We don't know how to stop the clock, but we can help you fool the cameras and mirrors into thinking you’re a younger you. Here’s some essential tips to get the skin care routine you need.
Cleansing is important for removing any skin care product or makeup that you’ve applied during the day, as well as natural skin oils, pollutants, and bacteria that’s accumulated. It also means your skin care products will be able to enter your skin and work more effectively!
You’ll want to use a gentle cleanser to preserve your skin barrier and keep it resistant to dehydration and damage. Cleansers with a high pH like natural soaps are very harsh and can leave your skin vulnerable to irritation and infection. Cleansers with a low pH, such as this one by Cosrx ($10.75 on Amazon), work to maintain optimal skin balance.
Another ingredient to avoid is sodium lauryl sulfate, as it’s very harsh. You also don’t need to buy cleansers with fancy, active ingredients. Cleanser’s aren’t on your skin for very long. Those active ingredients are far more useful in later steps, like when you apply serum.
Do you need a toner?
Toners were developed in the past to restore the low pH of the skin after washing with a high-pH cleanser. If you’re using a cleanser with a low pH, then a toner is unnecessary. It’s much better to avoid damage in the first place than to undo it later!
As you age, your skin slows down replenishing itself. Dead skin cells aren’t replaced by fresh cells as quickly, which means your skin starts to look dull and uneven, and may even crack. Exfoliants are a great way to help get dead cells off your skin.
There are two main categories of exfoliants: physical and chemical. It’s best to avoid harsh physical exfoliants, such as sugar scrubs and cleansers with beads, because it makes your skin more susceptible to sagging. Instead, choose a washcloth or a soft sponge, like this Konjac sponge with activated charcoal ($9.57 on Amazon), that can handle your skin’s needs.
Chemical exfoliants gradually dissolve the bonds between skin cells and allow them to detach. They’re also suitable for skin of any age! The best exfoliants for maturing skin are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and lactic acid. You can also find these acids in toners, serums, and at-home peels.
Bonus tip: AHAs are also great for fading uneven pigmentation, and will help hydrate your skin as well! One great product is this Gylo-Luronic Acid serum ($5.00 on Makeup Artist’s Choice), that has a mix of glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid. It has properties to exfoliate and moisturize your skin.
In general, serums contain a higher concentration of active ingredients than a moisturizer. The best anti-aging ingredients to look out for are vitamin A derivatives known as retinoids (retinol, tretinoin, and tazarotene) and vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate). As well as increasing collagen in your skin, they also act as antioxidants to soak up the biological and environmental oxidative stress that builds up to cause aging.
If you’re new to serums, you can try this affordable, vegan, and cruelty-free vitamin C serum ($5.80 from The Ordinary) — although the formulation doesn’t allow for a serum-like texture. Want to try making it yourself? Check out my own super easy DIY vitamin C serum.
With age also comes less sebum. While this means less chance of acne, it also means your skin will dry out more easily. One of the big reasons for fine lines is inadequate skin hydration, but luckily it’s easy to fix with a good moisturizer!
Look for a moisturizer that contains water-binding humectants like glycerine and hyaluronic acid. An occlusive like petrolatum (commercially known as Vaseline, although Aquaphor also works) and mineral oil at night can prevent water evaporating from your skin. But be sure your skin is clean to avoid trapping bacteria!
Sun protection is one surefire way to keep your skin looking as young as possible. The sun is responsible for so much of your skin’s visible signs of aging that sun damage gets its own special category in dermatology: photoaging.
The sun’s UV rays can cause aging by:
- breaking down collagen and causing abnormalities in elastin, leading to thinner skin and wrinkles
- causing uneven pigmented patches to develop
So use sunscreen, and not just for the beach — use it every day. A daily application of a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen can fade age spots, improve skin texture, and flatten out wrinkles by 20 percent in only three months, according to a recent study. The researchers suggest that it’s because sunscreen lets the skin take a break from being continually battered by UV rays, so its own powerful regenerative abilities have a chance to work.
You can protect your skin from the sun in other ways as well. Wearing sun protective clothing like long-sleeve shirts, hats, and sunglasses, and avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, will reduce your exposure to aging and carcinogenic UV rays.
And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t intentionally sunbake. Use fake tanning spray or lotion instead, if you’re after a truly healthy glow.
One of the key reasons wrinkles happen is due to damage to your skin, and since older skin is more fragile, trauma can have larger effects. While there isn’t much evidence on the impact of how you apply your skin care products, studies have found that pressing your face against a pillow as you sleep can cause permanent “sleep wrinkles.”
So it makes sense to err on the side of caution and avoid strong rubbing and tugging motions as you wash your face and apply your skin care products.
Look after the rest of your body too
Apart from your face, the key areas that expose your age are your neck, chest, and hands. Make sure you don’t neglect those areas! Keep them covered in sunscreen, and no one will ever know your true age.
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Michelle explains the science behind beauty products on her blog, Lab Muffin Beauty Science. She has a PhD in synthetic medicinal chemistry and you can follow her for science-based beauty tips on Instagram and Facebook.