In your 40s? Here is the skincare routine you need now! | Ask Doctor Anne

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So you are in your 40s now? Welcome to the club I guess. I just turned 45 and I am sparing you the whole “40s are the new 30s” stuff. There is no denying, your 40s are a period in your life and your skin where you see a lot of changes. No matter if you have been diligently taking care of your skin for a while already or never even thought about having a routine, this guide will provide you with the tips and tricks you need to build your best skincare routine possible.

 

The best skincare routine for mature skin in your 40s and beyond
This is what 45 looks like – mature skin needs special care

 

We will discuss the changes that occur, skincare and lifestyle adjustments that will help address them and the limitations of products when it comes to things like saggy skin and loss of facial fat.

But before everything else: Celebrate every year you get to spend on this planet as the alternative to aging is dying.

 

 

What changes in the skin?

When you reach your 40s, it is essential to not only look at the changes that occur in your skin, but also the changes in the subcutaneous layer, meaning the layer underneath your skin. As we age, we lose bone through resorption and the fat pads that give volume and structure to our features start following the pull of gravity and travel south. Muscle mass is reduced everywhere in the body, including our face, and that combined leads to genereal loss of volume and loss of structure, meaning that skin isn’t pulled as tight as it used to be – the sagging you will most likely notice isn’t only explained by skin changes.

We do also lose collagen and elastin, mainly because production declines, so not only the underlying framework doesn’t pull the skin up as tightly, the skin itself isn’t as tight and elastic as it used to be, which means even more sagging and wrinkles.

Cell turnover slows down and the shedding of skin cells doesn’t happen as easy as it used to, meaning the skin will look dull due to the uneven light reflection, and redness becomes more of a concern both through hormonal changes with flushing and through broken capillaries.

This redness can also be due to an increased sensitivity as the skins barrier function is reduced, so your skin gets more reactive, and the skin is more prone to dehydration as it loses its ability to hold on to water because the humectant production delines. (More info: Signs of a damaged skin barrier)

At the same time the daily wear and tear through movement, UV exposure and all the other things that come with living sum up, so hyperpigmentation and expression lines will appear.

Yes, someone that started wearing sunscreen or started getting Botox early one will be less affected than a smoking sun worshipper that never looked after their skin, but no matter what you did or didn’t do, you will start to see changes once you reach your 40s.

 

Smiling woman with greying hair
Changes you see in aging skin are loss of firmness and wrinkles

 

Which changes should I implement?

What you should do now depends on what you are already doing – I will touch on both extremes of “never took care of my skin” and “already do a ten step routine” in a bit.

But now more than ever, the base of your routine should be gentle and non-stripping when it comes to your cleansing, and rich and hydrating when it comes to your moisturizer. Rich is again different for everyone, someone like me that used to rely on the lightest gels only at night might step it up to a light lotion in the mornings and a proper cream at night while someone that already used a cream texture might introduce additional face oils, but the key message is:

Whatever used to work for you in your 30s will most likely be too light for you in your 40s.

Sunscreen is as important as it always was, not only to prevent new sun damage but also to allow the skin to heal some of the existing one. Wear it everyday, look for a broad spectrum one with adequate UVA protection and reapply if you are out in the sun. (You can shop my current favorite sunscreens here)

Antioxidants are, just like humectants, declining in their levels in the skin, so introducing them into your routine is a great idea as well. I prefer Ascorbic Acid as it works both as antioxidant and in stimulating collagen production, but if your skin doesn’t tolerate that, there are a ton of others to pick from. (More info: Everything you need to know about the benefits of Vitamin C in your skincare)

To increase cell turnover, exfoliation is important and if your skin can tolerate it, a retinoid will address several of the skin changes we discussed as it increases cell turnover, stimulates collagen production and helps target hyperpigmentation. When it comes to retinoids, more is not more – it is much more important to find one you can use consistently for years than to use the strongest version available, so if you are new to retinoids, work your way up from a low concentration and stop at the point your skin is still happy – the goal is not prescription strength unless you are treating a medical condition. (More info: Everything you need to know about acids in skincare and Your comprehensive guide to retinoids)

Now peptides – you will often hear that everyone in their 40s should use peptides and while I do use them myself, I don’t fully agree with that statement. Let me explain: Peptides are a very broad category, and they do a myriad of different things. Some work to stimulate collagen and elastin production, but others are cleansing, hydrating or soothing, so if I would just tell you “use a peptide”, that would be way too broad. On top of that, some of them are quite expensive and the research isn’t as good as it is for sunscreen or retinoids, so if you want to use them, go for it, but make sure you pick some that will target signs of aging like the ones from the Matrixyl complex or the ones that I am using, Copper Peptides. The upside to peptides is that they are very well tolerated and easy to use, especially compared to retinoids with their potential for irriation. (More info: The benefits of peptides in skincare explained)

 

Variety of skincare products on a bathroom shelf
How much you need to change depends on what you were already doing
Image by olga volkovitskaia from Pixabay

 

What do I need to do if I never had a skincare routine before?

