The choices for rejuvenating (sounds much nicer than “anti-aging” doesn’t it?) ingredients can be overwhelming.

Claims are indistinguishable for even a cosmetic chemist, so I can only imagine how consumers must feel at the beauty counter or pharmacy facing a wall of products in an attempt to pick the best solutions for your needs.

Red algae, brown algae, pentapeptide, tripeptide, oligopeptide, plant leaf extract, plant flower extract, plant stem cells—the list goes on and on.

Our lives are complicated enough as it is. We don’t have to include an equally complex skincare routine. It is possible to achieve beautiful skin with simple ingredients. It’s as easy as ABC!

Vitamin A: If you ask a dermatologist to name the gold standard for skin rejuvenation, nine out of ten would say retinol, and for good reason! In the early 1980’s All Trans Retinoic Acid (ATRA) was shown to reduce signs of photoaging (premature aging due to overexposure to sunlight).  The original study showed that ATRA was not only able to slow down photoaging but actually reversed some of the damage as well. The notable benefits were reducing rough and scaly patches, evening out skintone, increasing collagen synthesis and increasing skin cell turnover.

READ MORE: Skincare: The Vitamin A Controversy

Retinol is a close cousin to retinoic acid; it’s commonly used in skincare because it performs in a similar way. However, retinol does have its drawbacks. It can be irritating and extremely drying; it’s notoriously unstable and quickly turns brown once exposed to the air. Luckily, manufacturers and chemists have figured out ways around these issues and while not as glamorous as some of the newer ingredients, it is one of the best available to make your skin look more youthful.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids: AHAs first hit the skin care scene in the eighties courtesy of doctors Van Scott and Yu who discovered the anti-aging effects of these wonder acids. AHAs are naturally occurring in various fruits and vegetables. Glycolic, Lactic, Tartaric, and Malic Acids are the AHAs that we tend to use the most in skin care.AHAs penetrate the top layers of the skin and slough off old skin cells that have been battered and abused by the environment (sunlight, pollution, dry/cold air), biology (acne, hormonal changes, getting older) and by ourselves (smoking, not wearing sunscreen). When the new cells are uncovered, your skin will be smoother and softer, your skintone will appear more even, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles will be reduced.

READ MORE: Weatherproof Your Skincare

Vitamin BVitamin B3: Niacin (aka nicotinic acid or niacinamide) hasn’t been studied as long as the other vitamins. However, the studies that have been done show that, when used at high enough levels, vitamin B3 can help even out your skintone, in particular, reducing the yellowing often associated with aged skin.

MORE: Your Skin Type, Decoded

Why it works isn’t 100 percent clear. Procter & Gamble has several theories (and twice as many patents) on the mode of action. When used in combination with other ingredients like AHAs and vitamin A, or even simple ingredients like glycerin there is an apparent and visible improvement in the coloring of aged skin.

Vitamin CL: Ascorbic acid is another ingredient that has been well-documented as effective for reversing the signs of photoaging. Beyond being an antioxidant, vitamin C has been shown to help regulate collagen production and promote proper collagen orientation (neatly bundled as opposed to scattered around in complete disarray). It also helps redistribute melanin in the skin to reduce buildup in one spot resulting in even skintone. Fainter furrows and a reduction of lines and deep wrinkles are other benefits of L-Ascorbic Acid.

STUDY: Vitamin C Slows Aging

Vitamin C is tricky though because in the acid form it oxidizes rapidly, turning your white cream brown in a matter of days and becoming ineffective. There are several other forms of vitamin C that are more stable in skincare products but less efficacious than the acid. Ascorbyl palmitate is commonly used but in most cases will not give you the results of ascorbic acid. The ingredient called Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable oil based cousin of vitamin C and is actually very effective.

Let me know if you have any ingredient questions. I’m here to help!