Fine lines, dullness, and hyperpigmentation all merit a trip to your go-to skin expert.
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Everyone wants to age gracefully—and we know how to do it. Follow along with Live Well for beauty tips, exercise routines, and lifestyle changes to make as the years go by. Together, they'll make aging simple, which gives you more time to embrace each moment.

Aging is the great equalizer: It happens to all of us. While looking in the mirror and seeing a fine line or two may feel like an impending inevitability, it's important to remember that having the opportunity to age is a blessing. To make the most of it, dig into caring for your complexion as the years pass—but first, spend some time learning about what is happening internally. And the best way to do that is to recognize the early sings of skin aging and have an open dialogue with your dermatologist. We want to help you do both. Ahead, you'll find the most common indicators of maturing skin, as well as some important questions to ask your dermatologist when you notice them.

What are the early signs of aging?

According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, the most obvious harbingers of skin aging are fine lines and wrinkles. "These occur in areas of frequent expression, such as on the forehead, between the eyebrows, and around the eyes and mouth, and are often due to a loss of collagen over time," she says. Dullness is also common—if you've ever looked in the mirror and felt like your skin looked less than luminous, you're experiencing dull skin. "As we age, skin cell turnover slows down and dead skin cells can accumulate on the surface, causing the skin to lose its radiance," she adds.

In that same vein, sudden dryness is another sign of aging. "While people of all ages can experience dry skin, as we age, we become drier, as there is a natural loss of hyaluronic acid and ceramides which help us retain moisture," Dr. Garshick continues. Hyperpigmentation is another unexpected indicator of aging—it's a symptom we often hear about, but don't always affiliate with skin maturation. "Hyperpigmentation can appear as sun spots or discoloration in areas of sun exposure, with many people noticing an increased amount as they get older as a result of cumulative sun exposure," she says. Lastly, laxity (or sagging) is another clear sign: "As we get older and experience collagen loss and bone resorption, the skin loses some of its structural support and begins to sag, which can appear as jowling," she notes.

What's the difference between natural skin changes and cancer?

While the aforementioned symptoms are normal and are simply something to prepare for, others are far more serious. Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, a board-certified dermatologist with Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, says that any new or changing spot or bump—whether it's brown, black, pink, white, warty, bruise-like, or asymmetrical—needs to be monitored, as it could be cancerous. "Really, if it's new or changing and doesn't go away in two to three weeks, go visit your dermatologist," she urges.

What can you do to slow down the process?

Prevention is key, and it starts with a foundational skin care routine that involves plenty of sunscreen. "But there are certain procedures such as injectables and lasers that can be used to help slow down the aging process, as well, preventing or improving the appearance of fine lines while still maintaining a natural look," Dr. Garshick adds. "Some of these procedures may help to stimulate collagen production, leading to long-lasting benefits for the skin."

older woman wearing glasses
Credit: Getty / Morsa Images

What can I do for my neck, chest, and hands?

We become so fixated on our faces, that we often forget about our necks and chest—which are an extension of our visages!—and fail to realize that our hands are one of first places where skin aging occurs. Asking your dermatologist how to handle these areas will ensure that they don't age at a different rate than your face.

What is a good at-home regimen?

You don't have to go to a dermatologist every time you want to improve your complexion. By asking them how to create a regimen—with your specific concerns in mind—at home, you'll be able to care for your skin without their constant attention. "Often your dermatologist can assess your skin and determine what would be best for an at-home anti-aging routine," Dr. Garshick explains. "At the very least, it often will include sunscreen, moisturizer, a retinol or retinoid, as well as an antioxidant, such as vitamin C."

Should I consider Botox?

There's not a specific "age" to begin considering injectables, note our experts. "Your dermatologist can help evaluate your skin and determine if you would be a good candidate for neurotoxin or Botox," Dr. Garshick says. "Often, we say that the best time to start is just as you start noticing lines to help prevent them from getting deeper."

What anti-aging products are the most effective?

There are endless skincare options on the market, and it can be difficult to understand which are actually worth the investment. "Don't hesitate to speak with your board-certified dermatologist to help you determine which products make sense to use," Dr. Garshick adds. "For some skincare ingredients, there are various drugstore options that can help the skin without costing a lot of money. That said, there are also some areas where it may be worth spending a little extra money on a product if it means you will use it and get the results you want."

Why is my skin aging earlier than expected?

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that everyone's skin is different and, as a result, yours may age differently than someone else's. "Each person has their own genetics and lifestyle choices; exposure to UV radiation and environmental stressors also differ," Dr. MacGregor says. "The skin will age differently depending on what skin condition you have." Ultimately, even though you know what to ask your dermatologist (and what to be on the lookout for) your skin will age how it's destined to do so—so try not to get too caught up in it. However, if you'd like to take a proactive role, Dr. Garshick reminds us that, "as with many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While some of the changes related to aging may be genetic and inevitable, there are things that can be done to slow down the process, as opposed to waiting until all the changes are noticeable."

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