The Ideal Anti-Aging Regimen

As a clinical aesthetician who specializes in skin aging, I am often asked by my clients, “What products should I be using at home to anti-age my skin?”  While skincare regimens do--and should--vary greatly depending upon skin type, sensitivity, and concern, I believe there is an ideal formula for optimal performance of your anti-aging regimen.  I like to refer to it as my “recipe for successful aging.”  While the ingredients may differ according to an individual’s age, budget, and specific concerns, the basic steps are the same.  Our skin is losing collagen, and we are all heading down the frightful road towards fine lines, wrinkles -- and the most dreaded of all -- loss of firmness.  In fact, our skin loses 1% of its collagen-producing abilities each year of life, starting at birth.  By age 50, our skin has lost half of its collagen-making potential!  With age, we also lose our ability to protect our existing collagen and elastin from environmental stressors such as the sun, stress, and pollution, and guess what?  We have a real crisis on our hands!  Fortunately, modern science has brought us numerous wonderful topical therapies that can significantly minimize and reverse the damage that our skin suffers and promote the formation of new, healthy collagen.  Most important is knowing what, how, and when to use them. The ideal anti-aging skincare regimen is one that maximizes healthy collagen production in our skin, as well as protects the collagen and elastin that we still have.  Below is my customizable recipe for successful skin aging:

Morning Regimen:

  1. Antioxidant
  2. Alpha Hydroxy Acid
  3. Eye cream
  4. Broad-spectrum sunscreen

Evening regimen:

  1. Specialty Serum
  2. Moisturizer
  3. Eye cream
  4. Retinoid

Let’s break it down and look at each step. 

Step 1. Morning:  After cleansing your skin each morning, the first thing you apply should be an antioxidant; preferably one containing l-ascorbic acid which is a form of vitamin C that is most effective in the skin. Unstable free radicals, or charged particles, are responsible for the majority of skin aging.  They cause the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which results in skin wrinkling and sagging.  Free radicals are also responsible for DNA mutations and skin cancer.  Antioxidants seek out these damaging particles and return them to a stable, non-destructive state.  Morning is the ideal time to apply your antioxidant as most of your skin’s environmental assaults (such as sun, stress, pollution, etc.) occur during the day.  Our favorite and most effective topical antioxidants include CE Ferulic by Skinceuticals (for normal, combination, or dry skin types) and Phloretin CF Gel by SkinCeuticals (for Combination or oily skin types).  If you struggle with uneven skin tone or brown spots, C- Clarifying Serum by Obagi Medical is also a good choice. It contains a prescription dose of hydroquinone to suppress unwanted pigment in addition to the l-ascorbic acid.

Step 2. Morning:  The next step in your morning routine should be the application of an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA).   These are naturally occurring acids derived from plant life which have a long term reputation for encouraging skin to both look and behave like a younger version of itself.  The most commonly used AHAs in skincare include glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (from sour milk), malic acid (from apples and cherries), and citric acid (from citrus fruits).  AHA’s offer exfoliation, smoothing the skin’s surface and preventing clogged pores.  Glycolic acid, in particular, can increase the power of your antioxidant serum by pushing it deeper into the skin.   Some of our favorite AHA products include Blemish + Age Defense by Skinceuticals (a lightweight serum designed for combination to oily skin prone to clogged pores), C-Exfoliating Day Lotion by Obagi Medical (a 2-in-1 AHA plus moisturizer for dry skin), and Step Up Rejuvenate Facial Lotion by Glytone (appropriate for all skin types and available in 3 different strengths).

Step 3 Morning:  When it comes to treating the eyes in the morning, I prefer that my clients use a product that offers this delicate skin area some additional protection from environmental stressors.  Ultra-Rich Eye by Obagi Medical offers plant growth factors with powerful antioxidant abilities that are gentle enough for the eye area.  Another great eye product that may be used over an eye cream or on its own is Physical UV Eye SPF 50 by SkinCeuticals.  This is a sunscreen designed to stick with the eye area all day long.  It has a rich texture and universal tint that acts like a sunscreen, cosmetic concealer, and primer all in one.

