One of the tell-tale signs of aging is sagging skin. One of the main causes of the skin losing its youthful, firm appearance is the natural decline of collagen that comes with age, since collagen holds the skin together. Women specifically begin losing collagen in their 20s and lose about 30% of their total collagen in the first five years of menopause.
Furthermore, there is a loss of elastin production and elastin production that comes with age regardless of gender. The loss of elasticity, which is the skin’s ability to stretch and bounce back, is also responsible for the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition to the decline of collagen and elastin, we inherently lose volume as we age. Volume loss compounded with the reduction of collagen makes it harder for the skin to retract back to place, causing it to hang and sag. Gravity and muscle weakness are also factors in sagging skin, although these are less of a culprit than volume loss that can lead to deep folds and wrinkles, if not addressed.
Since collagen and elastin proteins are found in the skin’s dermis layer, they are affected by environmental factors like exposure to the sun’s UV rays, smoking, and pollution—with the sun being the biggest culprit. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 90% of skin aging including the loss of elasticity is due to sun exposure.
While no skincare product is going to stop the proverbial hands of time, certain ingredients can certainly slow down the effects of time. Regularly wearing a broad-based sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are some of the best and most simple ways to prevent premature aging of the skin. However, there are also a variety of skincare ingredients that can help tone and tighten sagging skin.
With that said, we rounded up the top five ingredients to look for in your skincare products that will help slow down the hands of time and help your skin look firmer and more youthful.
Retinol Or Retinoids
One of the most popular anti-aging ingredients (and the most effective) is retinol, which is known for increasing cell turnover and boosting collagen production that helps increase the skin’s overall firmness. It is one of the most studied ingredients to fight the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and binds to receptors in the skin that tell the skin’s cells to increase both collagen and elastin production.
There can be an adjustment period when retinol is first introduced to the skin where irritation, peeling, and even breakouts can occur, but these side effects eventually subside. Since retinol does increase cell turnover that reveals fresh skin, it is essential that you use a broad-based UVA and UVB sunscreen to make sure the skin doesn’t get burned and that the ingredient can do its job.
Like retinol, glycolic acid helps to remove dead skin cells and speed up cell turnover to give the skin a smoother texture and a firmer appearance. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that not only helps to exfoliate and brighten the skin, it has also been shown to increase collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin collectively providing skin strengthening and firming benefits.
Found in the skin’s connective tissue, hyaluronic acid helps to keep the skin lubricated and hydrated. Unfortunately, hyaluronic acid decreases as the body ages and is exposed to harmful UV rays from either the sun or artificial sources causing a loss of volume, fine lines, and wrinkles, in addition to other signs of aging. It is considered a hero ingredient for the skin since it holds 1000 times its own weight in water, which when used topically keeps the skin hydrated and attracts more moisture to the skin, which increases the skin’s firmness and makes it less likely to wrinkle.
One of my favorite hyaluronic acid products is from the emerging brand, Saro de Rue, which delivers hyaluronic acid in a freeze-dried format that hydrates the skin for 72 hours after applying it.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Known as the “universal antioxidant” since it is soluble in both water and fat, alpha lipoic acid delivers benefits to the interior and exterior of the skin and its cell structure. It is these unique properties of alpha lipoic acid that helps to smooth out skin and therefore reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Despite its vast benefits to the skin including reducing inflammation, increasing energy in skin cells, and free radical protection, alpha lipoic acid is considered to be one of the most underrated skin firming ingredients.
If you are looking for an alternative to retinol, bakuchiol is a gentler, plant-based skincare ingredient that has gotten a lot of attention as of late for its anti-aging benefits. Sometimes this star ingredient is referred to as “nature’s retinol”, but this ingredient doesn’t work on retinoid receptors, however it has been shown to help stimulate collagen production in the skin.
There is no way to completely stop aging or skin from sagging, but with powerful ingredients like the ones outlined above, you can certainly stave off the tell-tale signs to ensure your skin looks healthy and has a youthful firmness.