Reaching your 40s is a milestone in many ways. You’re well past the insecurities of your 20s, survived the pressure for personal and professional achievement in your 30s, and now you’re in a place where you pay more attention to what truly makes you happy. But along with welcome mid-life changes, you may notice undesired shifts in your appearance. One of those areas includes differences in how your skin looks and feels.
As your body’s reproductive hormones decline, it impacts your skin’s elasticity and moisture retention. Previous sun damage shows up as fine lines, wrinkles, and “age spots.” The lymphatic systems also slow down in middle age, increasing eye puffiness and dark circles. All these physical changes mean it’s time for a skincare makeover. Let’s explore what you can do to make your 40-something skin look its best.
Why Skin in Your 40s Differs From Skin in Your 30s
When you’re in your 30s, your skin produces enough collagen and sebum to delay the signs of aging. Sebum can make your skin oily, but it also prevents it from becoming too dry. Your skin has sebaceous glands that create sebum, which helps keep the skin moisturized.
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Once you turn 40, your sebaceous glands start making less sebum. Even if you have naturally oily skin, you’ll see a difference. Yes, you’ll have a slight advantage over your peers in the anti-aging department. Nonetheless, your t-zone won’t be as shiny as it was a decade before. While those with an oily complexion might welcome less sebum, it can make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable.
Besides a decline in sebum production, the skin also becomes less elastic. A loss of collagen is the main culprit here since it helps form and strengthen connective tissue. The natural aging process reduces how much collagen your body makes. By the time you reach your 40s, this decline is noticeable. In addition, the way collagen connects deep within your skin changes. In a nutshell, those connective tissues go from solid to weak.
As if the loss of sebum and collagen weren’t enough, the face’s skin also loses fat. Fat loss may sound desirable, but in this case, it isn’t. The fat underneath your face stops your skin from sagging. A study showed people can lose more than 12% of their facial fat over a decade during middle age. Unfortunately, this fat loss contributes to an older appearance by flattening cheeks, hollowing out the eyes, and causing sagging below the jawline.
Skin changes from aging may not be completely preventable. However, lifestyle factors can accelerate signs of aging in the skin. By being mindful of your habits, you can prevent premature aging and help mitigate skin changes.
Too much unprotected sun exposure and indoor tanning bed use will fast-track aging. While you can’t turn back the clock and change how much UV light exposure you got before your 40s, you can start practicing better habits now. Photoaging from UV light leads to visible skin changes, including age spots. So, slather on sunscreen, avoid artificial tanning beds, and wear a hat outdoors.
Other habits you’ll want to ditch include smoking, eating a lot of junk food, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Also, pay attention to your sleep and stress levels. Burning the midnight oil and being in high-stress environments can accelerate the aging process of your skin. When you’re under stress, your body makes more cortisol, which blocks the production of collagen.
Another lifestyle factor you can control is how you take care of your skin. The routine you’re used to may no longer cut it. For example, using harsh cleansers and exfoliants could dry out your skin even more. Often, adapting your routine helps slow down or even reverse the signs of aging.
How To Adapt Your Skincare Routine in Your 40s
The changes your body experiences in your 40s mean you may need to tackle wrinkles and hormonal acne. Fluctuating hormones might also cause skin conditions like melasma, which is a particular type of hyperpigmentation. While adapting your routine is a must, your skin type and underlying conditions will influence your product and procedure choices.
For instance, someone with oily skin will need to moisturize more in their 40s than in their 30s. Yet, this person will want to avoid the heavy-duty creams someone with a dry complexion benefits from. With individual and universal considerations in mind, here are some tips on how to adapt your midlife skincare routine.
Cleanser is where it starts. A good cleanser removes excess dirt, oil, and bacteria from the skin’s outer layers. But in your 40s, you want a gentle solution that doesn’t strip too much sebum. You also want to stay away from grainy, harsh exfoliants. Since your skin thins out as you age, exfoliating cleansers like an apricot scrub can injure the epidermis.
While harsh exfoliants are a no-no, so is regular soap. Most soaps dry out the skin. This drying effect can heighten the consequences of lower sebum production, including more visible fine lines and wrinkles. Instead of reaching for the bar or bottle from your shower, consider a no-frills cleanser with hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
For example, gentle solutions from brands like Cerave contain glycerin and other moisturizing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid. They’ll keep your skin clean and its moisture levels balanced.
If you didn’t use serums before your 40s, don’t worry. You probably didn’t need to. But by now, your face may look dull and show signs of oxidative stress. What’s oxidative stress? It’s when free radicals outnumber antioxidants in the body.
An imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants can damage skin cells. This damage might show up as fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation. It can also lead to sallow-looking skin, which means the tissue appears yellow or brown. Sallowness can be a sign of aging, which is why some people refer to it as losing their youthful glow.
