, collagen production, and directly addresses uneven skin tones, sun spots, and fine lines," explains Dr. Frieling. "You can consult your doctor about a prescription-strength retinol treatment or opt for a less-active but a more sustainable formula that you can find over-the-counter."

Sun Damage Can Cause the Earliest Signs of Aging, So Wearing SPF Is a Must

"Sunscreen is vital for people of all ages and skin colors. It is suggested that one in five Americans will have skin cancer at some point in their lives, so everyone should try to include sunscreen as part of their skincare regimen," says Dr. Frieling. "Sunscreen has many significant benefits, one of which is to protect the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. These harmful beams not only increase your chances of getting skin cancer, but also cause wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines."

Along with UVA/UV rays, free radicals in the air can also contribute to pre-mature aging. But sunscreen can provide protection. "Preventing the loss of collagen is best achieved through minimizing the effects of free radicals," explains Dr.Ted Lain, board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology. "Our current understanding is that a healthy lifestyle and diet are effective, but daily, consistent sun protection, along with topical anti-oxidants, are also essential for anti-aging."

"Most people wrinkle on their face more than they do on their buttock because of sun — the number one cause of wrinkles," says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, cosmetic dermatologist, chief medical officer, and founder of PFRANKMD.

Botox Will Not Freeze Your Face

"A common misconception that patients have is if they will get that frozen expressionless face, but that is not the case." says Dr. Sobel. "A licensed, certified doctor should be able to moderately and properly administer Botox and filler correctly for a more natural look."

Preventative Botox Can Help Stop Shallow Lines from Becoming Full-Fledged Wrinkles, But Won't Entirely Prevent Them

"It’s always inevitable that some wrinkling will occur – no one grows old wrinkle-less. I always tell people to start using Botox or other neuromodulators when you start seeing the wrinkles," says Dr. Frank. "I don’t recommend doing it prophylactically if you don’t have any wrinkles, but certainly it’s easier to clean your room before it gets too dirty. So, don’t use age as a gauge, use whether or not you are starting to see the lines."

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Botox Isn't a Perment Fix

"If you are considering preventative Botox, you should make the commitment to continue to get Botox throughout the year, whenever it wears off," says Dr. Sobel. "If you don’t, you will start seeing etched fine lines in the skin that will not go away even with Botox. So, remember preventative means being consistent and you won’t be saying, 'How come I had Botox, but I still see fine lines?'"

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