By the time you reach your fifties, you may begin to feel like your age is written all over your face. As estrogen levels drop and oil production decreases, the skin becomes drier and more sensitive to changes in climate or season. Collagen and bone loss leads to looser, sagging skin that’s becoming thinner and more uneven in texture. Expression lines no longer disappear after you stop smiling or squinting. Cumulative sun damage leads to increased hyperpigmentation, such as brown spots or red blotches. And menopause can add a multitude of other problems, including extreme dryness, acne and rosacea.
But don’t worry: It’s never too late to prevent future skin damage or stop the progression of damage you may already have. Here are some tips for rejuvenating mature skin.
Use an emollient cleanser. To keep drier skin hydrated, wash your face morning and night with a creamy or foaming non-soap cleanser. And be sure to use lukewarm water, which is less irritating to sensitive skin than hot water.
Moisturize. Mature skin can’t afford to miss out on moisturizer. If your skin looks crepey, try a serum with vitamin C or copper peptides, which promote collagen and elastin production and act as an antioxidant. Serums, in general, are more easily absorbed than creams and lotions. If your skin is very dry, consider a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, which forms a moisturizing barrier to keep the skin soft. It’s also important to use a night cream to keep your skin hydrated while you sleep.
Embrace alpha hydroxy acids. As cell renewal slows down, skin can become dull and lifeless. Chemical peels and skin care products containing alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid) encourage new cell turnover and stimulate collagen production, revealing fresher, brighter skin.
Use a retinoid. Retinoid products, made with derivatives of vitamin A, reach deep into the skin to combat and reverse signs of aging. They boost collagen production and speed up cell turnover to fight wrinkles and uneven texture; minimize pores; and reduce brown spots. Ask your skin care provider to recommend a retinoid with an emollient base.
Use sunscreen. Unprotected sun exposure is a major cause of premature aging, and its cumulative effects worsen with age. Wear a broadband (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Some moisturizers already contain sunscreen. If yours doesn’t, apply a separate one, especially if you use products with retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids. Both can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
Refill. As we lose volume, wrinkles deepen and skin begins to sag. Dermal fillers can be injected into hollow areas of the face to plump up lines, lips, under-eye spaces and cheeks. For a natural look, use one that contains hyaluronic acid, a substance found in young skin and in the body’s connective tissues. These include Restylane, Juvederm and, for deeper folds, Perlane. To increase their longevity, try Botox, which temporarily relaxes muscles to smooth creases and prevent new ones from forming.
Resurface. Years of sun damage can leave unwanted marks on the skin. Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy targets unwanted sun damage, brown spots, freckles, facial flushing and rosacea. Three to five treatments are typically recommended at intervals of one month apart. In some cases, laser resurfacing may be needed to smooth out weathered, wrinkly skin, though it can require up to 14 days of down time.
Eat well. What you put in your body affects your skin as much as what you put on it. Omega-3 fatty acids — found in such foods as wild salmon, avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds and spinach — reduce the body’s production of inflammatory compounds, thus reducing redness and irritation in the skin. Antioxidants — essential nutrients that include vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and selenium — protect the skin from free radicals, unstable molecules that damage healthy cells as a result of exposure to pollutants and radiation.
Exercise. As we age, bone density decreases and our metabolisms slow down, so it’s important to get some exercise every day. Physical activity doesn’t just keep you fit and help you relieve stress, it’s a significant contributor to smiling skin, too. Try an exercise regimen that includes both cardiovascular and strength training. If that’s too much, try walking for 30 to 45 minutes a day.