Aging has many perks, and if we’re doing it right, we’re reaping its many benefits. We are wiser. We’ve gained experience and confidence; we care less about what others think and more about what’s important, like enjoying life and living each and every day to its fullest.
While we feel more comfortable with the skin we're in, changes due to aging are inevitable, so it is important to understand your skin and tailor your skincare routine to its current needs. The products you loved in your 20's and 30's may not meet the needs of your skin today. “With each decade, there’s a more significant loss of collagen and elastin in the skin, and our repair mechanisms to fight off the damage get weaker,” explains Tanya Kormeili, M.D. a board-certified dermatologist in Santa Monica, California.
What’s aging our skin? Many things. Some can’t be controlled – like the natural aging process and your genes (known as “intrinsic aging” in medical terms). And then, there’s “extrinsic aging” – basics like environmental factors and your lifestyle choices.
Free radicals are created by all sorts of damaging insults – UV light, pollution, and smoking, says dermatologist Deirdre Hooper, MD. and co-founder of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, LA. “Through a process called oxidation, these free radicals bind to – and damage – your skin’s collagen and elastin,” she explains.
Just in case you needed yet another reason to skip sugar-laden foods here’s one more: It’s not just your waistline that sugar affects. Those sugar molecules like to hook up with the proteins in your skin (the same ones - collagen and elastin - that help your skin look youthful) becoming glycated proteins known as AGES (advanced glycation end products) which cause wrinkles, sagginess and dull skin - definitely not your skin’s BFF.
But don't fret. Yes, there may be a lot to think about, but there are so many ways to help your skin age well and be the best version of you, at the age you are. You can embrace a few wrinkles while celebrating every birthday - after all, you've earned those wrinkles through smiling, frowning, and just living life- and they’re what makes you uniquely you.
To help you better understand your skin and how to adjust your routine, we've made it easy for you by breaking down what to look for by age, and some non-invasive topical ways to care for your skin at every age.
Your 40's: What’s Happening?
Only the genetically gifted (or those who have never seen the light of day) escape a wrinkle or two by this decade. "Yes, gravity begins to take its toll. But it’s never too early to start treating your skin," says dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, MD, and director of New York Laser and Skincare.
- Estrogen levels decline and affect skin’s firmness, elasticity, and moisture.
- Wrinkles and lines begin to set in.
- Perimenopause fluctuating hormones can cause adult acne, especially around chin and jawline. “About 40 percent of women in their 40's have acne,” says Dr. Kauvar.
- Skin tone becomes uneven and blotchy.
- New lines appear as elasticity decreases.
- Fine lines deepen as collagen declines.
- Dark spots begin to appear.
- Skin cell turnover slows, creating a dull tone and accentuating lines and wrinkles.
Your Age Less Arsenal:
- Apply UV protection every day.
- Begin using a light exfoliating cleanser to help with skin turnover.
- Combat acne with treatments containing benzoyl peroxide (make sure to choose those for sensitive skin, since many acne treatments are made with tougher teenage skin in mind). If the issue persists, consult your dermatologist for prescription alternatives.
- Look for formulas that combine peptides (which can help repair and replenish, and build declining collagen to lessen the appearance of wrinkles) and plant stem cells such as edelweiss or mushrooms (natural ingredients known to help repair and speed up skin's ability to renew itself).
- Treat uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation with natural lightening agents like soy or licorice, or formulas that combine vitamin C or E. Lifestyle changes including UV protection are also important.
- Topical vitamin A-based drugs called retinoids boost production of collagen, unclog pores, reduce fine lines and speed skin cell turnover. These can also fade age spots, improve skin color and even out pigmentation; and are some of the most proven and effective skin treatments.
- A retinoid may be too strong for those with sensitive skin; if that’s you, look for an over-the-counter product containing retinol, which is much gentler than prescription retinoids. “After more than 40 years of research and clinical study, there’s an increasingly solid body of evidence that retinols regulate skin function in a positive way,” says dermatologist Craig Kraffert, MD, and founder of DermStore.
- Use an eye cream (tap, don’t rub!) containing retinol or retinaldehyde (a milder form of vitamin A) to help improve crow’s-feet.
Your 50’s: What’s Happening?
Life often gets better and less stressful, and there’s more time for fun; more time to focus on YOU. But with that, hormonal changes from menopause may make it seem that your skin has changed practically overnight.
- Blame menopause and the loss of estrogen (which supports healthy skin cell functioning) for many of your skin’s textural changes.
- Collagen production, the “scaffold” that gives the skin its underlying strength and structure, slows. It’s estimated that skin loses one-third of its collagen within five years of menopause, some of which is caused by free radicals.
- Skin becomes less hydrated and more sensitive.
- Lips get dry, and fine lines begin to surface on and around the lip area.
- Wrinkles and lines increase and deepen.
- There is a happy note - post menopause brings a few benefits too; that pesky acne usually clears up, pore size is smaller and skin is more consistent.
Your Age Less Arsenal:
- Continue using your treatment products for specific skin concerns.
- Light and gentle exfoliants can help slough off dead skin cells and smooth and brighten skin.
- Active ingredients like glycolic acid (GA) can deeply penetrate the skin and help treat wrinkles and lines; they can also improve skin texture by gently removing the outer layer of dead cells and stimulating collagen growth to help address firmness and sagging.
- Antioxidants like vitamins E and C help neutralize free radical damage. “Consider it an added layer of protection in addition to your sunscreen,” says Dr. Kauvar. Other antioxidant sources include plant stem cells from fruits such as apples or grapes or formulas made with green tea.
- Use a hydrating lip treatment to help plump, improve texture and reduce fine lines around the mouth.
- Add a nighttime booster a few times each week, or when your skin needs extra TLC.
- Products containing hyaluronic acid can plump and hydrate parched skin.
- Hydroxy acids and beta hydroxyl acids can unclog pores, and soften fine lines by speeding cell turnover.
Your 60’s: What’s Happening?
At this age, skin becomes more fragile; so it’s important to treat it with gentle products, and supplement your routine with a nightly booster that focuses on hydration, and free radical reduction which becomes tougher to control as we age.
- As skin becomes thinner, it loses firmness and texture and becomes more translucent.
- Dark spots develop in new places (like the hands).
- Skin is dehydrated and very dry.
- Skin tags (small, soft and harmless skin growths) may surface; most commonly on your eyelids and neck. These can be removed by a dermatologist.
- Wrinkles and lines continue to increase and deepen.
Your Age Less Arsenal:
- Layer your retinoid, antioxidant or other booster with a moisturizer to make it less irritating to your sensitive skin.
- Start using your dark spot corrector on your hands too.
- Exfoliate lightly, and less frequently; with a product that’s mild and suits your skin type.
- Continue to look for products with natural ingredients (better for sensitive skin) such as plant stem cells, which offer unique regenerative powers of grape, coneflower, apple, edelweiss, mushroom, lilac and argan.
- Use a lip-specific product with peptides.
- Don’t forget to moisturize the skin on your neck and décolletage, which is thin and lacking in oil glands.