Serums with vitamin C can combat signs of oxidative stress and restore a healthy glow. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, brightening the skin, evening out its tone, and boosting collagen. A serum with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid addresses sallowness and dryness. In addition, you’ll find serums with niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) help prevent moisture loss and acne.
At-home treatments for aging skin can become a part of your routine if you’re not ready for more expensive in-office visits. One of those treatments is tretinoin cream, which makes your skin shed its cells faster. When your skin multiplies its cell turnover rate, it helps prevent acne and the production of extra pigment. Plus, regular use of tretinoin increases collagen production.
Tretinoin requires a prescription, but you can consult with a medical professional about your skin concerns. If you’re struggling with hormonal acne in your 40s, tretinoin can deliver a double-packed punch. With time, it’ll smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, reduce discoloration, and minimize breakouts.
Repeated use of tretinoin may reverse sun damage. However, tretinoin can increase UV light sensitivity and skin inflammation. You’ll want to use sunscreen with a higher SPF while monitoring for redness and peeling. If your symptoms are too bothersome, you might need to reduce the treatment’s strength or frequency.
Skin aging, the gradual breakdown of collagen and elastin, is accelerated by oxidative stress on cells caused by UV light and a variety of other environmental factors. Antioxidants can help reverse some of this damage, and are active ingredients in a variety of different anti aging products.
Most of these antioxidants are vitamins, and some of the most studied include niacinamide (vitamin B3), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and tocopherol (vitamin E). These vitamins are small enough to penetrate the skin and can help repair some of the damage caused by oxidative stress. You will find these ingredients in many anti-aging and skin brightening serums.
Once you’re 40, you don’t want to use just any moisturizer. You want to choose a product that addresses your current concerns. And if moisturizer hasn’t been a part of your routine because you have oily skin, now is the time to start. You’ll want to choose a lighter, oil-free product. All the same, a moisturizer with retinol is ideal for nearly everyone.
Like tretinoin, retinol is a form of vitamin A, so it helps combat signs of aging. While some retinol moisturizers are made for nighttime applications, others are suitable to wear in the daytime. Since direct UV light can cause retinol to break down, daytime formulas usually contain sunscreen with a moderate SPF. The sunscreen prevents retinol from losing its potency by shielding the skin from UV rays.
The skin under your eyes is more sensitive than that covering other parts of your body. Genetics, stress, and lifestyle factors mean any age group can experience dark undereye circles. Puffiness might also happen due to poor sleep, water retention, and illness. Starting in your 40s, you can add fine lines and wrinkles to your growing list of concerns.
While no one will tell you not to smile and laugh, those gestures can form crow’s feet. These are the lines and wrinkles near the outer corners of your eyes. Repetitive muscle contractions from smiling and other emotional expressions can be a common cause.
Eye creams with retinol can smooth out crow’s feet and reduce under eye puffiness. Some formulas also address discoloration, including dark circles. Most will protect the delicate skin near your eyes. You might think you can get away with applying a regular moisturizer there instead, but these can be irritating. Eye creams are preferable, especially since they target the unique signs of aging near the eyes.
Every year, U.S. medical professionals diagnose around 5.4 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers. About 3.3 million Americans get a skin cancer diagnosis annually, meaning some individuals have more than one cancerous spot. Since skin cancer is on the rise, wearing sunscreen each time you go outdoors is critical to prevention.
As an additional benefit, sunscreen combats premature aging and UV ray damage. While some foundations and concealers contain SPF, it may not be high enough to actually protect your skin. This is especially true if you have fair skin, as your skin cancer risk is generally higher. Wearing products like tinted sunscreen or moisturizer with an SPF of at least 30 can help give your skin adequate protection.
Sometimes cosmetics aren’t enough. You may want quicker, more noticeable results. In these cases, in-office procedures like Botox and laser treatments might be for you. Botox injections temporarily stop your facial muscles from moving. This lack of movement can help straighten out expression line wrinkles, particularly in areas like the forehead.
Laser treatments work by increasing the skin’s collagen production and removing the skin’s top layer to improve turnover rates. These procedures are similar to the effects of tretinoin or retinol, but they can provide better results for challenging cases. It’s important to note in-office procedures can be expensive, and the possible side effects can be more severe. Talk with a skincare professional to determine if an in-office procedure would benefit you.
Ready for a New Skincare Routine?
You don’t have to regret looking in the mirror once you reach middle age. While you can’t stop yourself from aging, you can slow down its effects on your skin. If you’re ready to keep your skin in good shape, schedule a consultation with a medical professional. They can create a customized anti-aging routine for your 40s and beyond.