The Ultimate Guide to Better Skin, Based on Your Age

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As we age, our bodies need different things to stay healthy. When it comes to our skin, the things we need to do to keep it happy and healthy can often vary on the daily, and understanding how our skin changes over the years is of the utmost importance. From morning routines to what’s on tap at the dermatologist’s office, the way we care for our skin should get an overhaul every decade.

In Your 20s

Skin Care

During your twenties, the most common skin concerns are typically dryness, acne, blackheads, enlarged pores, hormonal pimples and preventative anti-aging. Your skin-care routine should reflect these challenges. “This is a good decade to focus on great cleansing without overdoing it,” says celebrity aesthetician Nerida Joy. “It’s an era to get the basics down and be consistent with that.”

Use Exfoliating Cleansers and Acids

Baton Rouge, LA dermatologist Ann C. Zedlitz, MD, suggests using a cleanser with exfoliating properties, like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, to combat clogged pores and oiliness. “The acid will help to exfoliate dead skin cells away and brighten skin,” she explains. To lock in that youthful moisture, you’ll want to have good facial creams on hand. Joy suggests adding “a moisturizer containing antioxidants to feed the skin what the sun and environment have taken out” into your routine. She also recommends a gentle under-eye product a couple of times per week. Dr. Zedlitz says using a vitamin C serum and retinol or Tretinoin is also a great habit to get into in your twenties.

Cleanse Before Bed

In the early half of your twenties, you may still be in the bad habit of falling asleep in your makeup after a long night, but experts warn that it needs to come to an end. Charlotte, NC dermatologists Gilly Munavalli, MD and Hayley Leight-Dunn, MD say leaving your makeup on overnight can result in irritation, acne-prone skin, dryness and a generally dull appearance. They recommend a two-step process to ensure you get every last bit of your makeup off. First, remove the makeup with an oil-based cleanser or micellar water, followed by a second cleanse with a gentle face wash.

Protect Your Skin Barrier And Don’t Overcomplicate

“In your mid to late 20s, you start to lose about 1 percent of your collagen per year,” says Hopkins, KY dermatologist May Hall, MD. “If you aren’t already incorporating the basics of a skin-care routine with a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a daily sunscreen, now is the time to start. You don’t need to overcomplicate your skin-care routine, but figuring out what your skin type and choosing products that will help protect your skin barrier are important.

If your skin is oily, choose a cleanser that contains ingredients like salicylic acid. If your skin is dry, choose a hydrating, creamy cleanser to prevent over-stripping your skin of its natural oils. The same goes for moisturizer—if your skin is oily, choose a lightweight moisturizer that doesn’t clog your pores. For dry skin, opt for a thicker emollient like the SkinFix Triple Lipid Peptide Cream ($54). Lastly, SPF 30 or higher every day rain or shine is the single best thing you can do for your skin. I love EltaMD UV Clear ($43) for sensitive skin and easy blendability. I love Sente Even Tone Mineral Sunscreen ($75) for a little bit of coverage and tint for various skin tones.

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Be Vigilant With SPF

All of the experts agreed that the most crucial step of your skin-care routine in your twenties is applying sunscreen. “The most important thing you can do for yourself and your skin in your twenties is to use a daily sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher,” says Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn. “Protect your skin and start good habits early!” Dr. Zedlitz recommends sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

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Microdermabrasion and microneedling

You don’t need to go overboard with treatments in your twenties, but there are some preventative measures that can benefit you down the line. “In this decade, regular microdermabrasion and microneedling are helpful. Small amounts of Botox will start to prevent the formation of wrinkles in areas of expression,” says Dr. Munavalli. According to Dr. Zedlitz PRX-T33 “no peel, chemical peel,” Facial Infusions, microneedling and preventative neurotoxins are all fair game in your twenties.

Diet and Supplements

Invest In Skin-Loving Supplements

In the war against acne, nutrition is everything. “You need tons of greens to help oxygenate your skin, fight bacteria and keep it clean. You will have never-ending breakouts if you don’t eat well,” says celebrity aesthetician Joanna Vargas. “My favorite supplements for this age group target healthy hair and nails,” says Alex Caspero, registered dietitian and nutrition expert for HUM Nutrition. “Biotin strengthens both hair and nails, while GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) in the form of black currant oil or evening primrose oil, is an essential fatty acid that promotes healthy growth of skin, hair and nails, as well.”   

In Your 30s

Skin Care

Protect and Repair

“In our thirties, genetics, sun exposure and our age begin to present on your skin as fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration, sunspots and early volume loss,” says Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn. Their mantra: “Protect your skin in the morning and repair your skin at night!”

