GLOW: Looking after your skin in your 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond

If you’re anything like me, your skin has probably been a rollercoaster-like source of stress and frustration. It seems that just as soon as you manage to finally conquer that plaguing teenage acne from bubbling up all over your face, those fine little ‘life lines’ (YAY!) start appearing.  Even into my 30s, I still get the odd acne attack here and there. Even though its nowhere near as bad now, I still kinda think that I got duped when I see those little crinkles around my eyes starting to be that little bit more pronounced at the SAME time as I’m trying to make an angry little hormonal red f*cker on my face disappear!

I recently found a great article that breaks your skin care needs down by the decade – which is just fantastic- if only I’d known this shizz 10 years ago!

If there’s one thing I do sorta regret its that I did used to be one of those people who treated my visage a little bit meanly; numerous all-nighters, meager consumption of water, made up for with too much alcohol, and going to bed in my makeup more times than I’d like to remember. In my youth I also fell under the spell of much of advertising’s evil embrace. I found myself trying a zillion and one products to try and keep that raging problematic skin somewhat sedated.  I tried peels, scrubs, masks, creams, lotions, gels, all in a quest to make my skin compliant. My beauty cupboard was virtually obese, though nothing seemed to work.  I’m going to get all Cher here and start singing “If I Could Turn Back Time” any minute now….if only I’d just taken it a little easy!

As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully, wiser) I’ve become more and more conscious of my health, at the same time as becoming more suspect of the bigger companies’ many out-there claims.  I not-so-long ago decided to once and for all turn a blind eye to the pretty bottle and the nice fonts on the label and the great packaging and the ‘magical’ core ingredients endorsed by someone with awesome, flawlessly photoshopped skin.  I started to wisen up to the fact that a price tag in no way reflects the quality of the ingredients or the integrity of the brand; you are really only paying for mystique, prestige and marketing (and the Lauder’s newest luxury villa in Sardinia).  It seems like everywhere we turn there’s a landslide of products and pills designed to trick us into thinking there is a magic solution to all that irks us.  Everywhere we look there is that all-pervasive message that the magical fountain of youth awaits the lucky few who can afford the latest and greatest shiny new serum or elixir, full of enchanting exotic ingredients like gold mountain dust from Tibet, or shards of ancient unicorn claw. As a growing body of research suggests, these products are pretty much a sham in a slick bottle.

So, it stands to be questioned then- what DO we need  for our skin? If we’re going to pare it down to the essentials and not get swept up in the hype machine of cult products, what should we be using? It would seem that as we age our skin needs vastly different treatment and attention than when it did during adolescence when we were plagued with raging hormones.

Read on for some useful knowledge on how to handle your skin’s demands as you age-  whatever age you are now. It’s a good overview of what your skin’s needs are now how these can change over time, along with some of the more simple strategies you can try yourself depending on your age bracket. Thanks to Refinery 29’s for offering this advice on keeping your skin as fresh and vibrant as it can be for as long as can be!

What to expect in your……20s

Its all about prevention — taking diligent care of your skin now means far fewer problems ahead for your future face.  The big one here is sun protection which should be a part of your daily routine. Stop your baking in the sun NOW (sun damage causes cancer and wrinkles, duh!), put down the fags for good and start drinking more water than anything else.

Another common issue in your 20s is that scourge known as adult acne, with your hormones playing a larger role in adult female acne. Another hormonally mediated skin concern that can start in the 20s is melasma, or brown patches on the skin that become darker with sun exposure. Awesome!

Routine: Cleansing your face twice daily is important. Try a cream cleanser for dryer skin, while oily, acne-prone types should choose something that fights oil and breakouts.

Follow that up with a super-light moisturizer and an SPF 30, if your moisturizer doesn’t already have one in it. If you’re at the beach or plan to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, up that SPF to a 60.

According to Dr. Colbert, there’s no need to waste your hard-earned $$$ on anti-aging creams: “In your 20s, those fancy creams are just icing on the cake. Focus on wearing sunscreen, hydrating, and not destroying your skin with sun, alcohol, and bad diet choices.”

Ingredients to look out for: Salicylic acid will help fight off hormonal breakouts,  broad-spectrum (i.e. UVA and UVB) sun protection, Shea nut oil and vitamin C, to hydrate.

