You’ve evolved from the person you were in your 20s (thankfully!), so it makes sense that as your skin continues to change with age you also need to evolve your skin care routine.
Each person’s skin is unique, but it’s common to experience age-related issues including adult acne in your 30s and dry skin in your 50s. And while some skin-saving tips—like staying protected from the sun and keeping an eye on any skin irregularities—are important at every age, adjusting certain aspects of your daily routine to address your skin’s needs now can also help ensure that you’ll have glowing, healthy skin for years to come.
Follow this decade-by-decade guide to know what’s important for your skin today and tomorrow.
For Healthy Skin in Your 30s
Keep oily skin in check
Unfortunately, teens aren’t the only ones dealing with breakouts; they can pop up in this decade, too, often due to the stress of learning how to juggle both a family and a career, as many in their 30s do. When your level of the stress hormone cortisol increases, it can trigger skin to pump out more oil, which may clog pores and cause breakouts. There are plenty of stress-relieving techniques that have been shown to reduce cortisol levels, with even short periods of meditation offering relief for many. And while you can’t always keep stress to an absolute minimum, you can control oil before it leads to pimples by washing with a cleanser containing salicylic acid, which penetrates pores and removes the excess sebum within to keep skin clear.
Watch for unusual bumps and spots
Skin cancer doesn’t only concern older generations. In fact, over the last 30 years, incidence of basal cell carcinoma (the most common form of skin cancer, which develops in the skin’s deepest layer) has more than doubled, while cases of squamous cell carcinoma (a less common form of skin cancer, which develops in more superficial skin layers) have shot up nearly 700 percent in women under 40. At this age, you also have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer. So pay attention to your skin: If you see an unusual bump or scaly lesion that doesn’t go away, or you notice an abnormal mole, keep in mind the ABCDs of melanoma: Is it Asymmetrical in shape? Are its Borders irregular? Is its Color very dark? Is it large in Diameter? If any of these apply to you, see your dermatologist. Also see your doctor for a yearly skin check, and apply sunscreen daily.
Avoid smoking and drink in moderation
Even though skin is young and smooth now, the more toxins it’s exposed to during this decade, the worse off it will be in the next. Although research suggests that ultraviolet light is responsible for about 80 percent of premature aging of the skin, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption contribute as well by increasing the number of skin-damaging free radicals and other unhealthy molecules that attack tissues, according to a paper in Dermatology Research and Practice.
For Healthy Skin in Your 40s
Although skin-cell turnover begins slowing in your 30s, now is the time you’re likely to really notice a difference in your skin’s texture, which may appear duller and rougher. Wash with a glycolic acid or fruit enzyme cleanser to gently slough off dead cells and smooth your skin’s surface. Or, use a gentle cleansing scrub to manually exfoliate, polishing your complexion and bringing back both smoothness and a glow.
Get enough rest
This isn’t always easy during this busy time in life, but there’s no getting around the fact that sleep is a key component of healthy skin as you age. Lack of quality rest can leave you with dark, puffy circles under the eyes, make wrinkles appear more noticeable and even compromise your skin’s ability to repair itself, because your hormones are hard at work on cell and tissue repair when you are in the deepest stage of rest. Sleep also helps combat stress, which, by increasing inflammation, can age skin. Aim to get at least seven or eight uninterrupted hours of shut eye per night.
Apply sunscreen with antioxidants
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, adults over the age of 40 (and men in particular) spend the most time outdoors, and therefore have the highest annual exposure to UV rays. Always apply a lotion with an SPF of at least 30, and reapply every two hours. Look for sunscreen with added antioxidants, such as vitamin C and green tea, which help further combat the aging effects of ultraviolet light by fighting off free radicals.
For Healthy Skin in Your 50s
Switch to a heavier moisturizer
As you enter your 50s, and particularly after menopause for women, skin becomes thinner and oil glands produce less and less sebum (the oil that helps hydrate and protect your complexion). A heavy cream contains more oil, petrolatum and other emollients than a lightweight moisturizer, which helps seal in moisture and combat dryness, leaving skin softer, smoother and plumper. Be sure to apply your moisturizer twice a day to damp skin to keep it well-hydrated.
Be on red alert
Rosacea, a skin condition characterized by ruddy skin, frequent flushing and red bumps, effects an estimated 14 million Americans, most of whom are diagnosed in middle-age. The condition, which usually impacts fair-skinned individuals, gets worse if left untreated, leading to broken blood vessels and more persistent flare-ups. If you suspect rosacea, see your doctor and treat skin gently, using a mild, creamy cleanser and plain, fragrance-free moisturizers. Also avoid common triggers such as sun exposure, stress, alcohol and spicy foods.
Apply proven wrinkle-fighters
Contrary to what our current popular culture may have you believe, invasive procedures and surgeries are not the only reliable methods of wrinkle reduction. Retinol-containing creams and prescription retinoic acid are the gold standard for smoothing wrinkles. The vitamin A derivatives stimulate collagen production (the tissue under skin that keeps it firm and plump) and speed up cell turnover to smooth skin’s texture. Other natural wrinkle remedies can help, too.
For Healthy Skin in Your 60s
Turn down the heat
Taking very hot baths and showers, as well as washing your face with hot water, can feel soothing, but it can strip away what little sebum your skin produces at this age, leaving it even drier and more susceptible to irritation. Instead, use warm water when you bathe and cool water when washing and rinsing your face.
As you get older, your circulation naturally slows down. Exercise gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing, which brings more nutrients to your skin, nourishing it from the inside out and giving you a rosy glow. Be sure, however, to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Opt for a prescription wrinkle-fighter
As laugh lines and crow’s feet continue to deepen, it’s normal to want to do something about it. Prescription retinoic acid is more powerful and effective than anything you’ll get over the counter. Not only does it help build collagen and improve skin’s texture, it also helps lighten age spots and even out skin tone. It can be slightly irritating, however, so start by applying a small amount every other night until skin has acclimated, and top with a heavy-duty moisturizer.