Which skincare ingredients should you look for to keep lines and wrinkles at bay and improve firmness and glow? From antioxidants to peptides, stem cells to retinol, doctor and skincare formulator Johanna Ward writes your anti-ageing script

Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

GP Dr Johanna Ward knows a thing or two about skin; as an aesthetician and founder of skincare brand Zenii, she can be relied upon to deliver essential advice on how to refine your skincare routine to make it most effective and the most anti-ageing it can be. In our digital masterclass on smart ageing last month,  Smart Ageing – Inside and Out with Dr. Johanna Ward , Dr Jo filled us in on all the ingredients we need in our morning and evening skincare routines to ensure we’re using products to help us along in our anti-ageing journey.

Dr Jo is quick to point out that people often grumble that she recommends such a variety of products and ingredients in anti-ageing skincare, but there's a good reason. “No one skincare ingredient does everything,” she says. “We need combinations of powerful different ingredients and they can’t all go into one product.”

Anti-ageing morning skincare routine

Step 1: Cleanse for at least 2 minutes

Don’t skip cleaning in the morning, even if you did a thorough cleanse before bed, advises Dr Jo. “Your skin is shedding all the time so cleansing in the morning removes cellular debris.” Cleansing also helps us control excess oil and cosmetic residue that may not have been fully removed the night before. “Most people spend about 20 seconds on cleansing but it needs to be two minutes of circular motion to be really effective.”

MORE GLOSS: How to choose the right cleanser for your skin

Step 2: Use an alcohol-free toner

Toners complete your cleanse and add antioxidants into the skin, says Dr Jo, as well as banishing dead skin cells that can accumulate overnight. Toners with alcohol can be drying, especially for sensitive skin, so look for alcohol-free.

MORE GLOSS: Should your skincare be alcohol-free?

Step 3: Use an antioxidant serum

Every single day we go through a process of oxidation where harmful free radicals are unleashed in our skin, causing inflammation and ageing damage. “ Antioxidants  in topical skincare are a way of neutralising the free radicals,” says Dr Jo. “Use combinations of antioxidants  vitamin A ,  vitamin C  and E, with ferulic acid,  niacinamide , resveratrol and coenzyme q10. Combinations help other antioxidants become more powerful.”

Step 4: Quench your skin with hydrators

Dehydration and dryness is a big problem for us as we get older, explains Dr Jo. Low molecular weight  hyaluronic acid  (HA) serum will hydrate the skin best because the smaller the size of the hyaluronic molecule, the greater the chance it will work on a deeper level. Look for oil-free HA serum or acne-prone skin. Acne-prone skin should also layer light serums rather than opting for heavier creams to prevent breakouts.

MORE GLOSS: Best hyaluronic acids and serums for dry skin

Step 5: Stem cell skincare

Skincare with stem cells has antioxidant capabilities which help maintain moisture for cellular renewal and regeneration. Stem cells used in skincare are plant-based and the first in skincare came from Swiss apples, citrus is common too, with the Zenii offering made from oranges.

Step 6: Sun protection

This should be your final morning skincare step before makeup. Look for SPF that has  UVA and UVB protection  as well as  HEV (blue light)  protecting.

MORE GLOSS: The best facial SPF for everyday wear

Anti-ageing evening skincare routine

Your evening skincare routine should focus on neutralising ant-oxidants and regenerating and renewing the tissue, says Dr Jo. At night time, our skin replenishes itself, recovers from daily pollution and UV radiation, so night time is all about to restore and repair.  Apart from cleansing, you don't need to add the following products in the order given. A rule of thumb is to be guided by the texture - start with the more lightweight products first ending with the heavier ones.

Step 1: Double cleanse

Double cleanse  to remove cosmetic residue. “You’d be amazed that ever after cleansing thoroughly you can still get more residue off,” says Dr Jo. Double cleansing involves a duo of products designed to target different types of epidermal debris: the first ‘clean’ should look to remove makeup and SPF and the second, cleanses skin on a deeper scale

Step 2: Exfoliate with an acid toner

“Nighttime is a great time to  exfoliate ,” Dr Jo tells us. As we age our skin cell turnover process becomes longer. When we’re younger it takes four-to-six weeks for cell renewal, as we get older it’s six-to-ten weeks. If your skin cell cycle is prolonged and you're not sloughing off the dead cells, your skin can start to look dull and lacklustre.

“As we age we need to help our skin with the process, which is where exfoliation comes in,” says Dr Jo. “Glycolic acid is great for anti-ageing, sun damage and pigmentation. Salicylic acid should be used several times a week for acne and blackheads to clear the pores and remove excess oil and ensure you don’t get build up.”

Lactic acid is good for anti-ageing and polyhydroxy acids are good for sensitive skin. “Find a combination of acids that work for you,” says Dr Jo. “I personally use a combination of glycolic and salicylic.”

MORE GLOSS: A guide to using exfoliating acids in your skincare routine

Step 3: Apply your antioxidant serum again

Your  antioxidant serum  should be used at nighttime too to neutralise all the free radicals from the day’s exposure to sun, pollution and stress.  Retino l is a powerful antioxidant, so if you're a nighttime retinoid user, you're covered.

Step 4: Lock in moisture with hyaluronic acid and ceramides

“We need to put the hydration back in at night,” says Dr Jo. As well as hyaluronic acid she also recommends  ceramides . Ceramides are essential for skin barrier function; they are one of the mechanisms that hold the  skin barrier  together and make up 50 per cent of the uppermost layer of the skin. Ceramides are fatty acids that maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture, keeping the skin hydrated.

Step 5: Target the signs of ageing with peptides

Peptides  are a collection of targeted chemical communicators that send signals to your skin act young, firm and collagen-rich. These are a powerful part of your smart-ageing strategy.

MORE GLOSS: How to boost your collagen levels

Step 6: tell your skin to act younger with retinol

“I don’t think anyone should be without  retinol ,” says Dr Jo. Retinol works by telling the skin to act younger, increasing cell. turnover and thickening the skin. It's also effective for acne-prone skin.  “Retinol improves texture and is great for fine lines and wrinkles. Look for slow-release retinol if your skin is irritated by powerful retinol. Slow-release retinol is more tolerable to skin and prevents flaking and dryness, which are often seen as a side effect of retinol.

MORE GLOSS: Retinol & retinoids decoded: the skin experts' guide

Sign up for our newsletter for all the latest information on our digital masterclasses