Avoid! Invasive surgeries and procedures- there is no need!  Just do your thing and be beautiful. Once you are on that treadmill you can never get off and the earlier you start the more chance that you suffer disfigurement and strange morphed features as your youthful features mature. Your big guns at this age are prevention, not treatment. You should also avoid resurfacing lasers, unless you are trying to treat acne scars; they are way too harsh.

Takeaway tip:  Dermatologists seem pretty uniform on this one: sun protection is the most important anti-aging piece of the skin care regimen.  No anti-aging cream is going to give you the type of results down the road that wearing sunscreen now will.  So what does this mean in an age of sunscreens loaded with toxins and chemicals that seems just as bad as the alternative itself- sun damage?  It means to be careful in the sun.  A little of it is good for us – we need the Vitamin D- but if you’re in the southern hemisphere take heed to get your dose before 10am and after 5pm as that is when its at its least damaging.  NEVER stay out sunbaking. And stay out of the sun in the middle of the day. I personally wear sunscreen only if I’m outside longer than 20 minutes in the middle of the day.  And always a hat. If you use sunscreen and you’re worried about chemicals and parabens and stuff like I am, avoid commercial brands and seek out a PABA-and-toxin-free, natural sunscreen. Here’s a good article on some.

What to expect in your ……30s

So, good for us, our acne will usually subside by this stage in our life (woo hoo- finally!). The flip side to that is, its due to our skin starting to dry out (dang!)

What we can expect? More hyper-pigmentation, fine lines, sun spots, and darker circles under our eyes. Additionally our skin will start to feel less smooth and pores will become more enlarged.

In the words of Oprah, THIS IS KEY. “By the time you reach your 30s it’s time to take a good look at your diet,” says Dr. Colbert. “You are what you eat. Every food that you eat will show straight through your skin, so stop consuming sugars and processed foods. Add kale, greek yoghurt, almonds, blueberries, olive oil, and white fish to your daily diet”

Your ideal skin care routine: Cleanse twice a day and use a toner to firm your skin, minimize those pores, and keep them from clogging up. Exfoliate 3-5 times a week to remove dead skin cells and be sure to keep being sun smart every day. Dr. Colbert recommends a moisturizer with potent antioxidants. At night, a more intensive night cream may work for you.

Ingredients to stock up on: Potent antioxidants like goji berry and vitamin C, to help combat the visible effects of fatigue (and your undoubtedly more stressful life); and glycolic acid, to dissolve the build-up of dead skin cells and refresh your skin.

Avoid! Using too many products at once, like glycolics, retinoids, and peeling agents, says Dr. Sobel. “Don’t think more is better — it will actually just wind up irritating your skin,” he says. Dr. Colbert also cautions cleansing brush enthusiasts to take it easy: “Your Clarisonic may feel good, but if you’re using it every day, you’re drying out your skin and then you are forced to play catch-up with your moisturizer.”

Takeaway tip:  Apparently, your 30s is the time to start to plan out your face, so you don’t end up 50 and wishing you’d done something. So perhaps see a derm if you wish or step up your skin care routine at home. “If you start treating your skin concerns early (a.k.a. now), you won’t be overwhelmed by them in your 40s.”

What to expect in your…..40s

Jowls, wrinkles, large pores: everything appears in your 40s. Something to look forward to then! Pigmentation can worsen and there will be a loss of overall skin elasticity that will be most pronounced around your eyes. Menopause, which can occur in your late 40s, is going to cause your hormones to go nutty. This means even more dryness and, for some, a specific type of acne called perioral dermatitis. Joy!

Routine: Twice daily cleansing with a hydrating cleanser, followed by a treatment serum with time-released ingredients to treat and give your skin extra protection all day long. “You want a product that you can use in the morning, yet there will still be some benefits left at night when you go to put on your night cream,” says Dr. Colbert.  Follow your serum with a moisturizer that contains SPF.

Facial oils seem to be a help at this age as the reduction of sebaceous oil means your skin loses its ability to hold onto moisture. Use them at night, prior to applying your moisturizer.

Ingredients to look out for:  Aloe and chamomile, to hydrate and soothe. Essential oils of yangu, marula, and passionfruit, to rehydrate skin and seal in moisture.

