If drugstore shelves are anything to go by, our anti-aging routines should involve approximately 47 products, should take three hours a day, and should have probably started while we were in the womb. There’s so much out there claiming to either stop the clock or do a full-on Benjamin Button, it’s hard to figure out what your skin really needs. So we asked the experts. Here’s what they said about how your skin ages and how (and when) to fight the signs of aging:
In your teens
“A big thing that I stress at this age is DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE!” says Ava Allan, an esthetician with Dirty Girl Farm. It’s likely you’ll also suffer from breakouts, congestion, or acne at some point, she says. So start good skincare habits now. “A regiment of breakout buster products or anything charcoal would be amazing. I recommend a cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, and a weekly exfoliant and mask.” If you use only one product though, make it sunscreen. “I’m a big believer in prevention and slowing down of aging. Children over the age of six months need sunscreen to prevent burns and cumulative sun damage that puts them at risk for skin cancers later in life,” says Dr. Sonam Yadav, Medical Director of Juverne.
In your 20s
“Aging starts at the cellular level at 25,” explains Dr. Yadav. “Younger if you’re abusing your body with a live hard, party hard lifestyle.” So 25 is when you really want to get into an anti-aging skincare routine. And if you have dry skin, you need to take special care to give it some love. “[Dry skin] ages faster and needs special care and intense hydration,” she adds.
Now’s not the time to get lax. “Moisturize well and wear sunscreen. Avoid picking up habits like smoking and scrimping on sleep to stay youthful,” says Dr. Yadav. If your teen acne has followed you into your 20s, the time to fight back is now. “Treating acne aggressively is imperative, as even small scars worsen with age,” she says. Kale extract can also give you a boost, says Allan, whether you’re in your 20s or just partying like it. “[It] tightens skin and lightens undereye circles, so it’s great for any age, but we see a lot of people loving it in their 20s when they are out late partying and up early for work,” Allan says.
In your 30s
This is when you’ll begin to see sun damage if you’ve made it a habit to tan or skip sunscreen, says Allan. “I can almost always tell if someone is the passenger in a car or the driver based on where their sunspots are.” Your skin might get a little more high-maintenance around this time, too. “People will begin to notice crows feet and laugh lines. They may even have new allergies to ingredients or products they never had before, and they may find that their skin needs more hydration at night than it ever did before.”
Dr. Yadav recommends investing in a high-end vitamin C product for daytime and a retinol-based product at bedtime. “[They’ll] target fine lines and improve skin exfoliation that slows down with age. This is [also] a good time to start with bespoke medical facials for skin maintenance.” If you prefer the natural route, Allan recommends Moth Bean Extract. “It’s a natural retinoid and does not have the pesky side effects of lab-created retinols,” she says. “[It’s] fantastic for anyone who is just starting to see wrinkles.” And don’t forget — you know what’s coming — sunscreen. “There is no point in correcting the issues if you are not protecting your skin from further damage,” stresses Allan.
In your 40s
If you can splurge on your skincare, go for it. says Dr. Yadav. “Periodically spending a smaller amount on dermal fillers and skin tightening to correct age related volume loss and skin laxity will go a long way in delaying aging and can totally defer need for surgical intervention later in life.”
If that’s not your style, there are plenty of natural options too. For an everyday routine, Allan recommends a cleanser, toner, serum, anti-aging oil, moisturizer (with perhaps a heavier cream for night), an eye cream, an exfoliant, and mask. Look for anti-aging ingredients like vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acid in your products. “Vitamin C is a miracle worker because it breaks up hyperpigmentation, especially necessary as you age and the sun causes pesky sunspots,” says Allan. “Alpha hydroxy acid is also important because it sloughs off dead skin.” And during the summer months, reach for a charcoal cleanser. “Charcoal detoxes our skin, which is so important, especially when it’s hot and humid out (and pores get clogged more easily),” says Allan.
In your 50s and beyond
Your skin loses the ability to retain moisture with age, so ingredients like hyaluronic acid, [a group of components called] natural moisturizing factor, and ceramides will help at this age, says Dr. Yadav. “Focus on skin hydration and speeding up cell turnover to prevent deep wrinkles from forming.”
The bottom line: Start early, moisturize and pamper often, and — in the words of Baz Luhrmann — wear sunscreen.