Skincare for Every Age
Get the facts on caring for your skin in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s
1. Skincare in Your 20s
What’s up with your skin?
“The mantra that the 20s are all about prevention is very true,” says Dr. Marie-Christine Roy, a dermatologist in Saint-Lambert, Que. “At that age, skin is collagen-rich, bouncy with oodles of elastin and glowing with youth, and cell turnover is at its optimum.”
What to do? First and foremost, keep skin looking young with judicious use of sunscreen-UV protection of at least 30-year-round. Skin type matters, too, whether sensitive, dry, combination, normal or oily. Oily skin may not need a moisturizer on top of sunscreen in warmer months, but in winter will welcome a light gel-cream or fluid on top. Drier skin will benefit from a layer of rich, creamy moisturizer no matter what the season.
Many women get breakouts in their 20s. To avoid this, “choose non-oily skincare products with ‘non-comedogenic’ printed on the label,” advises Dr. Alain Dansereau, a dermatologist in Repentigny, Que. “Non-comedogenic” means that the formula won’t clog pores (clogged pores lead to blackheads and whiteheads).
Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), is an effective ingredient for treating pimples and is common in over-the-counter acne-fighting care, from face washes to moisturizers to spot creams. It exfoliates the skin to help prevent clogged pores. Also effective against acne are dermatologist-prescribed creams with retinoids (anti-aging agents derived from vitamin A), as they boost the natural exfoliation process to help keep skin clear.
However, according to Roy, retinoids can be drying or irritating for people with very fair skin, such as natural blondes or redheads. “These are better tolerated by people with oilier complexions,” she says. People with more delicate skin will need to start with a low concentration every two or three days, and work up to daily use. Talk to a dermatologist to assess your particular needs.
2. Skincare in Your 30s
What’s Up With Your Skin?
Cell renewal and oil (sebum) production begin to slow. Expect to see the first signs of aging, such as expression lines around eyes, on the forehead and between the nose and mouth, and freckles, the result of oxidative damage if you’ve had too much sun in your younger years. If you’ve taken care, however, you might not see these changes until your late 30s, notes Roy, so don’t panic and change everything on your 30th birthday.
What to do? Along with maintaining the excellent SPF habits you developed in your 20s (right?), take further preventive action with moisturizers containing antioxidants such as green tea, grape seed, coffeeberry, vitamin C, niacinamide and ferulic acid. In proper concentrations and mixed with the right ingredients, these can protect against free radicals (collagen-attacking unstable atoms created by UV exposure), and can lessen early evidence of sun damage as well as help prevent the appearance of new damage.
Use a moisturizer regularly, and augment that with an antioxidant serum. According to Dansereau, serums can be more potent than creams and absorb more easily. (He recommends a serum with a 10 percent concentration of active vitamin C derivative MAP, which stands for magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.) Exfoliation once or twice per week with a gentle scrub can help pick up the slack now that cell turnover is slowing. For sun-damaged skin with dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles, your dermatologist may suggest retinoids, which include retinol (a milder form available without prescription), and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic acid, which further increase cell turnover to fade discoloration and help smooth the skin. (Retinoids and AHAs make skin more sun-sensitive, however, so diligence with sunscreen is crucial.) Non-prescription botanicals such as kojic acid, and arbutin, also called bearberry, can also help lessen the look of mild hyperpigmentation.
3. Skincare in Your 40s
What’s up with your skin?
According to Roy, “the 40s bring a big change.” The skin starts to thin, cell turnover slows further, and collagen, elastin and moisture levels drop. All of this results in drier skin with reduced firmness and bounce. “Hormones can play a role in dryness, but we don’t know the exact role they play,” notes Roy.
Many women notice more pronounced fine lines, a loss of glow or radiance, and damage caused by sun exposure or cigarette smoking.
What to do? “Now you definitely need to add active ingredients,” says Roy. It’s also a good time for eye cream, she adds.
SPF and antioxidants are still important to prevent further damage, and you may want to exfoliate a little more often, to prevent skin from looking dull. Tweak your existing regimen to target particular issues.
To counteract dull skin, use a quality vitamin C serum if you aren’t already. Salicylic and glycolic acids are good radiance boosters, too, thanks to their exfoliating properties. Retinoic acid, a prescription-strength retinoid, serves the same purpose-with a bonus: “It extends the life of collagen,” says Roy.
Ingredients that stimulate collagen production are also key at this age. Enter peptides and pentapeptides. Short chains of amino acids, they signal fibroblasts (connective-tissue cells) to produce collagen in the skin, explains Roy. The connective tissue gets stronger, too, which helps maintain skin firmness.
A richer moisturizer than you may have needed in your 30s will also improve firmness as well as radiance by slightly plumping the skin. Hyaluronic acid and ceramides can offset the slowdown of sebum production and temper any dryness that might result from increased exfoliation: Hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet able to hold 1,000 times its molecular weight in water; ceramides contain fatty acids that help skin retain moisture. Both ingredients can be found in cream, serum and treatment-masque forms.
4. Skincare in Your 50s +
What’s up with your skin? Hormonal changes drop estrogen levels, which significantly cuts collagen production and hydration. Expect deeper wrinkles and a more pronounced loss of elasticity, bounce and radiance. As well, for some people, skin can become sensitive during menopause. With age, skin is more prone to redness and inflammation, depending on genetics, sun and cold exposure, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, notes Roy.
What to do? “You definitely need retinoids if you want to hang on to collagen,” says Roy. “It becomes a more important ingredient as you age.” Collagen-building peptides are also key to help with sagging, as well as topical vitamin C. Moisture-boosting ingredients including hyaluronic acid and ceramides help skin retain the extra hydration it needs. And keep using that SPF regularly.
Dansereau suggests using skincare products that contain epidermal growth factors, which he says can help regenerate collagen and elastin. However, such creams (from department stores and premium brands) can be very expensive, he notes. More affordable drugstore formulas tap