How to Rebuild Your Skin-Care Routine in Your 40s, According to Dermatologists

How to Rebuild Your Skin-Care Routine in Your 40s, According to Dermatologists featured image
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Our skin-care routines may be just that—routine—but they should still change and evolve as we age. The skin care we use at 20 may not suffice in our 30s and certainly doesn’t have the same effect once we hit 40.

Skin cell turnover declines as you enter your 30s and continues into your 40s,” explains New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “Not only does collagen production decrease, but antioxidant defenses do not work as well as they did when you were younger.” 

In other words, our 40s are the time to get more serious about skin care than ever. No need to freak out though; that doesn’t mean you need a complete overhaul—nor that you need every treatment offered at your derm’s office. Ahead, find our full guide to the best skin-care routine for 40 year olds, with insights straight from the pros.

  • Joshua Zeichner, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York
  • Marisa Garshick, MD is a board-certifed dermatologist in New York

How does your skin change in your 40s?

“Skin changes in your 40s are a result of collagen loss, which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles and increased skin laxity,” explains Dr. Marshick. As that collagen loss occurs, skin also becomes more dry—which can make skin appear less plump. “Dryness can also be an issue in the 40s as a result of a weakened skin barrier, which can lead to increased moisture loss,” says Dr. Garshick.

Both derms also note that many of the changes you’ll see result from damage that occurred in past decades. “In your 40s, your skin starts to show signs of UV light exposure from your 20s and 30s,” says Dr. Zeichner. “This means the development of dark spots, broken capillaries and fine lines and wrinkles.”

What is the best skin-care routine to do in your 40s?

As with any other time in your life, it’s important to consider both morning and nighttime skin-care routines separately. “Think of the morning as a time of prevention and protection from environmental damage,” says Dr. Zeichner, while on the other hand, “Your evening is a time of hydration and repair.”

Dr. Garshick says that as a starting point, “a morning skin-care routine may include a cleanser, an antioxidant serum like vitamin C, a moisturizer and a sunscreen, while an evening routine can incorporate a cleanser, a retinoid and a moisturizer.”

Then, you can start adding or swapping in other products to address specific skin concerns. “In some cases, a peptide serum or cream can be helpful to boost collagen production in combination with retinol or for someone who is unable to tolerate a retinol,” says Dr. Garshick, adding that “occasional use of an exfoliating acid can be helpful to improve overall radiance and discoloration.”

Finally, she reminds that if you’re not already, now’s the time to start using both eye cream and neck cream, “as some changes may start to become visible in these areas.”

What ingredients should you use in your 40s?

According to Dr. Zeichner, “It’s important to use skin-care products that not only will help protect the skin but also will help repair damage.”

Most derms will name-check retinol, which can “help to regulate skin cell turnover and boost collagen production,” says Dr. Garshick. Depending on the concentration and form, retinoids are available both via prescription or over the counter. “Some individuals, especially those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer bakuchiol as an alternative to a retinol as it may be less irritating,” she adds. Other options, like peptides, can also stimulate collagen production. 

Also key to cell turnover is exfoliation, which removes the outer layer of surface skin cells. “Exfoliating acids like glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid help brighten the skin and reduce dullness,” says Dr. Garshick. 

The dermatologists also recommend antioxidants, specifically vitamin C, to help protect against free radical damage. Then, for hydration and to replenish the skin barrier, look for products containing ceramideshyaluronic acid and niacinamide—the latter of which can also help with evening skin tone.

What skin-care products should you use in your 40s?

1 / 9

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($18)

Dr. Garshick recommends this gentle, fragrance-free cleanser, which she calls “a great option for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin.”



2 / 9

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($182)

“This tried-and-true formula helps to deliver key antioxidants to the skin,” says Dr. Garshick, adding that “The combination of antioxidants including L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin E and ferulic acid together help to protect the skin against oxidative stress and neutralize free radicals.”




c e ferulic
3 / 9

La Roche Posay Double Repair Toleriane Face Moisturizer ($25)

Dr. Garshick recommends this lightweight moisturizer, which “contains a combination of ceramides to help strengthen the skin barrier and niacinamide, which has soothing properties,” adding that the glycerin-based formula can be used year-round.




