Natural anti-ageing beauty products – what’s in them and why we love them!

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a woman with wrinkles would really rather prefer they disappeared. Yes, yes, she knows all about the charm of smile lines, the kookiness of frown lines and the argument that a little wear and tear is a sign of emotional depth, blah blah. But, hey, she's 40 on the outside, only 30 on the inside and she wouldn't mind a face to match. Lordy, I've just described myself, writes Sarah Woodhead.

Ok, it would be fabulously Zen to be totally accepting of the ageing process but, on the other hand, why not redefine the process instead? After all, who says we can't look after ourselves on the outside to the same level that we now care for our inner selves? I mean, power pilates and keyhole surgery aren't frowned upon are they?

I'm not talking about going to Sharon Osbourne's lengths here; surgery, Botox injections and fillers are not on my wish list. But anti-aging creams? Bring it on. With one in three women in the UK over 30 already using anti-aging products, I'm clearly not alone. Around the world usage is growing too, with a nine per cent rise in US sales in the first half of this year.

Photo credit: TibChris

Still with me? Good.

It goes without saying that a healthy diet, regular exercise, lots of fluids, plenty of sleep and wearing high factor sun protection cream all year round are the best ways to help your skin stay younger-looking. So far so only achievable if you're Madonna, you're probably thinking. Too right. The rest of us need a little extra help.

Natural anti-ageing beauty products

As someone who cares passionately about what I put in and on my body, preferring natural beauty products at every turn, anti-ageing products are attractive but a little scary. To get the desired effects - smoother skin, plumper cheeks, fewer wrinkles, an improved complexion, faded age spots; I could go on - the creams, serums, oils and gels available from the big-name brands in the average department store pack in a plethora of toxic-sounding ingredients. No, thank you. I mean, I'm a natural cleaning products fan; I won't put chemicals on my oven, so I'm not in a rush to put them on my face.

Recently though, and just in the nick of time as far as I'm concerned, natural beauty brands have started to develop their anti-ageing ranges. Natural beauty favourite Lavera, for example, has launched its My Age range, featuring six complementary signs of age-blitzing products, while new brand Evolve has included in its range the natural-peptide based Multi Action Double Cream.

The blurb on the back of the bottles can still be bewildering though. What exactly is in this stuff, and how does it aim to work? If like me, you're keen to understand exactly what it is that will erase the evidence of a decade of burning the candle at both ends and a nine-month-old baby who's yet to sleep through the night*, read on.

Common ingredients in non-natural anti-ageing products

Photo credit: JSWieringa

First of all, these are the conventional ingredients that you might find in standard, non-natural anti-aging products, plus the effect they can have on skin, as reported by women's community site iVillage.co.uk (http://www.ivillage.co.uk/beauty/skincare/aging/articles/0,,547681_593267,00.html):

Vitamin A

This can help diminish the depth of wrinkles, thanks to its light inflammatory action which 'puffs up' the skin to make wrinkles look less deep.

Vitamin C

That has a brightening effect as it can help to boost circulation and collagen production.

Alpha-hydroxy acids

AHAs or 'fruit acids' improve the skin's appearance by speeding up the shedding of old, dead cells from the skin surface.

Retinoids

Chemicals that make the skin produce new cells more quickly, making it thicker and more compact. After a month or two of use, the skin becomes smoother and fine wrinkles are reduced, but after six months it will be as good as it's going to get. If you discontinue use, the skin reverts to its previous condition.  As the iVillage.co.uk article and other reports suggest, both AHAs, which are technically naturally derived, and retinoids can irritate the skin, in some cases leaving it red, itchy, sensitive and more vulnerable to UV damage.

Natural anti-aging products are different

They eliminate synthetic ingredients and preservatives and add naturally derived ingredients to achieve similar effects. For example, salicylic acid is synthetically produced in most non-natural products but it can be derived naturally from the leaves of wintergreen, meadowsweet or willow bark, and is claimed to be as effective, without the risk of irritation.

Meanwhile, white tea, used in Lavera's MyAge range, is an anti-oxidant with anti-aging properties, and Melvita's Naturalift Anti-Wrinkle Care contains amino acids extracted from hibiscus seeds to keep skin supple, and argan nut proteins to provide an immediate tightening and firming effect.

Photo credit: SantaRosa Old Skool

Weleda focuses on natural essential oils to do the job. Oils such as musk rose oil, peach, almond and evening primrose oil, the key ingredients in Weleda's Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Oil, help skin to renew itself and improve elasticity.

There are, however, a handful of ingredients in natural anti-aging products that sound a bit science lab and could do with a bit of explaining. They are:

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 exists naturally in the body too. Its main job is to generate energy at a cellular level, which is vital for, well, staying alive, which is handy if you want to look beautiful, but also for fighting off free radicals that do damage to our skin. Free radicals, by the way, are cell-busting bad guys caused by our genes, the sun, stress, smoking and other environmental factors. We have sufficient natural levels of CoQ10 until roughly 30, after which point it diminishes and our bodies become less effective at fighting off the ageing process. Anti-aging creams like Avalon Organics CoQ10 Wrinkle Defence Cream and Lavera's MyAge range contain CoQ10.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is synthetically produced in non-natural products and can be irritating to sensitive skins. In natural beauty products it is derived from the leaves of wintergreen, meadowsweet or willow bark. Manufacturers claim it to be as effective as synthetics without the risk of irritation.

Nutri Ceramide

Another substance that occurs naturally in the body, ceramides are lipids found in the outer layer of the skin. They help maintain skin firmness and appearance.

Sepilift

Sepilift is a plant-derived single amino acid. It is said to inhibit the synthesis of substances called metalloproteinases which break down collagen and contribute to skin ageing.

Cova B Trox

COVA B Trox is a complex of active marine magnesium, algae extract, and polysaccharides, and offers a non-invasive alternative for the treatment of facial wrinkles and expression lines or creases.

Phytocollagen

Collagen is derived from soy plants and works to boost skin's natural defences.

Want to stick to vitamin-based anti-ageing creams?

If you'd prefer to keep your natural anti-wrinkle solutions vitamin-based try a product like Jason's 25,000 IU Vitamin E Age Renewal Moisturising Cream or Avalon Organics Vitamin C Renewal Facial Cream. The latter contains a highly effective form of vitamin C called Magnesium Ascorbal Phosphate, which mops up free radicals and stimulates collagen and elastin production to help keep your skin smooth and bouncy.

So, it's not just younger-looking skin, but bouncy skin too. Yes, bouncy. Imagine! Come on ladies, you know you want it. Just form an orderly queue, behind me.

* Note to self and readers: These are beauty creams, not miracle workers!

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