The Skincare Routines You Should Follow in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, and Beyond
Your skin changes over time, which means the way you care for it needs to change, too. Around age 20, we start producing less collagen. "About one percent, annually," says New York dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD, President of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics. "Our skin also gradually reduces elastin production, along with repair and skin barrier functions. Healing takes longer, and trans epidermal water loss increases. There is wear and tear on the skin from muscle movement." That's not all. "Women also start to lose the structure under the skin early," she says, "bone loss starts at about age 25, and in our late 30s into our 40s, we lose fat as we lose estrogen." It's called intrinsic aging-as Waldorf explains it, the aging that happens just by being alive for an additional year. Intrinsic aging isn't associated with heavy wrinkling, but more deflation, laxity, and dryness.
There's good news here, too. Extrinsic aging-the aging that happens because of exposure to external factors like ultraviolet rays, cigarettes, and pollution-are somewhat in our control. Visible changes like wrinkles, prominent pores, brown spots, redness, and dryness can be reduced with healthy lifestyle choices and proper skincare regimens. In other words, having gorgeous skin at any age is definitely possible. Here, dermatologists share the skincare regimens you should be following for glowing skin at every age.
In Your 20s
Your skincare goal throughout your 20s is protection. "Minimize ultraviolet exposure, don't smoke, and be aware of skin changes," Waldorf says. Skin changes at this age generally refer to acne on the central face or around the jawline, the latter of which is often related to hormones or being in a new environment (think: first apartment, living in a city, graduate school, or first-job stress). In the morning, use a mild face wash. If you have acne, try a salicylic acid cleanser to keep pores refined. Make sure you round out your routine with sunscreen. "Wearing sunscreen every day has been shown time and time again to be the best anti-aging strategy. What you do at this moment pays off," says New York dermatologist Anne Chapas, MD.
In Your 30s
You might be noticing changes in pigmentation because of years of sun exposure, or a combination of sun exposure and estrogen, known as melasma. (You don't have to be pregnant or on birth control pills to get melasma, but they do trigger it, Waldorf says.) In the morning, use an exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid face wash to help turn over skin cells and fade pigmentation. Then apply a vitamin C serum to brighten, even your skin tone, and protect against aging ultraviolet rays and environmental pollution. You'll want to add a daily sunscreen on top, otherwise the pigmentation will just get darker. In the evening after cleansing, use a retinol. In your 20s you may have used retinol keep acne at bay, but in your 30s, it will also help minimize pigmentation and the appearance of pores, increase collagen production-it's a proven do-it-all anti-aging product. Finish with a moisturizer.
In Your 40s
"In your 40s, aging has taken hold, as have the sins of your past," Waldorf says. "Most people complain of dryness or sensitivity. It's a good time to add hydrating and plumping products into your regimen and continue to use what you can for skin repair. Sunscreen is still important and by your 40s, susceptible women may start seeing premalignant or even malignant lesions." (Read: precancerous or cancerous moles and spots.) Although Waldorf says sunscreen can keep these from developing into squamous cell carcinoma (a common form of skin cancer), ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica also contains a DNA repair enzyme that has been shown to reduce these precancers even more than with sunscreen alone. Use it daily after cleansing on your face, neck, and décolletage, arms, and hands.
In Your 50s and Beyond
From here on out, your skincare goals should be a continuation and accentuation of everything you did before, Waldorf says. "A lot depends on how you've spent the decades prior. Intrinsic aging effects at 50+ mean the skin doesn't hold moisture as well and just because of age, collagen is reduced." Chapas recommends adding growth factors like peptides into your skincare regimen, as they boost skin growth on a cellular level-they'll clear away damaged skin and increase collagen production to give you firm, elastic skin with minimized wrinkles. In addition to using your favorite cleanser, serum, and sunscreen daily, ask your dermatologist for a prescription retinoid to use in the evening. The benefit? A prescription can contain a higher percentage of retinol than anything you can buy over-the-counter. Switching off every other night (or every few nights) with your peptide serum will improve the signs of aging. Then use a great moisturizer with emollients to reduce irritation and increase hydration.