It only comes once a year: the best of the best, the anti-agers that work. And here they are - the Five Best anti-aging serums of 2012. Three new ones have been added since last year’s round up (it’s always exciting for me to realize that we are always discovering new and better). These aren’t the cheapest, but they are the most effective and when you consider the formulas are almost entirely comprised of active ingredients (and the most cutting edge), the quality to price ratio is reasonable. It was a tough choice to narrow them down to five and an honorable mention should go to Hydropeptide Hydrostem+6. They all do something slightly different, so I’ve tried to encapsulate their primary functions. They aren’t the same as dousing yourself in the Fountain of Youth, but they are 2012’s Five Best serums:

E’shee Cellular Repair Serum ($179 for 0.34 oz in the TIA shop). Primary function: wrinkle and broken capillary repair. A Five Best for the third time (!), this serum stands the test of time. It is best for for rosacea, broken veins and deep wrinkles. Even very sensitive skins seem to tolerate E’shee. The key active is the cutting edge FGF 1 (a Recombinant Human Fibroblast Growth Factor). FGF1 is rather bossy and signals other growth factors to go off an do useful things such as make collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin. It also supports angiogenesis, which is the growth of new blood vessels. The horse chestnut is also a repair for broken capillaries and the combination with FGF1 does make a visible difference to thread veins. The only other botanical is mulberry. This is typically used in skincare as a whitener. With sodium lactate and lactic acid providing exfoliation and sodium hyaluronate, this formulation covers most bases. This is an expensive potion for 10 ml or 0.34 fl oz, but it can last more than 3 months. The results are very impressive. My original review of E’shee and see a video showing that a little really goes a long way. Read the full review

AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum ($149 for 30ml in the TIA shop). Primary function: skin rejuvenation and wrinkles. For me, this quite simply works and I mean really works. And really what more is there to say. No ifs. No buts. AQ is an anti-aging serum that is repairing my wrinkles and improving the texture of the skin. I started seeing results within two weeks of using AQ and now that I am three-quarters through my bottle (after more than 3 months), there is no doubt that this serum has made a huge improvement to my skin. There is no doubt that I will buy a replacement bottle. AQ’s formula is simple: a couple of vitamins, lactic acid and glycerin with the dominant ingredient being the active human fibroblast conditioned media, of which AQ claims there is a concentration of 42%. Read the full review

ReLuma Skin Illuminating Anti-aging Serum ($145 for 20mL and $220 for 30mL in the TIA shop). Primary function: wrinkle repair. It takes a few weeks to see results, but when ReLuma kicks in, it visibly smooths out wrinkles. ReLuma’s formula is deceptively simple. In fact, it is based on human conditioned media and ReLuma has quite a complex combination of what are essentially proteins. As we age, the critical proteins for healthy skin start to decline. These proteins and growth factors can be isolated as PDGF, VEGF, FGF, IGF3 and TGF-B. Of these, TGF-B is thought to be the most important because its signals are recognized by the majority of cells. TGF-B expression is also induced during wound healing and studies show that it can increase collagen and fibronectin.  However, it is the combination of different growth factors that is supposed to give results. Read my full review.

Your Best Face Control ($160 in the TIA shop). Primary function: skin firming and restoring elasticity. While AQ is my go to day serum, I use Control at night. I believe they are very complimentary, but on their own both are extremely good. The newly reformulated Control is better than extremely good and I can’t imagine how I got on without it – my skin looks firm and refreshed and keeps my skin moisturized throughout the night (something that menopause was conspiring against). A key ingredient is Syn-Hycan and it does battle against sagging skin and double chins. Another (with a similar function) is Relistase. Plus there’s old favorites such as Matrixyl 3000 and the radical scavengers liprochroman-6 and spin trap. Read the full review

BioEffect EGF Serum ($110-210). Primary function: skin smoothing and wrinkle reduction. This serum made in Iceland is a favorite of Martha Stewart, so I’m in good company.  There are only nine ingredients in this serum and the key active is a growth factor derived from barley. Although I find it very wearable, it is a little “oily” and, judging from the reactions of some Truth In Aging testers, may not be suitable for those prone to breakouts. For those with dryer and more tolerant skin, the results can be extremely positive and cumulative over time. Read the full review.

Ingredients in E’shee: Aqua, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Propylene Glycol, 1.3 Butylene Glycol, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Glycerin, Morus Alba (Mulberry) Extract, Tinocare GL, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Triethanolamine, D-Panthenol, Lactic acid, Carbomer, Allantoin, Phenoxyethanol, FGF 1 (Recombinant Human acidic Fibroblast Growth Factor).

Ingredients in AQ: Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Cellulose Gum, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lactic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Phenoxyethanol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

Ingredients in ReLuma: Human Adipose Derived Stem Cell Conditioned Media, Water, Glycerin, Sodium PCA, DL-Panthenol, Hydroxy Ethyl Cellulose, Allantoin, Phenoxyethanol.

Ingredients in YBF revised formula: reverse osmosis water, Relistase (glycerin, acetylarginyltryptophyl diphenylglycine, Syn-Hycan (tetradecyl Aminobutyroylvalylaminobutyric urea trifluoroacetate, magneisum chloride, glycerin), Syn-Tacks (glycerin, palmitoyl dipeptide-5 diaminobutyroyl hydroxythreonine, palmitoyl dipeptide-5 diaminohydroxybutyrate), Matrixyl 3000 (glycerin, butylene glycol, carbomer, polysorbate-20, palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tripeptide-3), nylon-12, olivem, Renovage (triglyceride, teprenone), olive squalane, ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, ethoxydiglycol, dimethylisosorbide, meadowfoam seed oil, trans resveratrol, spin trap (phenyl butyl nitrone), vitamin e, c10-c30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, leucidal, lipochroman-6, sodium hyaluronate, coenzyme Q10, tetrahydrocurcuminoids, alpha lipoic acid (R-lipoic acid), triethanolamine

Ingredients in BioEffect: Glycerine, sodium hyaluronate, tromethamine, alcohol (less than 0.9%), calcium chloride, sodium chloride, hordeum vulgare seed, EGF (transgenic barley SH-oligopeptide-1)