Of course, the best defense against wrinkles, spots and sags is prevention. So aside from sunscreen, an obvious essential, I was told to look for products containing antioxidants, which protect against many of the environmental causes of aging, including sunlight and pollution. “Certain antioxidants even boost the effectiveness of sunscreen, and they protect against rays and other pollutants that get past the layer of SPF,” says Wattenberg.
Dermatologist Gary Goldfaden recently developed Goldfaden Skin Care, a line of products with high concentrations of red tea, which he found to be an even more powerful antioxidant than the more common green tea. “In addition to combating free radicals, antioxidants also promote the growth of new skin cells,” he says. Fellow dermatologist and product guru Nicholas Perricone is equally bullish on antioxidants. “Free radicals trigger an inflammatory response, and inflammation is responsible for wrinkles,” he says. “Antioxidants are powerful anti-inflammatories, so they have a preventative and a reparative effect.”
The problem is that it seems every botanical on earth—pomegranate, açai, coffee berries, kangaroo paw flower extract—has been deemed a great source of antioxidants, and the effectiveness of each isn’t always clear. Vitamin C, for instance, is incredibly popular with cosmetics companies but so unstable that it can quickly lose potency in the bottle. (Several brands now offer alternatives: Perricone, for example, uses vitamin C ester, a more stable version of the vitamin.) “The more different antioxidants you can blend into your routine, the better,” says Manuela Marcheggiani, a cosmetic chemist and cofounder of the Isomers skincare line, who suggests alternating products with differing antioxidants or using a product that combines several. “It’s like eating your vegetables—you want to eat a variety, not just a lot of one.”
As a result of my research, I’ve finally settled on a routine: After cleansing, several times a week I use either a lactic acid toner, scrub or enzyme mask for exfoliating; I apply an antioxidant serum morning and night; in the morning I follow it with an SPF product, and at night I finish with a serum or cream with peptides.
I am confident about my new approach—except for one small, nagging issue. Nearly every professional I consulted emphasized the importance of a proper diet. They urged me to not only apply antioxidants to my face, but also to load up on fruits and vegetables; to not just put peptides on my skin, but to ingest lots of protein and omegas. And I was warned repeatedly about the perils of sugar and alcohol. “Too much alcohol will dehydrate your skin,” says Wechsler, “making it wrinklier and more sallow.”
Sadly, it turns out the only thing worse for you than being insulted by a bartender is the steady flow of cocktails required to get over it.