Prevention is key in the war against aging skin—the earlier you start, the better your skin will look in years to come. Your 20s and 30s are when you’ll dabble with anti-aging. “If you are young and you don’t suffer from acne or hyperpigmentation, take preventive action. If there is a problem to treat, get that under control first and take a more modest approach to anti-aging,” says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Tina Alster, MD. It’s important to slow signs of aging before they become harder to fix. It is necessary to consider your unique skin issues and skin type when selecting anti-aging products. If not, all of your good efforts could end up being for nothing.
Incorporate retinol to increase collagen production
Retinol is hands down one of the top anti-aging ingredients, and once you start using it, you shouldn’t stop. It increases collagen, revs up the rate at which skin sheds, and gives skin a brighter, more healthy look. “Retinoids are good for acne-prone skin, as well as preventing skin aging,” says Santa Monica, CA, dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. Even if you start with a lower dose, your skin will still reap the benefits.
If you have sensitive skin and rosacea, you may find a retinoid drying, leaving the skin itchy and red. “If this is the case, opt for a cream instead of a gel,” says New York dermatologist Robin Gmyrek, MD. Dr. Alster takes a different approach and adds retinol in after frontloading skin with antioxidants.
What to use: Verso 7 Super Facial Oil ($195) combines retinol and sunflower oil to hydrate skin and limit age-related changes from UV damage, pollution and stress.
Get in the habit of wearing sunscreen every single day.
Nothing safeguards your skin from the damaging effects of the sun like sunscreen. “Sunscreen needs to be used by women of all ages,” says Dr. Alster. “Get in the habit of wearing it now so that it becomes second nature to put it on every day.”
Not all sunscreens are the same, and what you use on your body may not be the best option for your face and vice versa (the skin is different in each area). Make sure to choose an SPF of at least 30 or higher that has physical blockers, as opposed to chemical ingredients, which are less irritating to skin. And, wear it every single day, even in the winter.
What to use: Dermalogica Pure Light SPF 50 ($62) is a powerful sun protector that works double-duty to limit the formation of UV-induced discoloration. We also like the window on the side of the bottle, which lets you know how much product is left inside.
Add in an antioxidant for extra protection
While SPF is important and can’t be glossed over, Dr. Alster says it’s not enough by itself. “You need to use sunscreen, but you can’t rely solely on it. That’s why it’s important to apply an antioxidant daily. It scavenges toxic free radicals that build up in skin from cumulative sun exposure and provides added protection.”
You don’t need a handful of different types of antioxidants on your skin to reap the benefits. Pick one with a formulation that you like that suits your skin. A vitamin C or E base is pretty neutral and most younger skin types can tolerate it.
What to use: Lancôme Bienfait Multi-Vital SPF 30 Cream ($46) loads skin with antioxidants, like vitamins E and B5, in a hydrating cream base that also contains sunscreen.
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