The first signs happen earlier than you'd think.

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Credit: Getty / Lucy Lambriex

It's no secret that as we age, our bodies start to slow down—and this includes cell turnover on the skin level. "We know that after age 25, our bodies start producing less collagen at a rate of about one percent less per year, so by the time we're 50, there is almost no new collagen being made. The collagen that remains becomes broken down, fragmented, and weaker," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein. And with less collagen (and elastin) comes a whole slew of changes, from drooping eyelids and frown lines to tech neck and wrinkles. But when do the signs of this process begin to show? To help you prepare for the shifts ahead, we tapped our experts for a general timeline. Ahead, when most women start to see changes in their skin—believe it or not, it's earlier than you'd think.

In Your 20s

According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, weaker chins and sagging above the collarbone are the result of constantly looking down at phones and computers—things those in their 20s do regularly. What's more, he points out that dehydration from alcohol and excessive sugar consumption, not to mention the negative effects of smoking, can also affect skin's appearance, making wrinkles more prominent. "If you cut these things out in your 20s and 30s you will look significantly younger in your 40s and 50s," he says.

In Your 30s

In our 30s, Dr. Frank, who just published The Pro-Aging Playbook ($20.47, amazon.com), notes that skin is more prone to visible signs of pollution (or free radicals). This can pop up in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven texture and tone. The best way to shield against these effects is to stock your skincare routine with vitamin C (and SPF, of course); Summer Friday's CC Me Vitamin C Serum is a solid option ($64, sephora.com). "Vitamin C provides a range of benefits including evening out your skin tone, shielding skin from the visible impacts of pollution, significantly improving hydration, and keeping your skin looking younger," Dr. Frank explains.

In Your 40s

By our 40s, Dr. Marchbein says that it's normal to notice deeper lines that often remain fixed while resting. "Women also notice more uneven pigmentation to the skin, sun spots, and sun damage, not just on the face, but on the neck, chest, hands, and other areas of the body, too. More skin laxity and sagging, especially around the jawline and jowls, happens as well, along with smile lines," she adds. "Our cheeks also begin to lose more volume and our temples become more hollow."

In other words, your 40s are often the real turning point. While there are products that can help slow the process—including sun damage-specific creams, like Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream ($74, sephora.com) and firming formulas, like Erno Laszlo Firming Cream ($128, nordstrom.com)—Dr. Frank says that Ultherapy, an in-office treatment, is a non-invasive way to improve skin elasticity sans surgery. It's designed to boost collagen production and lift and tighten the chin, neck, and chest.

In Your 50s and Beyond

Once you reach your 50s, Dr. Marchbein says that the signs of aging will become more evident—especially if areas of concern have yet to be addressed and maintained. "Because there is no new collagen being produced, we see more dramatic sagging and skin laxity throughout, dropping and heaviness of the upper eyelids and brows, sagging at the cheeks and deeper smile lines and marionette lines, as well as more pronounced jowls with a less well-defined jawline," she explains. "We also notice sagging and laxity in the neck and more prominent platysma bands in the neck (think the vertical muscles), which contributes to the downward pull on the face and jawline."

All this is to say that if you wait until your 50s to address your any aging concerns (like wrinkles and sun spots—not moisture levels, which can be adjusted fairly easily), it will likely be too little too late. Unless, of course, you skip over-the-counter skincare products and opt for an in-office treatment. "Fraxel can help reduce pigmentation such as sunspots and it also helps even out skin tone," Dr. Frank says, noting that this is especially beneficial for women during menopause, who, thanks to lower estrogen levels, may notice thinning, sagging, and wrinkling skin at a higher rate.

The Most Prominent Changes of All

Of course, it's important to remember that everyone ages differently, so what you experience in your 30s could be on par with what someone else experiences in their 40s, and vice versa. With this in mind, it's better to simply understand the most common changes a woman can expect as she ages. According to Dr. Frank, a loss of luminosity, hyperpigmentation, under-eye darkness, laxity in the neck area, easily-irritated or inflamed skin, and static fine lines and wrinkles are some of the most tell-tale signs that your skin is changing.

As for the best course of action to combat each? The most important anti-aging advice we can give you is this: You are never too young to visit a board-certified dermatologist. Not only can skin cancer happen at any age, but premature aging can, too. "If there is ever a new or changing spot, a spot that is bleeding or not healing, or just something you are concerned about, do not hesitate to see your dermatologist," Dr. Marchbein says.

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