Essential Products: Cleansers, Serums, Moisturizers, Eye Cream, SPF

Joy says 30-year-old skin needs consistent gentle cleansing, a daily serum to protect the skin, a good moisturizer designed specifically for your skin type, a great under-eye cream and sunscreen. She also suggests folding in a mild exfoliating mask once or twice a week. If you don’t love using masks, you can get your exfoliating in another way. Dr. Zedlitz recommends using glycolic acid 10% peel pads once or twice a week to boost your glow and help address fine lines.

Incorporate Vitamin C and Retinol

If you didn’t add vitamin C serum and retinol into your skin-care routine in your twenties, do so in your thirties. “Vitamin C serums will brighten the skin and fight off oxidative damage from the sun, which leads to the early signs of aging,” explains Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn. They advise adding retinol into your nightly routine three to four times a week to combat fine lines, even skin tone and boost collagen production.

“A vitamin C cream or serum in the morning and a retinol product at bedtime can really help with radiance and tone to the skin,” adds Dr. Hall. “Retinol will also help with collagen production long term. My favorite vitamin C cream for sensitive skin is Revision C+ Complex ($176). For those not acne prone, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($182) is a great option, and for my more acne prone patients, Skinceuticals Phloretin CF is powerful, but gentle. At bedtime, an introductory retinol product is important.”

Your thirties may be when you start to see signs of discoloration or melasma. Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn suggest using products with “kojic acid, arbutin, glycolic acid and azelaic acid to help to even out your skin pigment.”

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Get Started With Neurotoxins

“Neurotoxins should be part of the equation at this stage,” says Prospect, KY dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD. “And, you might need just a little filler to maintain the volume under the eyes and in the nasolabial folds.” Dr. Zedlitz says neurotoxins, fillers, Sublative rejuvenation, Morpheus8 and light peels are all great options for those in their thirties. Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn suggest mild chemical peels for tackling photoaging.

Indulge In Preventative Treatments

Similar to your 20s, collagen-stimulating and preventative procedures are great for skin-care in your 30s. “In office, many patients will consider preventative treatments to help stimulate collagen production like microneedling or chemical peels,” says Dr. Hall.

Diet and Supplements

Adopt An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

“The foods you eat are very important to your skin health,” says Dr. Germain. “Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet in which sugar, white flour and dairy products are decreased improves the skin.” Caspero explains that due to sun exposure, pollution, stress, and loss of subcutaneous support (among other factors), wrinkles are, unfortunately, a natural part of aging. “In addition to forming wrinkles, skin also becomes rough and dry, leading to redness, adult breakouts and patches. To combat this, make sure you are supplementing/eating enough quality fats in your diet, especially omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend a quality fish oil for women in their thirties.”   

In Your 40s

Skin Care

Focus On Moisture and Wrinkle-Fighting Actives

Once you’ve built a solid skin-care routine throughout your twenties and thirties, the next few decades are all about staying consistent and adding a few extra steps. “As our skin begins to change, decreased moisture retention, as well as decreased collagen and elastin production, leads to deeper wrinkles and more significant volume loss in our forties,” say Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn, who suggest looking for an eye cream with lower strength retinol, peptides, antioxidants and caffeine. “In your forties and as you approach menopause, skin integrity rapidly starts to change and collagen production continues to dwindle,” adds Dr. Hall. “Incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum to damp skin can help lock in moisture and keep the skin looking more plump and youthful.”

Start Using A Neck Cream

When you’re in your forties, Dr. Zedlitz encourages you to add a neck cream into the mix. You should also use products on your chest and the back of your hands. If you notice that you’re beginning to get crepey skin, especially on your thighs and arms, try a retinol body cream.

Actives, Actives, Actives

Joy says your forties is when actives should come into play. She suggests a gentle cleanser, a daily serum with an antioxidant, moisturizer and sunscreen, along with a mild weekly exfoliant. At night she suggests incorporating ingredients to help tighten the skin, such as peptides, alpha hydroxy acids or retinoids.


Experiment with Lasers and Fillers

Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn suggest adding Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL) and nonablative fractional lasers into your skin-care regimen in your forties. If you’re experiencing lower face laxity, they recommend getting a microfocused ultrasound treatment. Dr. Zedlitz recommends Botox Cosmetic, fillers, Morpheus8, Sublative rejuvenation, or Ultherapy for “non-surgical lifting.”

Washington D.C. dermatologist Agnes Ju Chang, MD says her favorite in-office treatment for skin over 40 is PRP rejuvenation. “It increases your natural collagen, which helps firm the skin, fine lines, and sun damage. It has been a game-changer for my patients in their forties that desire a long-term investment into their skin health.”

Dr. Hall adds that” in office, your provider may considering replacing volume loss and preserving facial structure with use of biostimulatory fillers like Sculptra and Radiesse. This is also a good time to consider resurfacing laser treatments to help with sun damage and collagen production.”

