Don’t Waste Money on These Anti-Aging Ingredients

Most of us are concerned about aging these days, and we’re lucky that we have so many options for preventing, slowing and reversing the visible signs of time. But with this fixation on youth comes a lot of misinformation and hype. It seems there’s always a new product promising the results of a facelift in a bottle, and a few large skincare companies have even been fined for overstating product claims in advertisements.

I’ve done research on many active ingredients and wrote a textbook called Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients, so here’s my list of anti-aging ingredients that just are not worth the money.

Stem Cells

Stem cells are controversial these days and are probably still best left to the doctors and researchers who are trying to find ways to grow organs and treat life-threatening diseases. In terms of the skin, the science just isn’t developed yet. The stem cells found in skincare products are plant-based (not human based), so unless you’re a plant trying to synthesize chlorophyll, they are a waste.

There is also no reason to believe that if applied to the surface of the skin, they could work their way down deep into the dermis or hair follicles where the skin stem cells naturally live. Even if stem cells could improve the skin when applied topically, they do not have a long shelf life, so they’d probably be ineffective by the time you applied them anyway.

There is an interesting new technology that stimulates stem cells called LGR6+. These stem cells are responsible for renewing the epidermis layer.  They do this by stimulating the production of new keratinocytes. This is very exciting development. Stay tuned to learn more.  I am in the process of testing the technology now. This product does not have actual stem cells in it- instead it has an ingredient that stimulates naturally occurring skin cells. If you want current infomtaion, post a comment on


A peptide is essentially a chain of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins (Science Daily). These chains send messages to various types of cells, signaling them to produce enzymes, hormones and more. Peptides have many actions which is why you see so many claims about peptides such as “Peptides work the same as Botox.”  While this is exaggerated when taken out of context, peptides are interesting molecules and have become a common ingredient in anti-aging products. I am often asked “Are peptides in skincare effective?” Unfortunately, they are often not for one simple fact: peptides are usually too large to penetrate the skin, so they never get to where they need to be in order to do their job. Some peptides like defensins are pretty small peptides with a molecular weight of 3.5 – 5 kDa that allows them to slide down the hair follicle into the skin, but most peptides including growth factors are much larger. The skin is designed specifically to keep peptides out because many bacterial walls are made of peptides, so the skin;s natural defense mechanisms exclude peptides from entry.

A second downside of peptides is that while they sit on the surface of the skin or on the shelf in a product, they can deactivate other important cosmeceutical ingredients that actually do work. Peptides do not play well in the sandbox with other ingredients and often interact with them in a detrimental way.  Some companies have solved the problem by binding the peptide with a protein called albumin to keep it from reacting with other ingredients.

Drinkable Collagen or Hyaluronic Acid

Collagen is the protein that maintains the skin’s youthful support, and hyaluronic acid is responsible for binding moisture within the skin (Dermato-endocrinology). As skin ages the levels of collagen and hyaluronic acid lower- leading to aged skin. Many companies have come out with expensive drinks with HA and collagen in them that claim to increase levels of these important structural components in your skin.


Every week a patient asks me “Do the collagen drinks help my skin?” and the answer is an emphatic “No!” It would be nice if drinking these compounds could provide our skin with more collagen, but unfortunately, oral collagen is broken down by the acids in your stomach before they can do any good. Also- these expensive collagen drinks are not necessary. Collagen is in meat!  In fact muscle and all body organs contain collagen.  If you eat meat you are getting enough collagen.  If you are vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry- your body can make it’s own collagen.  It is important to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin C because collagen production requires vitamin C (ascorbic acid).  I recommend taking oral Vitamin C supplements 500mg twice a day, applying a topical Vitamin C product, and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to keep your collagen levels higher.

Hyaluronic acid (HA)- Hyaluronic acid is also know found in drinks due to its popularity as a dermal filler and cosmeceutical ingredient.  It is also broken down by stomach acids.  Instead of buying expensive HA drinks, take glucosamine supplements.  These have been shown to increase the body’s production of hyaluronic acid.

Another way to increase collagen and hyaluronic acid production in skin is to use retinoids.

Retinyl Palmitate and Retinyl Linoleate

These inexpensive, weak cousins of retinol can often be found in anti-aging products, but they just aren’t powerful enough to make a difference in the appearance of the skin. Stick with over-the-counter retinol (and look for it high up on the ingredient list AND in an opaque plastic or metal tube to protect it from light) or a prescription retinoid like Retin-A, Tazorac, Differin or Renova. Good news!!!—- Adapalene (Also known as Differin) is a powerful retinoid that is now available without a prescription.  It is less fragile upon light exposure than retinol or tretinoin.

The Bottom Line

There are countless anti-aging products that claim to work miracles on the skin, but the truth is that many of the ingredients contained in these products just don’t have the science to back them up. While the idea behind their use in topical skincare products might seem promising, they are a waste of time and money. I believe that EVERY STEP in our skincare routine should be efficacious.  None of us has time to waste.

For more information about the best skincare products that actually work for your unique skin type, visit If you’re not sure which type you are, find a Skin Type Solutions physician partner who will administer the Baumann Skin Type Questionnaire, diagnose your Baumann Skin Type and prescribe the appropriate skincare products.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

January 12, 2017 Skin Aging, Skincare