11 Best Anti-Aging Ingredients That Are Clinically-Proven, According to Derms

When it comes to anti-aging skincare ingredients, there are a few things you need to know. For one, there are only a handful of ingredients that are clinically proven to have anti-aging, wrinkle-reducing effects. (And none of them are overnight miracle workers.) That means you need to use them regularly and have patience before you see a marked difference in your skin. But the good news is, when you do incorporate said ingredients into your routine regularly and responsibly, the results can be quite dramatic.

So, with all of the saturation in the beauty and ingredient industry, which skincare ingredients actually work when it comes to anti-aging? Ahead, we asked five board-certified dermatologists to share their thoughts on the most effective anti-aging ingredients to look for in skincare products, including the latest ingredients disrupting the market.


  • Dr. Dennis Gross is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, a leading, evidence-based anti-aging skincare brand.
  • Dr. Anthony Rossi Jr. is a board-certified dermatologist recognized internationally as a leading expert on sensitive skin.
  • Dr. Mamina Turegano is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist based in Old Metairie, LA.
  • Dr. Laura Scott is a board-certified dermatologist based in San Diego.
  • Dr. Natalie M. Curcio is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Curcio Dermatology in Nashville.

1. Sunscreen

Studies have found that up to 80 percent of the visible signs of facial aging come from sun exposure, so a daily SPF routine is crucial. If you haven’t already, start wearing a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher every single day. “Sunscreen is the number one studied anti-aging ingredient,” says dermatologist Mamina Turegano. “It may not seem glamorous, but without sunscreen, any of the other products you are using will be canceled out by the damage from UV light exposure. Sunscreen not only protects the DNA in your skin from UV damage, but it gives your skin cells a chance to rest and regenerate, which helps diminish the development of wrinkles and uneven skin tone.” So find a formula you love and wear it every single day.

2. Retinoids

Behind sunscreen, retinoids are the second most effective anti-aging ingredient on the market. The word “retinoid” is an umbrella term that encompasses several more specific ingredients, including over-the-counter retinol and prescription-strength retinoids like tretinoin.

Retinol is a powerhouse anti-aging ingredient that works to stimulate cell turnover and increase our skin’s natural collagen production in the epidermis and dermis,” says dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross. Retinol—which you can pick up at any drugstore—is incredibly well-studied and well-supported as an anti-aging ingredient. But what’s even more effective is a prescription-strength retinoid like Retin-A. So if you’re serious about taking care of your skin for the long haul, speak to your dermatologist about a prescription.


While retinoids are considered to be one of the most effective anti-aging ingredients we have available to us, retinoids—especially prescription-strength retinoids—can also be extremely effective acne treatments.

3. Bakuchiol

If you can’t use retinol due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, or skin sensitivity, bakuchiol is a suitable retinol alternative that is still well-studied and efficacious in clinical trials. “Bakuchiol is a natural derivative of retinol that also stimulates cellular turnover and increases our skin’s existing collagen production,” says Dr. Gross. “However, what’s key with bakuchiol is it strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier at the same time, preventing potential irritation or moisture loss from occurring.”

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to work well with sunscreen to protect the skin from UV and free-radical damage.2 “[Vitamin C] also helps build collagen, and can help the superficial skin cells deal with hyperpigmentation,” says Turegano.

Collagen occurs naturally in the human body and it’s an important substance for maintaining the skin’s firm, bouncy appearance—but it decreases as you age. So using a daily vitamin C serum is a great way to not only protect your skin from UV-related collagen loss but also to help stimulate collagen production.

5. Ferulic Acid

For an even more powerful vitamin C formula, look for vitamin C serums that are formulated with ferulic acid.

The presence of ferulic acid not only helps to stabilize vitamin C formulas, but it’s also a powerful antioxidant in its own right. “Ferulic acid works by neutralizing free radicals that eat away at our existing collagen production,” says Gross. “This comes from UV damage, blue light damage, etc. Thus, it helps to preserve our existing collagen production and maintain a more youthful appearance.”

6. Peptides

“Peptides are building blocks of protein and send signals to help build collagen,” says Turegano. “And depending on the peptide, they can also send signals to improve moisturization in the skin.” While less often discussed than ingredients like SPF and retinol, studies have shown peptides to be fairly effective when it comes to anti-aging. A 2019 study conducted on a group of 22 women over the age of 40 found that the topical application of peptides created “significant improvements in skin wrinkles” in just two weeks.3 Peptides are considered one of the best anti-aging ingredients for the lips in particular, and can prevent concerns like lip dryness, thinning, and cracking.

7. Hyaluronic Acid

For dry skin in particular, hyaluronic acid can deliver an immediate plumping effect as well as improve the skin over time. “Hyaluronic acid is one of the best anti-aging ingredients,” says dermatologist Anthony Rossi Jr. “It will help hydrate the skin and is pleasing for dry skin and wrinkles.”

8. Epidermal Growth Factor

“Growth factors are large proteins derived from either human cells, animal cells, or plant cells that promote the increase of structural proteins like collagen and elastin,” says Turegano. “They also aid in tissue repair after an injury, which makes them an ideal product after in-office procedures, like microneedling and lasers.” Turegano recommends the Biopelle Tensage Intensive Serum 40 ($136).

9. Polyglutamic Acid

Polyglutamic acid is a powerful humectant derived from fermented soybean that can penetrate skin’s layers to provide incredible moisture,” says dermatologist Dr. Laura Scott. “It also boosts the synthesis of natural moisturizing factors in the skin. It helps deliver more hydrated and plumper, youthful-looking skin.”

10. Exosomes

Exosomes are stem-cell growth factors that support skin health and rejuvenation, reducing signs of aging,” says Natalie M. Curcio, M.D., M.P.H., Founder of Curcio Dermatology. The high-tech ingredient is popping up in skincare products from brands like Angela Caglia and Dr. Barbara Sturm.

“My favorite twice-daily exosome product is ELEVAI Enfinity ($299),” Curcio says. “The exosomes are derived from human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells. The product reduces the appearance of stubborn pigmentation, redness, fine lines, and wrinkles. It also contains hyaluronic acid, 4 types of Vitamin C, niacinamide, ceramides, and copper peptides.”

11. Ceramides

Ceramides are another buzzy ingredient popping up everywhere in anti-aging skincare products. What are they, exactly? “Ceramides are known to be part of this complex family of fats or lipids called a sphingolipid,” says dermatologist Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin. Ceramides help keep the skin barrier intact, which contributes to a complexion that’s firmer, more hydrated, and overall more youthful-looking.

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