What to Look For in an Anti-Aging Serum?

What to Look For in an Anti-Aging Serum?

What to Look for in an Anti-Aging Serum?

Anti-aging serums are key tools in any person's arsenal in the battle against physical aging.
However, not all anti-aging serums are the same. Let’s deep dive into what anti-aging serums are, how they work, and what ingredients to look for in an anti-aging serum.


What Should an Anti-Aging Serum Do?

An anti-aging serum should both lessen the prevalence of wrinkles and sun damage. Some of the skin issues targeted by anti-aging serums include:

  • Skin tone
  • Skin texture
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Skin discoloration

Although over-the-counter anti-aging serums will never achieve the results of plastic surgery, anti-aging serums can be extremely useful in slowing the process of aging and reducing the evidence of its impact. 


What are Good Ingredients to Look for in Anti-Aging Serums?

Not all anti-aging serums are built the same. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following ingredients have shown scientific evidence of improving skin appearance.



Retinoids are vitamin A compounds including retinol and retinoic acid. They are used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by boosting collagen production and plumping your skin. Dermatologist-prescribed retinoids, like tretinoin, can help prevent signs of aging and help improve discoloration and acne.  

However, stronger retinoids like these should only be used with dermatologist oversight.


Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C is used to protect the skin from free radicals  (unstable oxygen molecules that can harm the skin and eventually exacerbate the appearance of wrinkles).


Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHAs include glycolic, citric, and lactic acid. These acids are chemical exfoliants that remove dead skin cells and help your skin absorb other products. Through their exfoliant qualities, AHAs promote smoother skin, including reduced fine lines and wrinkles.


Coenzyme Q10

This enzyme reduces the appearance of fine lines while protecting the skin from the impacts of the sun. Like Vitamin C, the enzyme also fights free radicals, protects collagen, and can reduce the appearance of crow’s feet.



Peptides are naturally occurring molecules, short chains of amino acids, that can increase collagen production, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and smooth skin. However, because of their recent development, be sure to check whether products featuring peptides have been clinically tested. 


Tea Extracts

The extracts from green, black, and oolong teas contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that can assist with preventing wrinkles and fine lines while decreasing puffiness and redness. 

Tea also contains polyphenols which fight free radicals while other aspects of tea can protect your skin against skin cancer and sun damage.

Green tea is also believed to be helpful for dark circles, especially when combined with caffeine as an active ingredient.


Grape Seed Extract

Grape seed extract has been shown to promote collagen while improving one’s skin texture through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.



Finally, niacinamide is an antioxidant related to Vitamin B3 (niacin) that can help the skin retain moisture and improve skin elasticity. 

However, these are not the only clinically proven ingredients shown to help with anti-aging. More recently, other ingredients showing promise include: 

  • SNAP-8 -- an anti-aging peptide that can replicate the effects of botox
  • Hydration Prime Youth Renewal -- a form of hyaluronic acid that can plump skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Shitake mushroom -- which can increase cell regeneration
  • Vegan placenta -- a vegan alternative to the animal placenta that helps skin elasticity and collagen production 


How to Apply Your Anti-Aging Serums

Generally, you should follow the instructions for the frequency of application on the packaging. However, some ingredients have common instructions. 

For example, retinoids should be used at night, as they make your skin sensitive to the sun - making your skin more vulnerable if used in the morning. 

Serums should be applied before heavier creams to ensure absorption into the skin. Lightly massage a few drops of your serum into your face, being careful not to apply too much pressure. 

You can also use a jade roller or gua sha to add a cooling effect to the application.

In conjunction with serums, the Mayo Clinic recommends also protecting your skin from the sun, using moisturizers, and not smoking to ensure you receive the best benefits from the serums and reduce the likelihood of fine lines and wrinkles before they begin. 


What Ingredients Should You Avoid?

If you are susceptible to allergic reactions, look for products that are marked hypoallergenic. For acne concerns, you may want to choose products marked non-comedogenic. 

Avoid products without these labels to keep your skin safe and healthy if you are susceptible to these conditions.


Risks and Side Effects of Anti-Aging Serums

As with all skin treatments, certain ingredients in anti-aging serums have risks and side effects associated with their use. Therefore, it is always recommended to consult your dermatologist before use.



Higher-strength anti-aging serums pose some risks to your skin as they can cause irritation, especially if they contain chemical exfoliants. To avoid irritation or skin discoloration, be sure to try the serum on a small swatch of your skin, away from the sensitive skin of your face before applying it all over. 

Certain anti-aging ingredients (like retinoids) can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, exacerbating sun damage instead of fighting it. If applied correctly, retinoids can be a safe way to help repair damaged skin.

Serums containing MEA (monoethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine), hydantoin Diazolidinyl, and imidazolidinyl urea used to balance the pH of the product can cause certain forms of cancer.  

However, If you are at a higher risk for liver or kidney cancer, you may want to avoid products that include these ingredients.


Side Effects

Immediate side effects of anti-aging products can include stinging, tingling, and warmth. Other side effects can include breakouts and skin rashes due to irritation. Stop using the product immediately if severe irritation occurs.

Certain products with acids like vitamin C have been known to have skin-lightening qualities. Users with darker skin tones should be aware of the side effect and possibly avoid products featuring these ingredients that claim to brighten skin tone to avoid discoloration.


How to Get Long-Term Effects

According to the Mayo Clinic, because of the lower doses of active ingredients available in over-the-counter serums, results can be limited and relatively short-term. However, more long-term effects can be achieved through daily use, once or twice a day. 

The Mayo Clinic also warns that your skin may return to its original state after discontinuing a product. 


Why Going Vegan is Better

The latest developments in anti-aging skincare and serums point to more ethical products that rely on nature for inspiration and production. Placenta-based products have looked to the power of birthing materials for skin care and anti-aging. 

Vegan placenta, inspired by the animal placenta, has provided a more ethical, synthetic alternative to the current interest in placenta-based skin care treatments. Choosing vegan can help you stay on the cusp of skin care trends while also staying ethical and cruelty-free.



Anti-aging serums have flooded the market, so it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you. Ingredients like retinoids, Vitamin C, AHAs, peptides, and various plant extracts have been clinically proven to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. With consistent, daily use, you may be able to achieve smoother, more elastic skin. 

Avoid products that may cause irritation or allergic reactions. A dermatologist can help you build a skincare routine that is specific to you and targets your skin concerns while avoiding any negative side effects!


The 10 Best Anti-Aging Ingredients for Younger-Looking Skin | Everyday Health

Wrinkle creams: Your guide to younger-looking skin | Mayo Clinic

How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? | NIH

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