Anti-Aging at Every Age
In Your 20s
What's Going On: Not much (lucky you!). "Women in their 20s typically aren't seeing the signs of aging yet," says Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. While your skin might be supple, glowing, and healthy, your 20s are a crucial decade for prevention. What you do (or don't do) now will affect how your skin looks in the coming years.
"A common misconception is that anti-aging therapy should only start once you see signs of skin aging," says Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell, M.D, a dermatologist, dermatopathologist, and creator of VMV Hypoallergenics. "But prevention is just as important as therapy when it comes to aging," she says.
Essential for Your 20s: Sunscreen
Daily broad-spectrum sunscreen is nonnegotiable. Frank suggests wearing at least SPF 30 to ward off sun damage. Try Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($9; target.com).
Extra Credit for Your 20s: Antioxidants
Add some antioxidants such as green tea, grapeseed extract, or vitamins C and E to your daily regimen to protect skin against cell-damaging free radical damage. Every morning, apply an antioxidant-based serum or day cream before you apply your sunscreen. Try Dr. Brandt XYY Face Cream ($59; sephora.com).
In Your 30s
What’s Going On: This is the age when skin starts to look a bit dull. Cell turnover begins to slow and so dead skin cells don’t slough off as quickly as they used to. Plus, thanks to hormonal shifts (like pregnancy) as well as years of unprotected sun exposure, you may be seeing some brown splotches or spots, Frank says.
Essential for Your 30s: Exfoliating Treatment
Mild exfoliation three times a week will help you shed the complexion-dulling buildup on skin's surface so fresh, brighter, and more even-looking skin can shine through. Do it with a glycolic acid based at-home peel. Try Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Facial Pads ($13; target.com).
Extra Credit for Your 30s: Pigment Lighteners
For stubborn brown spots, try over-the-counter ingredients that work to block the enzyme that tells your cells to pump out excess melanin. Some ingredients to look for: kojic acid, licorice, mulberry, vitamin C, and arbutin. Try La Roche Posay Mela-D Dark Spot Moisturizer SPF 15 ($50; cvs.com), which contains kojic acid.
In Your 40s
What’s Going On: “This is the time when women start complaining about lines and wrinkles,” Frank says. A combination of sun damage and genetics causes collagen to break down, allowing creases to become etched into skin’s surface.
Essential for Your 40s: Retinoids
These vitamin-A derivatives thicken the skin by stimulating fresh collagen -- plumping wrinkles from the inside out. See your dermatologist for a potent prescription retinoid such as Renova or Tazarac. Or, try over-the-counter versions such as retinol. Try Garnier Ultra-Lift 2-in-1 Wrinkle Reducer Serum + Moisturizer ($17; cvs.com).
Extra Credit for Your 40s: A Moisturizer that Contains Humectants
Hydrators such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin will boost skin’s natural moisture content, giving skin a visible plump and off-setting any drying effects of your topical retinoids. Try: Neutrogena Deep Moisture Night Cream ($12.50; neutrogena.com).
In Your 50s and Beyond
What’s Going On: Previous damage, combined with gravity, can leave skin less than firm. This is typically the age when women start to notice their skin, especially around the jowls and neckline, start to sag, explains Frank. Plus, hormonal changes (like menopause) leave skin extremely dry.
Essential for Your 50s and Beyond: Barrier Repair Cream
To replenish essential skin lipids lost with age (and give skin’s surface a temporary plump), look for rich creams that contain fatty acids such as ceramides, shea butter, and evening primrose oil. Try: Dermalogica Barrier Repair Shielding Protective Moisturizer ($42; dermalogica.com).
Extra Credit for Your 50s and Beyond: Non-Irritating Firming Ingredients
Like retinoids, peptides and growth factors stimulate fresh collagen and elastin, leading to a tightening effect on surface skin -- only they're not as irritating to dry, sensitive skin. Try: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum ($29; ulta.com). Layer it on under your barrier cream.