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Natural anti-aging skincare: What works and what’s just hype

Although the “natural” label on skincare is largely up to interpretation, some ingredients do have scientifically proven anti-aging properties.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 31, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
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Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 31, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

The demand for natural anti-aging products is booming. It’s not hard to find labels on skincare products that promise of youthful skin without “harsh chemicals” or using “eco-friendly alternatives.” However, navigating this realm can be tricky due to the unregulated use of the term “natural” on product labels. 

While some natural ingredients hold scientifically proven anti-aging properties, others might be part of the marketing hype. It’s helpful to be armed with knowledge about these ingredients to differentiate between what genuinely works and what’s simply an enticing label. 

Here, Curology’s licensed dermatology providers will unpack the changes your skin goes through with age, the optimal time to start an anti-aging skincare routine, and when “natural” anti-aging ingredients might actually benefit your skin. A thorough understanding can help you make informed decisions and find a skincare routine with proven ingredients while effectively keeping signs of aging at bay.

What happens to your skin as you age?

As we age, our skin undergoes changes influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsically, our genetics bring about changes such as thinner, dryer skin and the appearance of fine wrinkles. This is largely due to the decrease in collagen and elastic fibers, the skin’s fundamental building blocks that maintain its firmness and elasticity.¹

On the other hand, extrinsic factors such as exposure to UV light, pollution, and smoking can result in more pronounced changes to the skin. This includes the development of coarse wrinkles, a reduction in elasticity, skin laxity, and a rough-textured appearance. These external influences damage the skin’s structure and function, leading to more noticeable signs of aging.²

One of the most impactful extrinsic factors is exposure to UV light—commonly from the sun—which is responsible for approximately 80% of visible signs of facial aging.³ This phenomenon, known as photoaging, can also give rise to other skin conditions such as ‘broken’ appearing blood vessels, known as telangiectasia, and uneven pigmentation characterized by brown spots or lentigines.⁴

While we can’t control our genes, we can limit our exposure to harmful environmental elements. By doing so, we can maintain healthier, younger-looking skin for longer and manage some more significant signs of skin aging.

What is ‘natural’ anti-aging skincare?

Natural anti-aging skincare often generates much interest, but understanding what it really means can be somewhat complex. Donna McIntyre, a nurse practitioner at Curology, notes, “Simply put, there isn’t an official designation for what qualifies as a “natural" skincare product. Companies may consider a product natural if it is free from dyes, fragrances, or synthetic chemicals, but these standards can vary widely, so use caution."

Also, labels such as “natural” and “organic” can be misleading. Although some consumers might believe these products are safer and more effective, no scientific evidence supports these claims. The use of the terms “natural” or “organic” in the context of skincare isn't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The term “organic” is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but the same doesn’t apply to “natural.” So a product marketed as “organic” does have to adhere to specific standards. However, no strict guidelines determine how “natural” can be used on product packaging or in marketing.⁵

In anti-aging skincare, the most important aspects are often efficacy and safety, whether the products are labeled as natural, organic, or neither. That’s why it’s always recommended to do your due diligence, understand your skin’s unique needs, and consider consulting a licensed dermatology provider to choose the best products for your regimen.

What are some anti-aging skincare ingredients that are considered natural?

While there is no official definition of a natural anti-aging skincare product, some natural ingredients are shown to have anti-aging properties when used on the skin. 

Copper peptides

Copper peptides, naturally found in the body, have been studied for their effects on skin health. Research shows that these peptides can improve the appearance and texture of sun-damaged or aged skin. They are also effective in reducing fine lines and wrinkles while increasing skin density and thickness, potentially providing a firmer, smoother, and more youthful look.⁶

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent anti-aging ingredient in skincare. It works by stimulating collagen production for skin firmness and also contributes to protection against UV damage.⁷

Green tea extract

Green tea extract proves to be a powerful ally in the fight against skin aging. Topical applications with 2% to 3% green tea extracts have shown significant protection against skin photoaging,⁸ which is aging caused by exposure to UV light. This makes it a promising natural component in anti-aging skincare.

Egg membrane

Egg membrane, the delicate lining found between the egg white and shell, is a promising anti-aging ingredient. One study showed that a face cream containing this ingredient significantly reduced the depth of wrinkles,⁹ making it a potential natural solution for smoother, younger-looking skin.

Calendula

Calendula, a type of flower, could be a natural secret for youthful skin. A small study discovered that applying Calendula officinalis cream on the face for eight weeks resulted in skin tightening and improved hydration,¹⁰ potentially leading to a fresher and more youthful appearance.

Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol, a plant-derived phytochemical, may offer a gentler alternative to traditional anti-aging skincare ingredients. It acts similarly to topical retinol, a well-known ingredient for addressing concerns related to photoaging, but is potentially associated with fewer adverse effects.¹¹ This makes bakuchiol an appealing ingredient for improving facial wrinkles in a more tolerable way.

When should you start an anti-aging skin routine?

When it comes to starting an anti-aging skin routine, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, mainly because everyone’s skin ages differently. Environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and our unique genetic makeup all play a part in how and when visible signs of aging appear.