4 / 9

Elta MD UV Clear Tinted Broad Spectrum 46 ($45)

Oil-free and formulated with calming niacinamide and hydrating hyaluronic acid, this tinted sunscreen is great for daily use, according to Dr. Garshick, who adds that it can be worn alone or with makeup.



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Skinbetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum ($140)

“This formulation combines glycolic acid with a proprietary retinoid AlphaRet, which combines a retinoid with lactic acid as well as antioxidants to protect against free radical damage,” explains Dr. Garshick, who adds that because it also contains “a blend of moisturizing and soothing ingredients such as ceramides, squalane and hyaluronic acid,” it won’t irritate skin.

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6 / 9

Roc Retinol Retinol Correxion Serum ($30)

Dr. Zeichner recommends this dual serum, which combines hyaluronic acid with retinol. “The combination of these two ingredients provides synergy by plumping skin and stimulating collagen,” says the derm.

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7 / 9

TruSkin Longevity Moisturizing Cream ($30)

“A great option for someone who cannot tolerate a retinoid, this serum contains bakuchiol to help address fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation without irritating the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. “It also contains the lingonberry stem cells which protect the skin from oxidative stress and blue light which can worsen hyperpigmentation.”



8 / 9

Colorescience PEP UP Collagen Boost Face and Neck Treatment ($179)

Great for all skin types, this helps to boost collagen and elastin production while remaining gentle on the skin. Incorporating peptides, glycerin and antioxidants, it works to nourish the skin while also improving overall texture and tone and firming the skin.



9 / 9

Beauty Pie Youthbomb 360 Multi-Action Eye Repair Night Serum ($120)

Dr. Garshick likes this eye cream made with pinaretinol, vitamin C, niacinamide and tremella fuciformis, as it can help with dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. 



What products should you stop using in your 40s?

In general, you can continue to use any products you like and that work for your skin. “But if you experience dryness or irritation, it may be best to stop a product temporarily while the skin recovers,” says Dr. Garshick.

That being said, Dr. Zeichner adds you may want to reconsider what cleanser you use. “With age, the skin also tends to become drier, so it’s important to stick to gentle hydrating cleansers that respect the skin barrier,” says the dermatologist.

What are the best professional skin treatments for 40-year-old skin?

Many people first dabble in—or dive deeper into—skin-care treatments and procedures during this decade. To be clear, they are by no means a necessity, but “in-office procedures can help complement your over-the-counter skin-care routine,” says Dr. Zeichner.

Here are some of the treatments to consider:


“Your skin-care products are designed to help keep the foundation of the skin strong and resist wrinkling. However, treatments like Botox help relax the muscles under the skin that lead to folding when you make facial expressions,” says Dr. Zeichner, who adds that the combination of good skin care and neuromodulators such as Botox Cosmetic, Dysport and Xeomin “are the key to improving the appearance of lines and wrinkles.”


“With age, our faces naturally lose volume because of remodeling of bone structures, as well as fat [changes],” says Dr. Zeichner. “This is where injectable fillers can be useful by helping to restore useful volume and proportions of the face.” As with any procedure, you want to make sure you trust your provider: “Your outcome with fillers is directly related to the skill and taste of your doctor,” says the derm.


If you want to tighten up the skin but aren’t ready to consider a facelift, this option might be on the table. “Micro-coring technology, like what is used in Ellacor, provides non-surgical facelift results,” explains Dr. Zeicher. “The procedure removes microscopic cores of skin, allowing the skin to heal itself back up tighter than it was before. It is particularly useful for the lower third of the face to improve sagging and jowls.”

Microneedling, radiofrequency and lasers

Again, rebuilding collagen is the name of the game during your 40s, so both Dr. Garshick and Dr. Zeichner recommend treatments that stimulate production of collagen, like microneedlingradiofrequency and resurfacing lasers

Additionally, some of those same procedures can help with skin tone, in addition to texture. “For those dealing with brown spots, there are lasers and light-based devices that can help to improve the appearance of overall skin tone,” says Dr. Garshick.

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