Decade by Decade: A Guide to Facial Aging

Decade by Decade: A Guide to Facial Aging featured image
Getty Images
This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

While 30 may be the commonly accepted age we use to mark the start of the aging process, genetics, sun exposure, diet and lifestyle choices can all affect how quickly and how visibly we age, as can a good skin-care regimen. Here, top experts recommend the best course of action to help maintain a youthful glow throughout every phase of life.

In Our 20s: Prevention and Prejuvenation

Visible Changes
“Collagen breakdown starts in our 20s and increases at a rate of about 1 percent per year,” says New York dermatologist Erin Gilbert, MD. “Other factors, like smoking, stress, lack of sleep, and diet can contribute to glycation, a process where blood sugars attach to proteins, which can damage collagen. UV exposure can also create fragmented elastin in the skin, which can lead to wrinkles later on.”

How to Address Them
“Daily sunscreen use can help immensely to prevent signs of aging like fine lines and dark spots down the road,” Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD says. Start with a daily SPF of at least 30 to keep sun damage from having long-term effects. Master aesthetician Ileana Moreno also recommends replenishing the skin with added moisture to prevent dehydration. “Look for active ingredients like marine collagen, hyaluronic acid and peptides. Be careful with applying oils for hydration, as they don’t penetrate the skin as well. Many times, they are just occlusive and can act more like a barrier.”

In Our 30s: A Few Lines and Wrinkles

Visible Changes
By this time, the accumulation of external oxidants like pollution and UV rays creates oxidative stress on the skin that can lead to early skin aging. “In our 30s, we see more upper-face lines appear, like vertical lines between the eyebrows, horizontal forehead lines and crow’s-feet,” says Dover, OH facial plastic surgeon David Hartman, MD.

How to Address Them
“Applying an antioxidant in the morning and night is essential,” advises Dr. Gilbert. “Vitamin C is a classic antioxidant, but buyer beware, not all are created equally. I recommend one in a light-proof container to protect the ingredient from degradation.”

In Our 40s: More Signs of Aging

Visible Changes
In our 40s, fine lines and wrinkles become more prominent, skin begins to lose moisture and elasticity and can appear dull, and sunspots and hyperpigmentation also become a concern.

How to Address Them
“Overall, I recommend a regimen that includes a combination of a cream-based cleanser, a gentle exfoliator, an anti-aging serum, and a moisturizer, in addition to continued daily sunscreen use,” says Dr. Schlessinger. According to New York oculoplastic surgeon Irene Gladstein, MD, medical-grade retinol and potent serums are a must for this age group. “Incorporating retinol in your nightly routine works in the collagen layers to keep your skin looking radiant while also preventing fine lines and wrinkles. Integrating combination serums with antioxidants and gentle glycolic acids is also essential when trying to prevent early signs of aging.”

In Our 50s and 60s: Hormonal Changes

Visible Changes
“This is when we start to see significant volume-related changes due to shrinking fat pads and loss of bony support,” explains Dr. Gladstein. “Lines around the eyes and sun-exposed areas, as well as dryness, dullness, and changes in skin texture and tone, become more evident.” Dr. Gilbert adds that the onset of menopause also has a considerable effect on the rate of collagen breakdown—it can even cause acne. “It also significantly reduces the amount of superficial oil production, leaving skin crying out for moisture,” she says. “The most important thing to remember at this stage is that dry, dehydrated skin shows all its faults. Plump, well-hydrated skin looks healthy and beautiful.”

How to Address Them
Retinol, antioxidants, moisturizing and exfoliation are essential, say the experts. “Hyaluronic acid-based serums and creams, and gentle scrubs are best,” says Dr. Gladstein. “Finding the right eye cream is also necessary, as the delicate skin around the eyes shows signs of aging first.” To minimize uneven skin texture, celebrity makeup artist Sandy Linter recommends lightweight foundations and concealers that do not exaggerate wrinkles. “It’s all about your skin care– foundation combo,” she advises. “A great hydrating moisturizer that doesn’t ‘pill’ is all you need.”

Heavy Hitters

These skin-care essentials make it easy to incorporate the right ingredients into our routines to help slow facial aging.

1 / 9

The Line Plumper

Vichy LiftActiv Supreme HA Wrinkle Corrector ($38) contains 1.5-percent pure hyaluronic acid to plump up skin and replenish natural daily HA loss, which contributes to dryness and signs of aging.

2 / 9

The Skin Clearer

The potent 2-percent salicylic acid in PCA SKIN Acne Gel ($60) helps reduce oil production and counteract skin discoloration. Use it all over the face or as a spot-treatment for hormonal breakouts.

3 / 9

The Dark Spot Corrector

Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum ($72) features Resorcinol technology that minimizes hyperpigmentation and helps promote cell turnover.

4 / 9

The Cellular Reset

Just one drop at night of ultra-luxe La Prairie Platinum Rare Cellular Night Elixir ($1,275) promises rejuvenated skin as the formula’s blend of rare, active ingredients promote cellular turnover.

5 / 9

The Nightly Renewal

For heavy-duty skin smoothing without the irritation, apply U.SK Under Skin Advanced Retinol Restorer ($99) to the face and neck nightly.

6 / 9

The Skin Resurfacer

Jan Marini Skin Research Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads ($88) contain salicylic, glycolic and lactic acids to refine skin texture and smooth out lines and wrinkles.

7 / 9

The Collagen Booster

When mixed with vitamin C water, the collagen-wrapped nanocapsules in Faith Cosmetics Essence C ($198) deliver phospholipids and collagen deep into the dermis to transform aging skin over time.

8 / 9

The Complexion Brightener

Dr. Brandt Skincare Bright This Way C Scription Brightening Serum ($115) boasts a 20-percent concentration of THD ascorbate to protect against oxidative stress and support collagen synthesis.

9 / 9

The Neck Firmer

Roll on Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum ($82) for a moisturizing dose of rye and griffonia seed extracts that deliver an antioxidant defense for a smoother-looking neck.

Related Posts

Find a Doctor

Find a NewBeauty "Top Beauty Doctor" Near you

Give the Gift of Luxury

NewBeauty uses cookies for various reasons, including to analyze and improve its content and advertising. Please review our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for more about how we use this data. By continuing to use this site, you agree to these policies.