Even as science continues to revolutionize dermatological treatments and high-tech skin care, the hands of time stop for no one. At age 20, our skin cells are youthful and energetic, completely turning over to reveal newborn cells every three weeks. But by the time we reach 50, the production of new skin cells has slowed so significantly, they rejuvenate only every 12 weeks. The result? Dry skin that reflects the passage of time. But there is good news: experts agree that protecting our skin at every age will result in a lifetime of radiant skin. Here’s how to start now.
IN YOUR 20s
Confusion about how to treat your skin is the leading problem, says Dr. Lydia Evans, a New York–based dermatologist and consultant for L’Oréal. The dilemma: 20-something patients don’t know whether to start using antiaging creams (the heavier ones may perpetuate adult acne), try preventive Botox (there’s absolutely no such thing) or slather on blemish cream (which may cause irritation from overuse).
YOUR DAILY BASICS: A pH-balanced cleanser washes away impurities without stripping your skin of its natural acid balance. If you’re particularly oily, apply an alcohol-free toner to control the sebum. Though it may sound counterintuitive for oily and combination skin, hydration is important to keep your skin functioning optimally, says Dr. Evans. Seek out formulas containing the hydrating muscle power of hyaluronic acid in lightweight textures such as serums (which are the very lightest), lotions and gel-creams. Only use a cream if you have very dry skin.
FLARE pick: L’Oréal Skin Genesis Day Lotion Oil-Free, $35.
THE ESSENTIAL STEP: Make a broad-spectrum sunscreen a year-round must. UVB rays (which cause sunburns) are strongest in the summer, but UVA rays (responsible for premature aging) are present all year long. Until now, scientists believed sun damage caused before the age of 18 set the blueprint for premature aging. But The Skin Cancer Foundation in the U.S. now states that how well you protect your skin from the sun in your 20s and 30s also impacts it later in life. Remember to choose the right formula for your skin type to avoid potential breakouts and wear it every day.
FLARE pick: Lise Watier Sun Smart Universal UV Shield, $38.
VIP TREATMENT: Monthly facials to deep-clean pores will help alleviate blackheads and unclog follicles before whiteheads occur. Look for treatments that incorporate moor mud or white clay to draw out impurities. Be sure you’re in skilled hands when it comes to extractions—or risk scarring. Alternatively, professional microdermabrasion uses the basic principle of exfoliation to slough off dead skin and scrub out your pores, but it’s stronger than scrubs used at home. An added bonus? Acne scars, depending on their severity, begin to disappear after regular use.
Try it at home: Mark Shine Fighter Oil-Control Mask, $10.
IN YOUR 30s
Damage from previous sun exposure, pollution, stress, alcohol and smoking is beginning to show in your complexion, says Dr. Lorne C. Poon, an Edmonton-based doctor who specializes in skin care. The production of collagen and elastin fibres—the basic building blocks of your skin—is starting to visibly slow. The result? Fine lines, slight sagging, pigmentation and hints of creases are becoming progressively noticeable. One of the most frequent complaints Dr. Poon hears is a dull complexion. Telltale signs of aging may also be coupled with persistent acne, often confusing the type of treatment to choose.
YOUR DAILY BASICS: Look for skin care labelled “first signs of aging,” with lightweight textures suitable for 30-something skin. To fight the aging free radicals your face is exposed to daily, antioxidants from botanicals such as white tea, açai berry and goji berry are a solid line of defence. If you continue to suffer from adult acne, it may be time to update your strategy by trying formulas with salicylic acid and tea-tree oil that treat both breakouts and signs of aging simultaneously.
FLARE picks: Kiehl’s Açaí Damage-Protecting Toning Mist, $34. RéVive Acne Reparatif Acne Treatment Gel, $160.
THE ESSENTIAL STEP: A hydrating treatment helps plump the fragile skin under your eyes, which lacks support from underlying muscle or bone. This “trough” area is the No. 1 giveaway you’ve reached your 30s, says Dr. Gregory Bays Brown, a former plastic surgeon and founder of the luxe skin-care range RéVive. Some of the newest plumpers have a roller-ball applicator to simulate massaging. The boost in microcirculation combats the darkening effect of blood pooled underneath the surface (that is, dark circles). Pick a gel formula if your skin is susceptible to the tiny white bumps that can result from blocked pores.
FLARE pick: Vichy Aqualia Thermal Eye Roll-On, $34.
VIP TREATMENT: To coax back a youthful glow, Dr. Poon suggests the Cutera Pearl laser, an in-office treatment used to reduce fine lines, brown spots and enlarged pores. Pulses of light target the top layer of your skin, while the laser sends heat to the deepest layer to stimulate collagen, improving the overall structure of your skin for longer-term benefits. After 3–4 days, the outer surface of your skin “peels,” revealing new skin underneath. To fight acne and aging at once, Dr. Evans recommends in-office glycolic-acid peels—a stronger version of what you can buy over the counter. It’s a resurfacing treatment that removes the top layer of damaged skin cells to ease acne, while stimulating the production of collagen to brighten, diminish fine lines and smooth uneven tone.
Try it at home: Dermaglow Glycolic 10% Gentle Peel Solution, $50.
IN YOUR 40s
If you didn’t adequately protect your skin in your teens and 20s, sun damage will appear more prominently in the form of broken blood vessels and dark spots on your face and chest, says Dr. Poon. The loss of collagen and elastin reduces fullness in your cheeks, resulting in sagging jowls and more prominent lines around your eyes and forehead are apparent. Your once-smooth skin will start to take on an uneven texture due to the slowing cell turnover pace.
YOUR DAILY BASICS: To help treat pigmentation and wrinkles, “retinoids are still the gold standard,” says Dr. Evans. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids stimulate the production of new skin cells. A slow drop off in oil production is also typical in your 40s, so choose lotions in the summer and creams in winter. Layer a serum beneath your nightly moisturizer for extra hydration and to fight skin-damaging free radicals. Serums contain a higher concentration of key antiaging ingredients, such as vitamins A, C and E. To treat dullness and sunspots on your neck and chest, try moisturizers with brightening ingredients such as niacinamide and vitamin C, and choose a nongreasy formula that won’t stick to your clothes.
FLARE pick: Olay Definity Neck & Chest Daily Restoration Treatment, $40.
THE ESSENTIAL STEP: The single most aggravating problem for 40-plus women is crow’s-feet, says Dr. Evans. Some eye treatments containing complex sugars claim to instantly smooth lines, with results that vanish when you stop using the product. These sugars are said to provide immediate tightening by laying down molecules on the surface of your skin that crisscross and bind to the skin.
FLARE pick: Yves Saint Laurent Top Secrets Instant Eye Wake-Up Patches, $62.
VIP TREATMENT: When your skin-cell renewal has slowed, cells are truly acting their age. The idea behind the latest skin-care technologies touting DNA, stem cells and growth factors is to trick them into thinking and acting as though they’re younger—meaning, the cells are dividing faster, they’re filled with more fluid and they have a stronger extracellular matrix—all of which contribute to a more youthful appearance. Consider investing in high-tech skin care that fights aging at the molecular level—a job plastic surgery can’t do.
Try it at home: Lancaster 365 Cellular Elixir, $95.
“Gorgeous Skin in Your 20s, 30s & 40s+” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story and where-to-buy appears in the November 2009 issue of FLARE.
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