Start your anti-ageing skincare routine early, don't wait for wrinkles

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While skin ageing is not something we can avoid, we can certainly prevent skin from showing signs of ageing prematurely with anti-ageing skincare.

When we are young, our skin is overflowing with three proteins: Collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin, which together help keep our complexion youthful.

Collagen is what makes our skin plump, elastin keeps it elastic and bouncy and hyaluronic acid provides our skin with the moisture it needs to prevent dryness and dullness. When we use anti-ageing products, what we’re really doing is trying to replicate what we had as children.

There are thousands of cosmetics developed to help you dodge fine lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet, sunspots and a plethora of other skin concerns that show up with age. So where – and most importantly when – should you start?

First, it’s important to learn about senescence – a process by which cells don’t die but do stop dividing. When our skin’s cellular functions are working at full capacity, our skin is considered healthy and youthful, which translates visibly into a radiant, plump, smooth complexion.

As time goes by, countless aggressors – such as stress, air conditioning, UV radiation, pollution, diet and smoke – cause these cells to deteriorate. That’s when they enter into a senescent state, which leads to a loss of vitality and, with it, premature signs of ageing.

“Skin senescence is at the heart of the key mechanisms involved in the skin’s ageing process and therefore offers unprecedented prospects for the cosmetic industry,” says a spokesman for Chanel Beauty. The luxury brand’s skincare division has been working with experts from Vienna University in Austria for years to understand the three steps of skin senescence, from initiation to accumulation.

To delay senescence, we need to be familiar with another concept: prevention. It is better to prevent instead of fixing, as our skin can’t regenerate 100 per cent to its healthiest self.

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On top of that, skin damage is cumulative, meaning you may not see the signs now, but it is already happening deep within. This is why skin-ageing care should start earlier than you may think.

The most important form of prevention is sunscreen . While sun exposure is dangerous in several ways, one of the primary reasons people start experiencing fine lines and dark spots is a lack of protection against UV radiation. Wearing a formula with SPF 30 or higher every day is a must, with no exceptions, even as children.

The road to prevention continues around your 20s when the skin starts to naturally generate less collagen – these are the fibres that hold elastin and hyaluronic acid together to keep skin elastic and hydrated. Lower collagen levels lead to thinner, more parched, less flexible skin, which translates into lines and wrinkles.

This is when you need to identify the ingredients that will help keep your collagen production as high as possible, and antioxidants are great partners to accomplish that goal. Vitamin A derivatives (like tretinoin, retinol and retinoids) are ideal to fight fine lines.

“Oxidative stress/UV radiation plays an important role in the skin ageing process by creating enzymes that degrade collagen and elastin, which ultimately lead to pigmentation and wrinkles,” explains Naana Boakye of Bergen Dermatology in the US state of New Jersey.

Ingredients such as vitamins A and C, peptides, hyaluronic acid and ceramides can help boost new collagen production and cellular regeneration, and should be factored into the preventive process.

On top of those go-to ingredients, certain plant-based extracts such as green tea, jojoba oil and pomegranate are also used by the skincare industry, but the list doesn’t end there.

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No 1 de Chanel, the brand’s most recent skincare launch, is based on a vision of beauty that incorporates prevention and care. The line is formulated with red camellia flower extract, a botanical ingredient that helps enhance skin endurance by preventing and handling the first stages of skin ageing.

“Protecting skin from senescence initiation is a key step to limit the domino effect. That’s why we selected the red camellia,” the Chanel spokesman says, adding that the flower supports skin vitality, enabling it to remain healthy for a longer time. “The red camellia is rich in protocatechuic acid, an active molecule previously unseen in the camellias analysed by Chanel scientists. It has exceptional revitalising properties.”

Keeping your skin hydrated is also a must to keep your skin youthful. If you suddenly catch sight of fine lines showing up around your eyebrows, over your mouth or under your eyes, dehydration may be the real culprit.

Lines, uneven skin, wrinkles, dark spots and texture are prone to look deeper and more pronounced when hydration levels are too low.

Dehydrated skin appears weak, dull, and uneven and, when combined with signs of ageing, it can make everything look worse, so make sure to keep your skin hydration levels up.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.