The two biggest enemies to your skin—on your face, especially, but anywhere else—are damage from the sun and the natural weakening of the underlying structures of your skin. With the right habits and the right products you can slow down the aging process—at any age. Here’s a decade-by-decade look at taking of your mug.
In Your 20s, Invest in Your Future
“The single most important thing you should be doing during your 20s is protecting your skin from the sun,” says New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. Sun damage that can happen early in your life can weaken the foundation of your skin and affect how it ages over time. A whole crop of new sunscreens like EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 ($33) are designed for daily use and are lightweight, clear, and easy to wear so that you won’t feel like you’re hitting the beach on the way to the office. Also: Wash your face twice a day (morning and night). Look for a cleanser that contains salicylic acid like Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control 3-in-1 Foaming Wash.
In Your 30s, Nurture the Face You Have
Skin-cell turnover starts to slow down. “The skin can’t protect itself as well as it used to from the environment,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Collagen and elastin start to weaken, and fine lines can start to appear.” Products with retinol like Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum ($22) can stimulate collagen production, which strengthens skin from the inside out and increases cell turnover to keep your skin’s surface fresh and diminish early signs of aging. Retinol can be irritating at first, so add a pea-sized amount to your moisturizer every other night and work your way up. Also: Find a hyaluronic-acid serum like Vichy Minéral 89 Fortifying and Hydrating Daily Skin Booster to help your skin cells retain moisture and function better.
In Your 40s, Build Your Defense
In this decade, most of us start to see new spots and uneven skin tone, much of which is caused by sun damage from our earlier years. “Vitamin C is your go-to ingredient,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Think of this potent antioxidant as an insurance policy on your sunscreen. Put it on every morning under your SPF.” It’s been shown that daily use of vitamin C helps combat new UV damage as well as repair existing pigmentation issues. Try PCA Skin C&E Advanced with Hexylresorcinol and Silymarin ($115). Also: Schedule a yearly full-body checkup with your dermatologist to monitor moles and sun spots. If you don’t have a dermatologist, get one.
In Your 50s, Fight the Good Fight
“In your 50s, skin starts to get dry and dull,” says Dr. Zeichner. Not only does it lose hydration, but our skin’s natural ability to purge dead skin cells slows down, which can leave them on the surface and give skin a sallow look. Using heavier, more hydrating creams will help, as well as a chemical exfoliator like Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel packets ($88) to get rid of those dead cells. “Adding a hydroxy acid to your routine will help dissolve connections between skin cells so they can be shed more easily,” says Dr. Zeichner. “This will improve light reflection off the skin to brighten a dull complexion.” Also: Switch to a gentle, hydrating cleanser like Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar, which won’t disrupt your skin’s pH balance. And keep using sunscreen!
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