If I had to highlight only one term that has the power to make a beauty editor shudder unlike any other, it would have to be “anti-aging.” Because the truth is (and brace yourselves for this one), no beauty product truly has the power to totally reverse the signs of aging. No serum, cream, oil, or mask that money can buy can actually eradicate wrinkles.
With that being said, there are a very small number of ingredients that can definitely help minimize signs of aging. But when I say very small, I mean it. In fact, there is only a handful of ingredients that have been scientifically-proven to reduce the appearance of age-related skin issues. From wrinkle-reducing retinol to skin-brightening vitamin C, it’s hard to comprehend why beauty companies expect us to pay premium prices for ingredients that actually work, right?
If you ask me, great skincare shouldn’t have to come with an eye-watering price tag. Unfortunately, when it comes to anti-aging products, more affordable brands often get written off as ineffective because of their overuse of the phrase “anti-aging” in their ads. And sure, while so many affordable products that claim to rewind the clock do little more than give your skin a hefty hit of moisture, there are many that do actually contain the rare ingredients more mature skin might genuinely benefit from.
So to save you from having to try every single budget anti-aging product out there, keep scrolling for the affordable options that contain powerhouse ingredients. Oh, and they’re all under $50. You’re welcome.
The chances are you’ve heard all about retinol before. It’s shouted about from the rooftops by experts for all beauty buffs to hear, and for good reason. Catherine Borysiewicz, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic explains, “Retinol is a vitamin-A derivative that is widely researched and is a proven skincare ingredient.”
But what does it actually do? Well, essentially, it speeds up the rate at which our skin cells turnover, helping to improve firmness. “Through promoting cell turnover, it improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone,” adds Borysiewicz.
And because retinol is such a hot commodity right now, you’d better believe beauty brands set their prices high. Don’t get me wrong—in certain cases, expensive products are fully justified through the strength of their formulas and ingredients, however, when it comes to retinol, stronger isn’t always better. Oftentimes, powerful retinol can leave skin red, irritated, and cause peeling. As a result of this, the strength of retinol that we are actually allowed to buy is very limited, meaning that one of the only things that set expensive retinol products apart from the rest is the nourishing ingredients the retinoid sits beside (of which affordable formulas also have many, FYI).
Okay, so hyaluronic acid might not be widely considered an anti-aging ingredient, but if you ask me (and many experts), it’s one of the most important ingredients for a mature skincare routine. Naturally occurring in our skin, hyaluronic acid retains moisture and helps keep our skin plump and bouncy. Unfortunately, as we get older, our skins’ hyaluronic acid production starts plummeting and skin becomes drier, creepy, and lacklustre.
Unlike other naturally-occurring plumping ingredients such as collagen, our skin does actually have the ability to absorb hyaluronic acid through a cream or serum, albeit only at surface level. “Moisturize with a hyaluronic acid cream or serum where the skin feels dry,” advises Borysiewicz. “This will plump and hydrate the skin throughout the day.”
So although hyaluronic acid won’t guarantee long-term results like a retinol might, skin will look instantly plumped and more youthful. A twice-daily application should be enough to keep up results.
You might be familiar with vitamin C as a brightening and glow-boosting ingredient, but first and foremost, it should be recognized as an incredibly powerful antioxidant. And it’s cool, I get it. No one actually knows what antioxidant means, right? When it comes to age-defying skincare, though, it’s actually really beneficial to be in the know.
Things like pollution and UV rays trigger our skin to produce harmful particles dubbed “free radicals” which cause long-term DNA damage and speed up the aging process. What antioxidants do is help counteract and reduce that free radical production, thereby protecting our skin from further premature aging. “Antioxidants [like vitamin C] support cells, boost collagen, and brighten existing skin pigmentation. It is a key anti-aging ingredient,” says Borysiewicz.
So why the standard hefty price tag? Unlike cheaper, less efficacious ingredients, vitamin C is highly unstable and volatile. This means the minute it is exposed to light, heat, and even oxygen, its effectiveness rapidly starts to decline. Formulating an effective vitamin C product can be very costly for a brand, so it is common for great vitamin C products to cost an arm and a leg (see SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic for reference). However, things like dark bottles, airless pumps, booster formulas, and single-use designs can help bring the price of effective vitamin C down, so always look for such things when shopping.