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The Best Anti-Aging Skincare Ingredients

With the right skincare, you can delay many signs of skin aging. Discover 5 of the best anti-aging ingredients for firm and youthful-looking skin ahead.

The beauty industry, by nature, is rapidly evolving. There’s hardly a day that goes by without news of a buzzy new molecule or recently-discovered plant ingredient that proponents insist will transform your skin. Innovation, after all, is what propels science forward. While we’ll never hesitate to try a revolutionary new ingredient, we also know when to stick with what works. And when it comes to anti-aging, there are a few ingredients with benefits so well-demonstrated, they’ll always be a part of our daily skincare routines.

Ahead, we’re outlining five essential skincare ingredients with known anti-aging benefits. You’ll learn about these must-have anti-aging weapons, where they come from, and discover how (and why) they work so well. Plus, we’ve also included recommendations on Kiehl’s products that feature these all-stars, so you can update your anti-aging routine accordingly. No matter your age-related skin concern, these essential ingredients will help you achieve firm, radiant-looking skin.

The Ingredient:

Vitamin C

What It Does:

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant found in many fruits, vegetables, and leafy green plants. It is abundant in the skin, though humans can’t naturally produce it as many other plants and animals can. Instead, we must get vitamin C through food, such as citrus fruits and berries, or apply stabilized vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) topically. (Fun fact: While oranges are thought of as the ultimate vitamin C source, red bell peppers actually offer more of the nutrient per serving.)

In the skin, vitamin C is one of several antioxidants responsible for protecting the skin against free radicals. These damaging compounds, sometimes referred to as “reactive oxygen species,” form when the skin is exposed to a stressor, such as UV radiation or pollution. With repeated exposure to everyday stressors, free radicals accumulate on the skin and cause structural damage to cellular DNA. Ultimately, this can damage the skin’s natural supply of collagen, a protein responsible for maintaining skin’s structure and elasticity.

When used topically, vitamin C can help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Studies also show that vitamin C is useful for managing skin discolorations, such as age spots and post-acne marks.

Try It:

You’ll find vitamin C in several of Kiehl’s anti-aging products, including Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum. This potent, water-free serum contains 10.5% L-ascorbic acid and 2% ascorbyl glucoside (a vitamin C derivative). The unique formula instantly boosts skin’s radiance, while continued use visibly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps smooth skin’s overall texture and diminishes the appearance of enlarged pores. This powerful daily serum is suitable for all skin types and can be used daily to promote firmer, more radiant-looking skin.

To help address unevenness, try Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution. This Kiehl’s favorite is formulated with a stabilized form of vitamin C known as activated C, as well as white birch and peony extracts. It’s clinically-demonstrated to help correct the appearance of a wide range of dark spots and discolorations, including those caused by age and chronic UV exposure.* The gentle yet effective formula is suitable for all skin types and tones and can be used daily to help promote a clearer, more visibly radiant appearance.

*This product was tested on a multi-ethnic panel equally distributed: 25% African American, 25% Asian, 25% Caucasian, 25% Hispanic. Results based upon a clinical study of upper layers of the skin.

For eye-area concerns, try Powerful-Strength Dark Circle-Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum. This effective eye serum with vitamin C and tripeptide instantly hydrates and smooths the under-eye area to refresh the appearance of tired-looking eyes. With regular use, it’s been demonstrated to decrease the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, and under-eye wrinkles for fresher-looking eyes.* Use your ring finger to pat the lightweight formula on your orbital bone and underneath your eyes morning and night for smoother, brighter-looking eyes.

*Clinical grading of the full panel tested in an eight-week study.

The Ingredient:

Hyaluronic Acid

What It Does:

Hyaluronic acid, sometimes called hyaluronan, is a type of molecule called a glycosaminoglycan. It is abundant in all layers of the skin, where it is responsible for maintaining the skin’s overall hydration. However, its function largely lies within the extracellular matrix, where it binds to water and helps maintain skin’s moisture and structure. (Fun fact: Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water or roughly six liters of water per gram).

Though our bodies naturally synthesize hyaluronic acid, this production slows with age, resulting in dry, dehydrated skin. Additionally, free radicals can affect hyaluronic acid synthesis and speed up the rate at which the visible signs of skin aging appear. Hyaluronic acid is therefore frequently used topically to help immediately hydrate and plump the skin. With continued use, formulas with hyaluronic acid can help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, hydrate the skin, and leave you with an overall more radiant, youthful appearance.

Try It:

Hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient in our best-selling Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum. This potent daily serum is formulated with 11kDa hyaluronic acid, an engineered form of hyaluronic acid capable of penetrating skin’s deeper layers. It goes 60% deeper than standard hyaluronic acid. The effective formula helps strengthen skin to make it better able to defend itself against aging stressors, such as pollution and sun exposure. It’s clinically-demonstrated to improve skin texture by 41% while diminishing the appearance of fine lines. Continued use helps firm the skin and boosts radiance for a glowing, youthful appearance.*

*Based on a four-week clinical study of 58 subjects tested in urban and polluted environments.