It is never to late to start a skincare routine.

Not in your 30s, not in your 40s, not even in your 80s. But while you might be tempted to make up for lost time by throwing everything and the kitchen sink at your face at once – and the fact that people in their 40s have the money to spend and are the main target by marketing telling them to buy EVERYTHING!!! – you should start slowly.

Start with a cleanser, a sunscreen and one serum max that addresses your main concern and see how your skin reacts and if you are able to keep that up. There is no point in starting with a complicated ten step routine that sets your face on fire and isn’t touched after two weeks because it just doesn’t fit in your life. (More info: Why skin minimalism might be what you need and Minimalist skincare routine for my husband)

If that works, introduce the next “active step” into your routine after, let’s say, eight weeks and slowly build from there.

 

man smiling and wearing a black shirt
Meet my husband, whose skincare routine is absolutely minimal.

 

What do I need to do if my routine has been very good for the last decade already?

When you have already been taking good care of your face, you might look at my suggestions and think: “But I am doing that already!”. And true, the steps mentioned here are not that different from the ones I recommended for your 30s, gentle cleansing, an antioxidant serum, regular exfoliation, a retinoid, sunscreen and eventually peptides. (More info: The best skincare routine for your 30s)

What I suggest you do – and what I did, as my routine has been pretty good for a decade now – is see where you can cut out extra fluff like serums that are solely hydrating for example and use this freed up space to dial up your actives. My routine has become much simpler with time, with less products used, but the ones that are used each serving a purpose. Less products also means less chance for irritation.

And then look into procedures, either at home or in office.

 

Radiofrequency for skin tightening
Which device will give you the results you need?

 

What can I do that is not skincare?

It is important to understand that the different changes that come with age concern more than the skin, and that skincare will only ever be able to address a small part of it. Most products work through prevention of further damage or help the skin repair, and only a small part will actually influence collagen production and other things that can in parts reverse skin changes. What happens beneath the skin – the bone resorption, the fat loss, the muscular atrophy – is not something a serum can affect.

This is where, depending on your preferences and means, devices for at home use and in office procedures come into play. I have talked about a ton of things like radiofrequency (read here), microcurrent (read here) and LED therapy (read here) on my blog already, and what all of them have in common is that they aim to work on structural changes like muscle loss or target collagen production, so in theory would complement skincare.

I say in theory because a) the data on their effectiveness is sparse and b) they take time and commitment to use and if you don’t invest that time, they don’t even stand a chance on having an effect. Not to forget c), devices sold for at home use put safety first, so they aren’t as potent as the ones used in office in the hands of a professional. Which is a good thing, we don’t want anyone to accidentally damage their face, but seeing that studies are rarely done with at-home devices, but with the ones for professionals, it is safe to assume that the results you’ll get with at home devices will be way more subtle than the ones you would get in office.

Or with something invasive – no device is able to give you the lifting effect you’ll get from a facelift or the added plumpness from having fillers. That doesn’t mean you need to go down that route – I never had any Botox, fillers or other treatments done, but you need to understand that there are limitations in what you can achieve and determine what your goal is. If it is a jaw line as snatched as it was in your 20s and cheekbones that look like they were carved by a skilled sculptor, skincare and at home devices will not deliver.

 

blonde woman with boxing braids wearing workout gear.
Don’t skimp on your workouts – they have many benefits! Picture by Tomoschat Design

 

 

Lifestyle changes that will support my skin journey

While general health will always influence how your skin looks – not exclusively, mind you, you can be sick as a dog and have great skin or be the healthiest person on the planet and still struggle with a skin disease – the older you get the bigger the influence of your lifestyle on your skin will become, simply because the skin loses the ability to repair everything you expose it to.

Sun damage you aqcuired in your 20s? It will show up now. Lack of sleep due to a stressful life or hormonal changes? You will see that in your face for days. While in your 20s you could stay up all night, drink too much and still look radiant, this is no longer possible in your 40s.

So even more than before, get the basics right: Get enough sleep, protect your face from the sun, quit smoking if you haven’t already and eat a balanced diet filled. Oh, and workout. That might even have an effect on skin aging on its own as we discussed in this blogpost.

Just like it is with skincare – it is never too late to start taking care of yourself.

 

TL;DR

No matter how good you have been taking care of your skin over the years, your 40s are the time when you will see changes both in your skin itself, with pigmentation, dullness and loss of elasticity, but also in the underlying structures due to bone resorption, muscular atrophy and facial fat traveling south.

Of course there will be a difference in someone that has always taken care of their skin and health as opposed to a person that smokes, sunbathes and drinks too much, but all of us will see their face change. The good news is that it is never too late to start a skincare routine – and I have suggestions for people that never cared about that topic as well as for those already armed with a variety of products in their arsenal – but at the same time you won’t be able to fix everything with topical products. If what you are seeing bothers you, you might want to look into devices and more invasive procedures. If not, watch the video linked to learn how to keep your skin in the best shape possible.

 

The best skincare routine for your 40s and beyond
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