Dr. Pimple Popper's Perspective: Anti-Ageing Skincare

Anti-ageing has become a skincare conundrum: even as the science is suggesting that there may in fact be ways to turn back the clock, the idea itself has become increasingly controversial.

To get a better understanding of what’s really going on in the world of anti-ageing, we talked to an expert. Here, Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) shares her perspective on anti-ageing skincare.

 Dr. Sandra Lee aka Dr. Pimple Popper

Do anti-ageing skincare products work?

This is a complicated question, and the answer is yes and no. It really depends on the ingredients and the formulations, and what type of ageing we’re talking about. As we get older, our skin naturally ages, and will sag and wrinkle due to gravity and motion. There’s not much that skincare products can do to prevent that.

But there are also environmental and lifestyle factors that we can control, for the most part. Simple things like cleansing and moisturising will keep your skin healthy, along with getting enough sleep, hydrating, and even exercising.

But by far the best thing you can do to prevent premature ageing is to use sunscreen. A broad-spectrum product that protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays will help avoid what we call photoageing. That’s the damage done by a lifetime of sun exposure, and it’s responsible for the vast majority of what we see as ageing. 

What skincare ingredients do you recommend for anti-ageing?

As a dermatologist, I can tell you that retinoids are clinically proven to slow down the signs of ageing. They stimulate your skin cells to renew faster, and they also encourage collagen production — both of these slow as we get older.

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids — chemical exfoliants — also produce visible improvement. Since they slough off the outer layers of the skin, we use them to minimise hyperpigmentation and fine lines.

Another important category is antioxidants: these are the ingredients like vitamin C that neutralise free radicals. This is important because over time, our skin loses its ability to counteract the damage done by oxidising reactions that damage skin function and quality.

Why has anti-ageing become controversial?

There’s a lot to unpack here. We can start back several decades ago, when research looking at retinoids and AHAs started to show that topical agents can affect the way aging skin behaves. Of course marketers were quick to jump on the bandwagon and pretty soon the term anti-ageing was showing up everywhere.

So a lot of claims were being made, some of them exaggerated or false — but also a bit of a backlash was brewing. It centers on the notion that the term “anti-ageing” implies that ageing itself is something that needs to be remedied.

Speaking from a dermatologist’s perspective, the idea that we can maintain and even improve the function and appearance of ageing skin is a very positive thing. In terms of skin health, preventing and even reversing photodamage is an incredible advantage.

How has anti-ageing skincare evolved?

I think the questions being raised about anti-ageing in general are valuable for society to tackle. But again, as a dermatologist, I’m excited about the discoveries and advances in the field, because keeping skin youthful is as much about skin health as it is about appearance.

With my patients, I take a practical and conservative approach. It’s important to be realistic, and of course to keep skin health at the forefront. Which means starting as early as you can, with sunscreen and retinol in your 20s, if possible, and using effective well-ageing products. Because it’s easier to hold off the signs of ageing — like fine lines, for example — than to try to reverse something like deep wrinkles. It's less about anti-ageing, and more about ageing well.

SLMD Retinol Serum

Dr. Lee’s well-ageing product picks


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