This Is How Your Skin Changes as You Age
In your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
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Your skin is in a constant state of flux. Chances are, the complexion that you have at 25 will look very different from your complexion at 35, 45, and 55. But how does your skin change as you age? What kind of changes can you expect to see in your complexion—and what's going on behind the scenes (or, in this case, beneath the skin) to cause those changes you see in the mirror? Ahead, dermatologists weigh in and share what happens to your skin during each decade of your life.
You might first start to notice changes in your skin in your 20s, but the truth is that the foundation for those changes started much, much earlier. "Your skin 'remembers' everything that you have done to it—and the majority of UV damage is thought to occur before age 15," says Dr. Anna Guanche, board certified dermatologist and founder of the Bella Skin Institute. If you weren't vigilant about wearing sunscreen as a child or teen, your 20s is when that damage is going to start to show.
"Freckling, melasma, or even early sun spots may start to appear or become more stubborn or pronounced," says Dr. Melanie Palm, a San Diego-based dermatologist and founder of Art of Skin MD. Collagen production also begins slowing down. "Light wrinkles begin to appear around the eyes and on the forehead, and the skin becomes more dull looking," says Dr. Guanche. "Expression lines bounce back in babyhood but then as time passes, creases form."
In your 30s, that sun damage can become even more prominent. "By our 30s, more discoloration, freckles, and pigmentation start to develop," says dermatologist Dr. Erum Ilyas, the founder of AmberNoon, a contemporary clothing line that helps defend the skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. Hormonal changes in the body can also trigger breakouts. "Women may experience hormonal acne for the first time in their lives, worsening around just before menses or ovulation with deep cystic acne," says Dr. Palm.
All those hormonal changes can also lead to melasma, a skin condition that causes hyperpigmentation. "Melasma often shows up at this time and is a result of hormonal changes and/or childbirth," notes Dr. Guanche. (In fact, melasma is so common during pregnancy, it's often called "the pregnancy mask.") Changes in fat distribution in the face can also lead to a changing complexion. "Fat loss starts to occur on the face in the 30s," says Dr. Palm. "Areas of light and shadow start to appear as fat loss and soft tissue loss occurs."
As you enter your 40s, all of the skin changes that began in your 20s and 30s (like pigmentation, sun damage, slower collagen production, and fine lines and wrinkles) continue to accelerate. "By our 40s, we start to see the impact of aging in terms of more persistent pigment changes and deeper lines or wrinkles that stay at rest," says Dr. Ilyas. Skin also begins to thin around this age. "Textural changes including skin laxity and thinning may become more noticeable," says Dr. Palm. "As our skin thins, mild crepiness may become more visible, and underlying structures such as blood vessels around our eyes, lips, or nose may increase."
You'll also start to notice changes to firmness and elasticity. "At age 40, all of your elastin production stops," says Dr. Guanche. "This will lead to loss of elasticity and overall firmness of the skin."
In your 50s, another wave of hormonal changes will also translate to changes in your skin. "During this decade, most women will go through menopause and there will be a drop in estrogen levels," says Dr. Gaunche. "As estrogen declines, the skin becomes more dry and less plump. Estrogen directly affects the collagen layer of the skin, so if there's less estrogen, there's less collagen." This is also when sun damage becomes a true issue: "Sun damage really takes hold and sun spots, seborrheic keratoses, precancerous skin lesions, and even skin cancers may occur," says Dr. Palm.
Your 60s—and Beyond
Even if you've taken amazing care of your complexion, during your 60s, the changes in your skin tend to accelerate rapidly—and can become more noticeable in the process. "Skin thinning becomes exaggerated. Skin crepiness accelerates. Visible veins, especially areas like the back of your hands become more prominent," says Dr. Palm. "Skin sagging is a primary concern."