There aren’t typically any age limitations for those who can benefit from an anti-aging skin routine. It’s a common misconception that these routines are only for those who have already started noticing signs of aging. In fact, preventative care can play a major role in maintaining healthy, youthful skin.

Key preventative measures anyone can adopt include regular use of sunscreen, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with balanced nutrition and regular exercise, and avoiding damaging habits like smoking.¹² Starting these practices early can help slow the appearance of signs of aging.

However, given the individual nature of skin aging, it’s always wise to seek personalized advice for starting different elements of an anti-aging skin routine. Consulting a licensed dermatology provider can help you identify your skin’s specific needs and start a routine that is most beneficial to you. They can guide you on which products to use, when to start using them, and how to adjust your routine as your skin changes over time. 

Curology’s proven anti-aging ingredients

While so-called natural anti-aging skincare products are having their moment in the sun (hopefully while wearing sunscreen), there are many different ingredients that have been proven to fight the signs of aging. Your best bet to take the guesswork out of finding the anti-aging skincare products that are right for you is to consult a licensed dermatology provider, such as those at Curology.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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With Curology’s Future-Proofᴿˣ personalized formulas for anti-aging, you can help prevent early signs of aging while also helping promote healthy skin with a prescription-strength formula customized for your concerns. Once you take a brief skin quiz and share some photos of your skin concerns, you’ll be matched with a licensed dermatology provider. If appropriate, they can prescribe you a formula containing up to three active ingredients to target your specific skin challenges. Get started today!*

FAQs

Why is my face aging so fast?

It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin ages differently. The most significant contributor to visible signs of aging is exposure to UV light.¹³ Other factors, such as smoking and exposure to pollution, can also exacerbate the aging process.¹⁴ To help slow visible signs of aging, protect your skin from harmful UV rays, avoid smoking, and reduce exposure to pollutants.¹⁵

Can you reverse aging skin naturally?

Aging is a natural process that can’t be entirely reversed. However, you can slow down the visible signs of aging skin through some natural measures. Regular use of sunscreen is key to protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, a major contributor to skin aging. In addition, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help maintain your skin’s health. Avoiding harmful habits, like smoking, which damages skin cells, can also slow the aging process.¹⁶ These combined efforts can help keep your skin looking youthful and vibrant for longer.

What is the best strategy for preventing the signs of aging naturally?

The most effective natural strategy to combat visible signs of aging is protection from UV light. This can be achieved by regularly using a broad-spectrum sunscreen to shield your skin from harmful UV rays. Additionally, wearing protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and sunglasses, can further reduce your skin’s exposure to the sun.¹⁷ These simple yet crucial steps can slow down the aging effects of UV light, potentially helping to maintain your skin’s youthful appearance for longer.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Zhang, S., and Duan, E. Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside. Cell transplantation. (May 2018).

  2. Zhang, S., and Duan, E. Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside. Cell transplantation. Ibid.

  3. Flament, F., et al. Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. (2013, September 27).

  4. Rittié, L., and Fisher, G. J. Natural and sun-induced aging of human skin. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine. (January 2015).

  5. Congressional Research Service. FDA Regulation of Cosmetics and Personal Care Products(2022, March 9).

  6. Pickart, L., and Margolina, A. Regenerative and Protective Actions of the GHK-Cu Peptide in the Light of the New Gene Data. International journal of molecular sciences. (July 2018).

  7. Bjørklund, G., et al. Natural Compounds and Products from an Anti-Aging Perspective. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). (October 2022).

  8. Csekes, E., and Račková, L. Skin Aging, Cellular Senescence and Natural Polyphenols. International journal of molecular sciences. (December 2021).

  9. Jensen, G. S., et al. Reduction of facial wrinkles by hydrolyzed water-soluble egg membrane associated with reduction of free radical stress and support of matrix production by dermal fibroblasts. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. (2016, October 14).

  10. Csekes, E., and Račková, L. Skin Aging, Cellular Senescence and Natural Polyphenols. International journal of molecular sciences. Ibid.

  11. Dhaliwal, S., et al. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. The British journal of dermatology. (February 2019).

  12. Shanbhag, S., et al. Anti-aging and Sunscreens: Paradigm Shift in Cosmetics. Advanced pharmaceutical bulletin. (August 2019).

  13. Flament, F., et al. Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. Ibid.

  14. Zhang, S., and Duan, E. Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside. Cell transplantation. Ibid.

  15. Shanbhag, S., et al. Anti-aging and Sunscreens: Paradigm Shift in Cosmetics. Advanced pharmaceutical bulletin. Ibid.

  16. Shanbhag, S., et al. Anti-aging and Sunscreens: Paradigm Shift in Cosmetics. Advanced pharmaceutical bulletin. Ibid.

  17. Shanbhag, S., et al. Anti-aging and Sunscreens: Paradigm Shift in Cosmetics. Advanced pharmaceutical bulletin. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

*Subject to medical consultation. Subscription required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our thoughts on sun protection: *Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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