Step 4 Morning:  80% of free radical damage is caused by daily incidental UV exposure, making a great daily sunscreen the most effective anti-aging product your money can buy!  Please do not to cheat your skin by using a cheap over-the-counter product.  Invest in your skin by choosing a professional sunscreen with quality, non-toxic ingredients.  Also, do not rely on that “SPF 15” in your makeup to protect your skin from aging.  Makeup companies generally use a cheap, chemical UVB blocker in order to label their product as a sunscreen, and this gives people a false sense of security.  Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 45 by PCA Skin is an excellent choice for daily protection and is Dr. Langley’s sunscreen of choice.  It is appropriate for all skin types and has the lightest feel on the market for an effective zinc oxide sunscreen.  My personal favorite is Physical Fusion SPF 50 by SkinCeuticals, which offers chemical-free and water resistant daily protection with a natural tint that prevents it from looking white on the skin.  Another great chemical-free, water resistant choice that is non-tinted is Mineral Ultra-Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 by Avene. 

Step 1 Evening:  At night your skin works to heal itself and repair damage.  You can support this process with the products that you apply in the evening.  After cleansing the skin, choose a lightweight serum that embraces a newer technology to address your skincare concerns.   Resveratrol BE by SkinCeuticals boosts your skin’s natural nighttime antioxidant power and is a particularly excellent choice for dry skin due to the moisturizing qualities of vitamin E.  TNS Recovery Complex by SkinMedica is another high tech anti-aging serum that harnesses the power of natural human growth factors to rebuild tissue, strengthen capillaries, and promote healthy collagen production.  ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum by PCA Skin utilizes a peptide that communicates with neurotransmitters in the skin to reduce unwanted expression lines.  

Step 2 Evening:  Moisturizing the skin not only repairs your lipid barrier and smooths your skin, it also increases the penetration of your anti-aging products.  Your skin is like a sponge.  When it is dry, active products sit on top and cause surface irritation.  When the sponge is wet, those products are able to seep past that surface and are more likely to affect the living cells of the skin.  Triple Lipid Repair 2:4:2 by SkinCeuticals is an excellent choice for combination to dry skin as it contains the perfect ratio of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids to balance the skin and plump up cells with hydration from the inside out.  Oilier skin types do well with Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Moisturizer by Obagi Medical, a glycerin based product that is free of oil.  

Step 3 evening:  Give your eye area a rich dose of corrective ingredients in the evening to help your skin repair itself and rebuild collagen.  Retrinal Eyes by Avene is a well-rounded eye cream that contains ingredients to treat dark circles and puffiness as well as the ideal dose of retinoid for the delicate eye tissue.  TNS Eye Repair by SkinMedica is a luxurious product that contains a combination of human growth factor and collagen stimulating peptides to gently strengthen the skin as you sleep.

Step 4 evening:  Your final step in the evening should be a topical retinoid that is appropriate for your skin type.  Retinoids have the most scientifically proven effectiveness of all ant-aging products on the market.  They create inflammation in the skin that wakes up our collagen producing cells and over time have a noticeable firming effect on the skin.  However, it is not enough to just use your retinoid cream once a week.  The trick is to find one that you can and will use on a daily basis without irritation.   My favorite retinoid to recommend is RetrinAl + 0.1 Creme by Avène.  This product is well tolerated by most skin types and contains a very effective form of retinoid called retrinaldahyde.  It also comes in a 0.05% formulation for those more sensitive or new to retinoid usage.  If your skin is oily or acne prone, opt instead for Avene’s TriAcneal Night, which contains 0.1% retinaldahyde, papaya enzyme, and an anti-inflammatory to treat papular acne.  If your skin is extremely sensitive, try Retinol Complex  0.25 by SkinMedica or Hydra-Lift Complex by RevaleSkin, as these contain a uniquely low dose of active retinol.  More experienced retinoid users may opt for Obagi Medical’s prescription strength tretinoin cream that is available by consultation appointment only. 


In conclusion:  Today, people are redefining what it means to age gracefully. Embracing new technologies in anti-aging skincare can significantly slow the aging process of the skin.   If you are new to clinical skincare, however, it may be best to add these products into your regimen gradually as not to overstimulate or irritate your skin.  Remember, there are a lot of great products out there as well as a lot of snake oil.  If you want to be sure you are making the most of your anti-aging skincare regimen, I recommend a yearly consultation with one of our skincare professionals who will help you follow this recipe for success with the latest innovative products that are appropriate for your unique skin.


Erin Bruton -- Clinical Aesthetician at Melissa Langley MD Nashiville


Erin Bruton
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