Anti-ageing skincare can be overwhelming. There's the ever-expanding catalogue of super-ingredients we're apparently supposed to synthesise into an achievable daily routine in pursuit of smooth, wrinkle-free skin.
Then there's the reams and reams of seemingly contradictory wisdom about the relative merits of said super-ingredients that you'll find on the Internet. To use retinol or not to use retinol? So goes the skincare-based existential crisis.
If your 3-0 milestone is on the approach, the chances are you want simple answers to just a handful of key anti-ageing questions: When should I start? How should I change my routine? And can starting early do more harm than good?
We asked four skincare experts to share their thoughts on those very subjects. Consider this anti-ageing 101 - and remember that prevention is always better than cure.
When should I start using anti-ageing products?
According to clinical facialist Kate Kerr, "it's really never too early to start thinking about preventing the ageing process," but our late twenties marks the point when we need to start taking anti-ageing seriously.
"When we hit 28, our collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production declines. Collagen gives skin its strength, elastin its stretchiness and hyaluronic acid its hydration and plumpness: together they are what keeps our skin looking youthful," she explains.
"Therefore, if we don't use products to kick start production again, we'll begin to see the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, increased dehydration as well as loss of volume and sagging becoming evident in our thirties. The skin's cell turnover also slows at this age, causing the skin to absorb light rather than reflect it, making the skin look dull."
Consider your skin type, too. "Dehydrated and sensitive skin may start to show the signs of ageing sooner than an oily or combination complexion," say Andrea and Valerija, the skincare experts at Gazelli House in Chelsea, adding that the "eyes and neck" are typically the first areas to focus on.
"Always take products down to the neck, even when cleansing," she recommends.
How should my skincare routine change as I move into my thirties?
To lay the groundwork for better skin in your late twenties and beyond, it's important not to fall into a common skincare trap - becoming dependent on over-moisturising.
"As we get to our mid-twenties, some of our skin cells which are responsible for the process of exfoliation in the uppermost layer of the skin start to slow down," explains Dr Rikin Parekh of Avanti Aesthetics.
"We start to notice roughness as a result. Most people misinterpret this as dryness and reach for a moisturiser. This 'false' moisture doesn't penetrate the uppermost layer of dead skin cells and can result in the weakening of our skin's natural barrier."
So, what does a good preventative skin care routine actually look like?
Dr Rikin Parekh suggests including a good cleanser, exfoliation and a functional day cream, which would replace a moisturiser. It provides antioxidant protection to combat free radical damage and help support the skin's natural mechanism to repair and protect.
Seek out products, with active ingredients that will increase the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid.
"Adding a retinol or Vitamin A product to your regime will stimulate skin to produce more of these structural components, as will treatments like micro-needling," Kate suggests.
If there's one thing our experts agree on, it's that when it comes to ageing, prevention is always better than cure. Incorporate a daily SPF into your routine if you don't wear one already, add an antioxidant serum and try to exfoliate once or twice a week with an acid-based liquid exfoliant.
Facialist and skincare expert Abigail James recommends adding products containing Vitamin C to your regime.
"It's a great antioxidant that's good for supporting pigmentation issues and for brightening, which all skins benefit from," she says.
Can starting anti-ageing products too early have a negative effect?
If we choose to believe one persistent piece of skincare legend, getting a head start on anti-ageing products can have the opposite effect to the desired one, causing the complexion to become lazy and slack over time.
For Kate Kerr, doing so isn't necessarily detrimental, just unnecessary.
"Before we hit 25, our skin is still effectively producing collagen, so incorporating products to stimulate this is quite simply a waste of money and time," she says.
Abigail James agrees. "You won't suddenly need products that are too rich as they will overload the skin and could bring out spots and milia (small white bumps below the skin)."
Should you introduce retinol into your skincare arsenal, it's always worth doing so slowly and cautiously, especially if you are still in your mid to late twenties.
"Keep it low level, below 0.5%, while your cell turnover is still good," she suggests. "You don't want to thin the skin."
This article originally appeared on Grazia Daily.