Super Multi-Corrective Anti-Aging Face And Neck Cream also features hyaluronic acid, along with chaga mushroom and phytomimetic vitamin A, which helps to stimulate the skin’s natural resurfacing process with a retinol-like effect. The fast-absorbing formula addresses the most visible signs of skin aging, such as fine lines and sagging. And it’s clinically-proven to reduce wrinkles, even skin tone, and smooth skin texture within just four weeks of consistent use.* With time, it helps firm the skin and even skin tone for smoother, visibly more radiant skin.

*Results based on a 12-week clinical study of 53 panelists in the US.

The Ingredient:


What It Does:

Squalane is a stabilized form of squalene (with an ‘e’), a natural lipid derived from plant and animal fats. Squalene is abundant in the skin’s natural moisture barrier and makes up about 13% of the composition of sebum. It’s best known for its moisturizing properties and prized for its lightweight, non-greasy feel. As a natural emollient, squalene helps keep the skin feeling soft, smooth, and adequately hydrated. However, your body’s production of this essential compound decreases drastically with age, contributing to the appearance of dry, rough-looking skin.

Since natural squalene is highly vulnerable to oxidation, it’s often converted into squalane before being added to skincare formulations. Squalane boasts the same skin-moisturizing properties as squalene but is far less prone to degradation. The ingredient may also offer antioxidant properties and, when used topically, can help defend the skin from aging external aggressors, like pollution.

Try It:

Olive-derived squalane is a key ingredient in countless Kiehl’s favorites, including Midnight Recovery Concentrate. This luxurious face oil, which also features evening primrose oil and lavender essential oil, boosts essential moisture to help restore the appearance of tired-looking skin. In just one night, the lightweight formula hydrates and smooths the skin for a visibly more radiant appearance. With continued use, it also helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and firms the skin. Apply two to three drops of the oil before going to bed for visibly smoother, more youthful-looking skin by morning.

Ultra Facial Cream is another Kiehl’s classic that stars squalane in its formula. This iconic moisturizer provides lasting, 24-hour hydration and balances even skin’s driest areas with 2.3 times more moisture. It also absorbs into the skin easily and is suitable for all skin types—even sensitive skin. Use a dime-sized amount to moisturize your whole face, smoothing the moisturizer over your skin.

The Ingredient:


What It Does:

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is one of the most common and best anti-aging ingredients used in skincare. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin with numerous roles in the body. In the skin, it is closely linked with the body’s production and dispersion of structural proteins, including collagen and elastin. As such, vitamin A is the first vitamin approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in anti-aging (and in particular, anti-wrinkle) formulations.

When used topically, retinol and other vitamin A derivatives penetrate the skin and bind with keratinocytes or skin cells. Once attached to the proper receptor, retinol stimulates cell growth, prevents the degradation of collagen and elastin, and inhibits the growth of proteins that, over time, result in a weakened skin moisture barrier. In other words, retinol helps keep the skin’s outer protective layer hydrated, elastic, and functioning at its optimal level, which protects the skin against the visible signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and skin discolorations.

Try It:

See the benefits of retinol with Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum, which contains pure retinol, ceramides, and peptide. This daily-strength serum visibly reduces wrinkles, firms skin, evens skin tone, and smoothes texture with consistent use. Apply one pump of serum over the entire face daily, morning or night.

The Ingredient:

Titanium Dioxide

What It Does:

We don’t need to explain what sunscreen is—it’s arguably the most important component of your anti-aging skincare routine. A sunscreen’s effectiveness is measured by its SPF, or sun protection factor. Sunscreen either contains chemical UV filters or physical sunblocks with protective minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Most experts recommend wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 daily, though a higher SPF (up to 50) offers more protection (and is therefore preferred, especially if you’ll be spending more than a few minutes in direct sunlight).

In addition to protecting against sunburns, sunscreen significantly helps protect your skin from the visible signs of aging. Studies show that approximately 80% of visible skin aging is directly caused by UV exposure. Chronic prolonged sun exposure can result in a loss of elasticity and cause dark spots and discolorations, like sun spots. While sunscreen isn’t likely to correct these age-related concerns, if used properly (read: regularly), it will help prevent premature signs of aging—and when it comes to skincare, prevention is key.

Try It:

To defend your skin against the sun’s damaging rays, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, such as Super Fluid Daily UV Mineral Defense. This lightweight, matte-finish sunscreen with titanium dioxide helps protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays. It also helps defend the skin against environmental aggressors, such as pollution. The fast-absorbing formula is non-comedogenic and suitable for all skin types and can be worn on its own or layered under makeup.

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