Meet the new science that goes beyond skin-deep to give you a lit-from-within glow
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There's a revolution taking place in the beauty world. Driven by science, the pros are pioneering new formulas that are causing real—even amazing—changes to your complexion at the molecular level. These breakthroughs, from a next-level vitamin C to microencapsulated particles that release inside your skin, are shielding your cells from what ages them, successfully nourishing and hydrating the epidermis, and promoting the collagen production you need to look smoother and firmer. Here, the ingredients to know, and how to take full advantage of their power. (Another need-to-know: How to Protect and Boost Collagen In Skin for Anti-Aging.)
Photo: Claire Benoist
The Alpha Vitamin
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Vitamin C is one of only two molecules (vitamin A is the other) to make it past your skin's upper layers and get inside collagen-making cells. "Your cells are naturally equipped with vitamin C, so their transporters recognize it and actually draw it in toward the nucleus, which is really stunning," says Ben Fuchs, a cosmetic chemist in Boulder, Colorado. Vitamin C's effect on the skin is pretty stunning too: "When this vitamin gets into these cells, the production of collagen—which is what makes skin firm—increases up to eightfold," says Neal Schultz, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. "It also reduces the formation of melanin, the pigment that produces age spots, and protects against free radical damage." (Here's more about how to protect your skin from free radicals.)
The thing is, regular vitamin C is water-soluble and notoriously unstable; it stops working before it enters the cell. A new form, called tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, is more stable and oil-soluble, so it's much easier for the skin to absorb. You'll find it in BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz Triple Vitamin C Serum ($95, beautyrxskin.com) and Truth Treatment Systems Truth Balm ($179, truthtreatments.com).
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Natural extracts (from plants, herbs, and flowers) have centuries' worth of proof that they work as potent antioxidants and hydrators, but a new innovation makes them even more effective. "A process called microencapsulation wraps each botanical particle in a protective shell, which helps protect the ingredient from degrading and controls its release until it has made its way into your skin," says Dendy Engelman, M.D., a derm in NYC. Think of them as teeny, tiny pills inside your serum or cream. (Get the technology in Philosophy Time in a Bottle 100% In-Control, $76, philosophy.com.) Of course, you don't want all your skin care to sink into skin. On the surface, humectants help to stop water from escaping, while antioxidants can fight off environmental aggressors. Royal jelly, which comes from honey bees, is both (find it in Burt's Bees Skin Nourishment Day Lotion, $18, burtsbees.com).
The Moisture Magnet
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When hyaluronic acid (often referred to as HA) comes into contact with your skin, it absorbs 1,000 times its own weight in water, doing wonders for hydration. That's critical, but more fascinating is that "when HA levels increase, the collagen in our skin thrives," says Sherry Ingraham, M.D., a dermatologist in Houston. "Hyaluronic acid nourishes the collagen and elastin fibers that plump and firm our skin," and that pumping becomes more important as we age. (This is just one way to add mega-moisture to your dry skin.)
In our 20s, our bodies begin to produce less HA, and the decline accelerates in our 40s, Dr. Ingraham says. Annoyingly, the level of an enzyme that breaks down HA stays the same, while inflammation and UV damage are causing it to degrade. You can inject HA into the skin (that's what fillers like Juvéderm are made of) or apply it topically with Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum ($18, neutrogena.com) or SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier ($98, skinceuticals.com).