Your best skin starts now

Aging: It’s a process that elicits mixed emotions. Some signs appear slowly and softly, while others can demand attention. For the most part, early attention with topical treatments is the first line of all-natural defense, especially for those in their 20s and 30s. But if expensive creams and chemical peels are no longer effective, then this guide is for you.

Most of aging is influenced by genetics, ethnicity, sun exposure, and what you do (or don’t do) to care for your skin. According to Jeremy Brauer, MD, clinical assistant professor at New York University, the most noticeable changes are:

  • decreased skin elasticity
  • darker pigmentation
  • pore size
  • pronounced fine lines
  • overall thinning of the muscle and fat of the face

If you feel your skin isn’t acting your age, here’s what modern skin can care do for you.

Anti-aging essentials in your 40s

People start to notice the appearance of aging in their 30s and 40s, says David Lortscher, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of the teledermatology practice Curology.

“The natural life cycle of skin begins to slow down, meaning the appearance of discoloration, wrinkles, sagging, and reduction of collagen production takes place,” he says. Hormonal changes may also trigger adult acne, giving you flashbacks to teenage breakouts.

Best Skin

If you’re not already using anti-aging skin care products in your 40s, now’s the time. For his clients’ custom prescription formulations, Lortscher uses vitamin C and retinoids. These two topical ingredients are backed by decades of research and clinical trials.

Retinoids like tretinoin come with a clinical trial pedigree. They’re used to stimulate collagen, prevent and treat existing wrinkles, and even fight acne if your body has decided to make an attempt at “skin of a teenager” but bungled the details.

There’s a caveat with retinoids, though: They lead to photosensitivity, so dedicated daily use of high-SPF, full-spectrum sunscreen (minimum SPF 50) is a must.

If the barriers of a prescription and photosensitivity are dampening your interest in retinoids, topical vitamin C is a great alternative. It also promotes collagen growth, fights wrinkles, and even cleans up the damage from UV rays, Lortscher says. This antioxidant powerhouse also tackles hyperpigmentation, including acne scars and sunspots.

40s skin kit

  • retinoids
  • vitamin C
  • SPF 50 sunscreen

Anti-aging essentials in your 50s

As the same aging processes of our 40s continues in our 50s, Lortscher warns that menopause may amplify the signs for women. Changing estrogen levels may result in drier skin. The loss of collagen can lead to sagging skin along the jaw and around the eyes. Years of sun exposure will also re-emerge as rough skin texture and sunspots.

Anti-aging

While upping your moisturizer game and using topical treatments (such as retinoids or vitamin C) will help soften and smooth dry, rough skin, you may want to give dermarolling — also called microneedling — a try.

Microneedling might look like a toy version of a medieval torture device (and can be a little uncomfortable), but it may be the key to boosting your collagen at home. It does require a careful sterilization regime, though, since it’s puncturing the skin.

“When done correctly, microneedling creates a small ‘injury’ to the skin, which in turn can increase collagen and elastin production, improve scars and fine wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation, and rejuvenate the skin,” Lortscher says.

He warns against scaling up the size of the needle for faster results. “Deeper penetrations result in pinpoint bleeding and can offer more improvement. However, more aggressive treatments should be performed in-office,” Lortscher says.

Brauer suggests Fraxel, a laser treatment also used for acne scarring and pigmentation. “[It’s] a great treatment to help diminish fine lines and wrinkles and to renew the skin’s surface for a refreshed, youthful glow,” he says.

50s skin kit

  • dermarolling
  • Fraxel
  • SPF 50 sunscreen

Anti-aging essentials in your 60s and beyond

In the advent of our 60s, the most new and noticeable development is thinning of the skin. Topical treatments can continue to fight fine lines and hyperpigmentation and work toward improving firmness and texture. But Lortscher warns that they’re not enough to combat sagging due to lost volume in the face. Thankfully, there are less invasive options if you’re looking for more of a boost than a skin care routine can provide.

Lortscher advises plumping the tissue underneath loose skin with injections. “Volumizers such as Sculptra or Voluma, or fillers such as Radiesse, Restylane, and Juvederm, restore contours that have been lost, providing some ‘lift’ by supporting the overlying skin,” he says.

If your frown lines leave you feeling like it looks you’re having a Monday every day of the week, Brauer suggests Xeomin or Radiesse. Xeomin is better for treating frown lines while Radiesse is a filler that smooths moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds, he says. Brauer also recommends Ultherapy. “[It] uses ultrasound technology to revive collagen production and lift and tighten skin naturally and nonsurgically,” he explains.

60s skin kit

  • volumizers, such as Sculptra and Voluma
  • fillers, such as Radiesse, Restylane, and Juvederm
  • Ultherapy, ultrasound therapy

Anti-aging essentials at any age

New technology has brought a wealth of minimally invasive procedures to fight the signs of aging, as well as new, less irritating topical treatments. But what’s the most effective method to combat the signs of aging? Preventing sun damage.

It’s easy to tell ourselves slipping out to the car for a quick errand without a hat or skipping sunscreen on a cloudy day is harmless. But Lortscher warns that UV damage will eventually catch up to us. “The hard part is there’s a delay between when sun exposure occurred and when its effects manifest,” he says.

So be kind to your current and future self. Skip sunbathing and the tanning booth, rock a hat and sunglasses, and always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen. You’ll enjoy healthy, glowing skin for years to come.


Kate M. Watts is a science enthusiast and beauty writer who dreams of finishing her coffee before it cools. Her home is overrun with old books and demanding houseplants, and she’s accepted her best life comes with a fine patina of dog hair. You can find her on Twitter.