How Do Anti-Ageing Products Work?

You’ve seen the term on all manner of facial products: anti-ageing. But what does it mean? And how does it work?

November 29, 2023


We’re not talking about winding back the clock in a Benjamin Button scenario. What anti-ageing products do is minimise the signs of ageing, like wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots etc.

You see, as we age, our skin changes:

  • Hydration is lost, causing dryness and dullness.
  • The production of collagen and elastin slows and their breakdown speeds up. This causes wrinkling, loss of elasticity, sagging and reduced firmness. 
  • Dark spots and pigmentations appear, often as a result of environmental stressors, particularly sun damage.

The purpose of anti-ageing products is to delay this process and to treat symptoms when they arise. Byrdie’s survey of numerous dermatologists yielded a three-pronged approach to anti-ageing: prevention, hydration and treatment. Clinical instructor of dermatology Dr Michelle Henry recommends a complementing plan of protection, prevention and correction. The goal is to retain healthy levels of collagen and moisture, which are diminished by the ageing process and exposure to free radicals.

So how does that help me?

That sounds great and all, but how do we put that plan into action? With an army of cosmeceutical products on the market claiming anti-ageing remedies, which can we trust? The best thing you can do to differentiate an effective product from effective marketing is to look at the ingredients list. 

We’ll go through some of the most powerful anti-aging ingredients, and what they do for your skin. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. It brightens the skin, overcoming dullness to give you a more radiant complexion. Vitamin C also promotes collagen production, which is what gives skin youthful firmness and elasticity. What’s more, this antioxidant diminishes dark spots and pigmentation, as well as prevents and repairs damage caused by free radicals.

Niacinamide is a derivative of Vitamin C (B-3) and is heralded for its brightening qualities. It also prevents water loss and can improve skin elasticity. You’ll usually find niacinamide in serums and moisturisers. 


Retinoids are the holy grail of anti-ageing skincare. A derivative of Vitamin A, they’re an antioxidant that is incredibly effective at clearing pores, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles (by plumping the skin), increasing collagen production and slowing its breakdown process. Retinoids also regulate oil production and reduce inflammation. 

A common form of retinoids is retinol, which can be found in some over-the-counter products, and in higher concentrations in prescription treatments. Retinol chemically smooths the skin and increases the rate of cell turnover so new skin quickly grows and replaces damaged or blemished skin. This gives you a luminous, radiant complexion. 

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a buzzy ingredient used in a whole host of products. It’s very gentle on the skin and incredibly hydrating, which is its major contribution to the anti-ageing game. By replacing lost moisture and plumping the skin with hydration, hyaluronic acid smooths out wrinkles and fine lines, leading to an appearance of fuller, firmer, younger-looking skin.

Hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types and is often paired with retinol, which can be irritating, to soothe and hydrate the skin. This ingredient is a humectant, meaning that it draws in moisture from the air and from deeper within the skin to hydrate the surface. 


It’s estimated that UV damage is responsible for 90% of the visible signs of ageing. Sun damage can cause dehydration (overall and for your skin), cell damage, wrinkles and dark spots. The best way to combat these is prevention; by using effective sunscreen every day. Many daily moisturisers include sunscreen at the SPF15+ or SPF30+ levels. 

When it comes to anti-aging skincare, prevention is key. By maintaining healthy skin with treatments packed with skin-firming, clearing and hydrating elements, and regular use of sunscreen, you can protect your skin from a world of hurt. But that’s not to say that there’s nothing to be done when you begin to see signs of ageing - there are incredibly effective retinol treatments that can revitalise your skin once more.