Wash with a Gentle Cleanser
You’ll want to use a gentle cleanser to preserve your skin barrier and maintain its resistance to dehydration and damage. Cleansers with a high pH, like natural soaps, are very harsh and can leave your skin vulnerable to irritation and infection. Cleansers with a low pH, such as this one by Cosrx ($10.75 on Amazon), work to maintain optimal skin balance.
An ingredient to avoid is sodium lauryl sulfate, as it’s very harsh. You also don’t need to buy cleansers with fancy, active ingredients. Cleansers aren’t on your skin for very long, so those active ingredients are far more useful in later steps, like when you apply serum.
Consider Skipping the Toner
Toners were developed to restore a balanced pH of the skin after washing with a high-pH cleanser. If you’re using a cleanser with a low pH, a toner is unnecessary. It’s much better to avoid damage in the first place than to undo it later!
As you age, your skin’s ability to replenish itself slows down. Dead skin cells aren’t replaced by fresh cells as quickly, which means your skin starts to look dull and uneven — and may even crack. Exfoliants are a great way to help get dead cells off your skin.
Chemical exfoliants gradually dissolve the bonds between skin cells and allow them to detach. They’re also suitable for skin of any age! The best exfoliants for maturing skin are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and lactic acid. You can also find these acids in toners, serums and at-home peels.
Bonus tip: AHAs are great for fading uneven pigmentation and can help hydrate your skin as well! One great product is Gylo-Luronic Acid serum ($5.00 on Makeup Artist’s Choice), which has a mix of glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid. It has properties to exfoliate and moisturize your skin too.
In general, serums contain a higher concentration of active ingredients than moisturizers. The best anti-aging ingredients to look out for are vitamin A derivatives known as retinoids (retinol, tretinoin and tazarotene) and vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate). In addition to increasing collagen in your skin, they also act as antioxidants to soak up the biological and environmental oxidative stress that builds up to cause aging.
If you’re new to serums, you can try this affordable, vegan and cruelty-free vitamin C serum ($5.80 from The Ordinary) but the formulation doesn’t allow for a serum-like texture. Want to try making it yourself? Check out my own super easy DIY vitamin C serum.
With age also comes less sebum. While this lowers the chance of acne, it can also make your skin dry out more easily. One of the main reasons for fine lines is inadequate skin hydration, but luckily that’s easy to fix with a good moisturizer!
Look for a moisturizer that contains water-binding humectants, like glycerine and hyaluronic acid. Using an occlusive, like petrolatum (commercially known as Vaseline, although Aquaphor also works), and mineral oil at night can prevent water from evaporating from your skin. Just make sure your skin is clean to avoid trapping bacteria!
Sun protection is one surefire way to keep your skin looking as young as possible. The sun is responsible for so much of our skin’s visible signs of aging that sun damage gets its own special category in dermatology: photoaging.
The sun’s UV rays can cause aging by:
- breaking down collagen and causing abnormalities in elastin, leading to thinner skin and wrinkles
- causing uneven, pigmented patches to develop
So make sure to use sunscreen, and not just at the beach — use it every day. A daily application of a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen can fade age spots, improve skin texture, and flatten out wrinkles by 20 percent in only 3 months, according to a recent study. The researchers suggest that sunscreen gives the skin a break from being continually battered by UV rays, allowing its own powerful regenerative abilities a chance to work.
Not sure which sunscreen to buy? Try sunscreen from another country or EltaMD’s sunscreen ($23.50 on Amazon), which is also recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
You can protect your skin from the sun in other ways as well. Wearing sun-protective clothing like long-sleeve shirts, hats and sunglasses, and avoiding the sun in the middle of the day will reduce your exposure to aging and carcinogenic UV rays.
And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t intentionally sunbake. Use fake tanning spray or lotion instead, if you’re after a truly healthy glow.
Damage to your skin is one of the main causes of wrinkles, and since older skin is more fragile, trauma can have a greater impact on it. While there isn’t much research on the effect of how skin care products are applied, studies have found that pressing your face against a pillow as you sleep can cause permanent “sleep wrinkles.” So it makes sense to err on the side of caution and avoid strong rubbing and tugging motions as you wash your face and apply your skin care products.
Look After the Rest of Your Body Too
Apart from your face, the key areas that expose your age are your neck, chest and hands. Make sure you don’t neglect those areas! Keep them protected, and your true age may just be your best-kept secret.