Chances are you or someone you know has used the same skincare products for years. It's a common mistake many women make because the ingredients can't address all of your changing skin concerns as you age. The truth is women of different age groups have different skincare needs. Here, with the help of two top dermatologists, we reveal your decade-by-decade guide to skincare to help you repair your skin and reclaim a glowing complexion.
Dermatologist Dr Adam Sheridan says the skin undergoes significant transformation as we age. "It is important to recognise that our skin changes with time," he says. "Just as we tend not to wear the same fashions at 60 as we did at 20, so, too, our skincare approach should evolve to meet changing needs.
"Individuals transition from 'base care' to 'maintenance and support' and then onto 'repair and remodelling' phases as they age," he explains.
Most women in their 20s have good skin with few concerns. "Adolescent acne has cleared, although a small percentage of people have ongoing problems with pimples into their 30s and 40s even [five per cent of women still have acne at the age of 40]," says dermatologist Dr Michelle Hunt. For women in their 20s, Dr Hunt says, "Skin cell turnover is still good, so the skin generally still has its 'youthful glow'. As we age, the slowing of this skin cell turnover results in a duller, more sallow-looking complexion."
Women in this age group have minimal wrinkles and barely any visible sun damage or pigment changes. Dr Sheridan says these women should be focusing on preserving their skin with a good skincare regimen and a healthy lifestyle.
"The essentials are a gentle and hydrating cleansing and moisturising regimen, and a daily broad-spectrum 50+ sunscreen," advises Dr Sheridan. "Avoid those factors which will accelerate your skin's decline. Cardinal sins are excessive sun exposure and extremes of diet and lifestyle."
Lifestyle choices in your 30s can disturb the skin's health. "Exposure to sunlight, pollution and smoking causes oxidative stress on the skin," says Dr Hunt. Then, for women having children, there's the chance of developing pregnancy-related problems, including stretch marks, facial pigmentation (melasma) and vascular "spider naevi".
"Something as simple as number and timing of pregnancies can have profound effects upon skin behaviour and changes – as any mother will tell you," says Dr Sheridan. "This is also the decade of what I refer to as 'invisible ageing'."
Although early signs of "ageing" may appear, such as fine lines (crow's feet, smile lines), broken capillaries and open pores, Dr Sheridan says "this is when the seeds of future ageing are sown. Careful, sustained focus upon prevention and maintenance, at both surface and body-wide levels, will yield profound future benefits."
AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic and lactic acids) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid, also known as salicylic acid) will help exfoliate and remove dead skin cells to reveal more glowing skin. Introducing a serum to your skincare regimen and switching your everyday moisturiser to one with anti-ageing ingredients (such as retinol or antioxidants) will greatly benefit the skin.
A serum should be used after cleansing and before applying a moisturiser. The active ingredients in the serum penetrate your skin faster, targeting the signs of ageing.
"This is when 'visible ageing' starts," says Dr Sheridan. "Genetics, hormones and immune status remain central, and are now responding to the cumulative 'slings and arrows' of life. Past missteps start to visibly manifest."
Serums and moisturisers that contain antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E and green tea, may promote cellular repair, which will improve the skin's appearance. They will also help prevent damage from free radicals, such as pollution and smoking, which can result in wrinkles and a dull complexion.
If hyperpigmentation (dark spots) are noticeable on the skin, add a brightening cream to the mix and ensure you're using SPF50+ to prevent more sun damage. It's also important to use a neck and décolletage cream on the upper chest and neck area. This will help to keep the skin firm and supple, while smoothing out any wrinkles.
"Now is the time to take action to prevent further damage and to hopefully reverse the damage already done," says Dr Sheridan. "There is still much time to alter the trajectory of one's ageing."
The rate of ageing appears to accelerate in this decade as skin cell turnover slows dramatically. Many women notice deeper wrinkles and the skin on their face starts to sag. Increasing the skin's elasticity and preventing dehydration should be the focus of any skincare regimen during your 50s.
A quality serum, eye cream, SPF moisturiser and night cream should be used daily, along with a hydrating mask once or twice a week. This will significantly improve the skin's overall appearance.
For those who prefer to go one step further, topical skincare is complemented by chemical peels and non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as wrinkle relaxants and soft tissue fillers, according to Dr Sheridan.
"A common mistake is to overly focus upon one 'target' while ignoring the other components of healthy skin by effacing every wrinkle and expression line in sight with Botox, peels and laser, and ignoring the overall movement and character of a healthy attractive face. Don't erase your wrinkles at the expense of your personality," he says.
To smooth out wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, and on the forehead, stronger topical skincare products may be needed to make a difference to the skin's tone and elasticity. Look for products that hydrate and boost collagen.
When it comes to removing dirt, opt for a gentle cleansing milk that will clean your face while nurturing dry skin. You can also help your skin by consuming vitamin E-rich foods, such as oily fish, almonds, spinach and olive oil. Vitamin E promotes new cell growth and will make the skin's surface appear more radiant.
"From your 60s and 70s onwards, consider adding non-surgical collagen and elastin replacement [soft tissue fillers], and remodelling [using lasers, light and radiofrequency] to the mix, as well as a redoubled focus upon life and health-prolonging dietary, lifestyle and hormonal measures," advises Dr Sheridan.
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