Diet and Supplements

Start Taking Collagen Supplements

Caspero explains that collagen is the protein that gives skin strength and elasticity, and because it naturally declines as we age, she recommends a collagen supplement to keep skin youthful and vibrant. “After using collagen for 12 weeks, you should expect to see a significant reduction in lines, wrinkles and skin dryness.”

In Your 50s

Skin Care

Hone In On Collagen-Boosting Products

Once you hit your fifties, Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn say you “need to be aggressive about boosting collagen production.” If you haven’t already, consider adopting a prescription-strength retinoid. Additionally, the experts recommend adding a growth factor or peptide-based product to your nightly routine.

Experiment With Retinol Alternatives and Rehydrating Products

“If a retinol product is too harsh for your skin, I recommend using a retinol-alternative like bakuchiol,” says Dr. Hall, “Other non-retinol considerations are growth factor serums, and peptides to help with that dull, dehydrated skin. In the post-menopausal population a topical estrogen product like estrodiol may be considered in the right candidate. Lastly, investing in a soothing and hydrating face cream like SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 ($150) cream can make a big difference in your skin. 

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Try A Weekly Acid Peel

“Decreased moisture retention, reduced cell turnover and lower estrogen levels from hormonal changes may cause dehydrated and dull-appearing skin,” they add. To combat these effects, use a once or twice-weekly chemical exfoliant with AHA or BHA. Adding this step will remove dead skin cells, improve hydration and help other products work better. Dr. Zedlitz says you should also incorporate AHAs in the form of peel pads on the arms and chest.

Understand Your Application

Joy says, in your fifties, it’s not only about what you’re putting on your skin, but also how. She suggests massaging everything in “in mostly upward movements to help stimulate muscle tone and bring oxygen to the blood.” You should use serums morning and night with actives in them. Your nightly moisturizer should be thick and cream-based to help your skin replenish overnight, say Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn.


Radiofrequency Treatments, Lasers, Peels and Injectables

Joy suggests massages and muscle stimulation devices if you’re in your fifties. Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn recommend IPL, fractional laser and radiofrequency microneedling, depending on your individual needs. In your 50s, some of the more heavy lifting can begin. Eagan, MN dermatologist Charles Crutchfield III, MD also suggests platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, peels, HydraFacials and laser treatments. “Volume loss is a big concern for many patients and if a facelift at this age is not in the cards, many patients continue to space out injectable treatments with biostimulatory fillers like Sculptra, Radiesse, and lasers for brown pigmentation, or resurfacing,” adds Dr. Hall.

Diet and Supplements

Focus on Antioxidants

For this age group, Caspero recommends an antioxidant-based supplement, especially one that contains turmeric. “Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, can help prevent arthritis and bone loss in older women,” she explains, adding that with its concentration of antioxidants that defend against skin-damaging free radicals, it is the perfect supplement for women 50 and older.

In Your 60s + Up

Skin Care

Combat Dry Skin With Added Hydration

Dry skin is likely to be one of the biggest skin-care battles in your sixties and beyond. “If you have dry skin, taking shorter, lukewarm showers and using a thicker ceramide-based cream moisturizer two times a day may help,” advise Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn. You need to moisturize both your face and body to replenish the skin barrier. They note that adding a humidifier to your home may also be beneficial.

Joy says your sixties is a time for layering treatment serums and using good protective moisturizers. Reduce how often you exfoliate and focus on hydrating and protecting your skin in order to combat excess dryness, volume loss, laxity and more.


Try Laser Resurfacing Treatments or Neurotoxins

“Fractionated CO2 laser skin resurfacing gives my patients the biggest bang for their buck. If they’re willing to tolerate a little downtime, this literally erases wrinkles,” says Huntington Beach, CA dermatologist David Rayhan, MD.

Dr. Munavalli and Dr. Leight-Dunn suggest considering full-face resurfacing if you have wrinkles and sun damage that won’t respond to other treatments. Dr. Zedlitz recommends neurotoxins, fillers, CO2 laser, Ultherapy and Profound Tightening.

Diet and Supplements

Boost Your Vitamin Intake

In addition to potent anti-aging supplements, Caspero also recommends both vitamins D and B12 for anyone over the age of 60. While we don’t often think of these as beauty vitamins, Caspero says they can help with normal metabolism and skin function. “As we age, we lose the ability to absorb nutrition in the same capacity as we did when we were younger,” she explains, adding that this is especially true for those over 50 who may not be able to absorb enough B12 from food. “Vitamin D deficiency also becomes more common, thanks to a lack of exposure and reduced absorption. In addition to B12 and vitamin D, a more potent anti-aging supplement is helpful.”

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