Avoid! Your skin is really starting to dry out, so steer clear of any products that are going to irritate or cause further dryness. This can include acne-fighting products and many chemical exfoliators (you should already be avoiding these).

Takeaway tip: Do something for your skin – start incorporating treatment and protective products into your routine now, or it’s all just going to go downhill (literally) from here. Sounds a little daunting to me, but anyway, let’s move ahead shall we?

What to expect in your….50s

This is the age when gravity finally catches up with us, as our skin’s elasticity and collagen degrades further and causes a whole array of fun side effects like jowls, loose skin, “turkey neck,” and smile lines. If you were diligent with that sunscreen, this laxity might not be quite so advanced, and you may fare better with wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. In addition, redness and blotchiness may also be on the menu for you.

Routine: Cleanse twice daily with a super-hydrating face wash. Follow up with a facial oil, a retinoid (if you agree with using them), an antioxidant-rich moisturizer, and an SPF.  At night you may wish to be more diligent in your treatment than you were in your 40s. Apply your facial oil and a rich night cream to lock in moisture and boost your skin’s oil levels.

Ingredients to look out for: Light facial oils, to seal in that moisture. Vitamin C to protect the skin. Dermatologists also recommend glycolic acid, to help increase the absorption of retinoids.

Avoid! Surgery! Try non-invasive procedures like lasers and peels first. Also, don’t over treat yourself at home. People get really haphazard with at-home peels and they don’t know what they are doing, so they wind up injuring themselves. Educate yourself on these products and the correct way to use them.

Takeaway tip: Don’t forget your neck! If you’ve focused on your face but forgotten your neck, it will age you.

What to expect in your ….60s

All those issues that started to manifest in your 50s are going to continue at a more pronounced rate. Pop the corks! This is also the time when precancerous lesions or skin cancer are most likely to manifest. Vertical lip lines will become more noticeable — and not to mention, a significant loss of volume in your lips is likely to happen. Lovely.

Routine: Cleanse your skin twice a day with a super-gentle cleanser, then apply your antioxidant, facial oil, and SPF (yes, you still need to use that). Use a facial oil nightly, and add a really rich night cream to your routine to help maintain the skin’s barrier function.

Ingredients to look out for: Antioxidant borage seed oil, to help skin get its glow back; hyaluronic acid, to fill in lines; shea nut butter, for deep hydration; and glycolic acid, to speed cell turnover.

Avoid! “Being a beauty ostrich,” says Dr. Colbert. “Get your head out of the sand and go to your dermatologist to correct any of those things that are really bothering you. If you have issues with your skin that you want to address, talk to your dermatologist about your options because more often than not, you can easily change those things.”

Takeaway tip: Because skin cancer can be more noticeable, its imperative to get regular skin checks in order to catch the disease in its early stages, when it can be much more effectively treated. Important!

So there we have it.  Armed with a range of info on how your skin will  change you can now make some informed choices to suit you and your age.

The number one thing seems to be that prevention in your early years can stave off a ward of problems later, and hopefully, you won’t find yourself tempted to go down the route of surgery unnecessarily!

I have one pretty basic mantra that I live by now, and it seems to work for me and my skin at this time in life : keep it fricken’ simple. I don’t bombard my skin with a million different products that never seem to work, I steer well clear of the harsh cleansers, toners and exfoliants of my youth aimed at stripping oil (and consequently drying the shit out of my skin and perpetuating the oil production cycle). I make sure I get plenty of sleep, and when I do party I don’t hit the sheets with ‘party face’….well, 99% of the time I don’t! There’s always a lil room for improvement!

Who knows? As I head into older age brackets my routine will no doubt need some tweaking, but I’m certainly not going to stress about it.  For now, my aims are to nurture it with lots of rest, feed it with good oils in and out, stacks of hydration, nutrients from food; protect it by not baking in the sun and overall, keeping it as simple and natural as can be!

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Have you had difficulties with your skin in the past? How did you overcome your issues? I’d love to know!

Do you worry about how you’re going to deal with your skin as you get older or do you think you have things under control now? Do you think as you age you’ll embrace botox, laser and chem peels or will you leave it to nature to age you with grace?

Let me know what you think in the comments below! I’d love to hear your ideas, stories and feedback.

xDS

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