Although we all know that skin changes with advancing age, it’s not always an easy thing to accept—especially as those changes become more pronounced. “Signs of skin aging that first show in someone’s 30s, like fine lines around the eyes, increased pigmentation, poorer texture, and deeper smile lines all become more pronounced in the 40s,” says Jennifer Herrmann, a Beverly Hills–based dermatologist.
As those details make themselves known, it may feel like there are only two options for moving forward: Accept that wrinkles are a part of life, or lament all of those young, naïve days spent in the sun. But age and lifestyle choices aside, Herrmann does say that there’s a third option available—and an accompanying detail—that can help treat those aforementioned issues: a specific skincare routine.
“The best topical ingredients for this age aim to repair DNA damage, increase collagen production, fade unwanted pigmentation, and thicken skin,” she notes.
We asked Herrmann for the best ingredients to look for when building an anti-aging regimen for someone in their 40s, as well as what products to avoid. And to make sure that you see results as soon as possible, we also asked Herrmann to offer her advice on how to apply these items morning and night. Lastly, she says that those in their 40s shouldn’t rule out in-office treatments to support their skincare routines, since they can complement what’s done at home.
“Crow’s feet and forehead lines can be softened with Botox, and pigmentation, dullness, and texture problems can be removed with lasers,” she continues. “Plus, the judicious use of fillers like Restylane can help restore tissue loss and smooth folds that have emerged with aging, and radiofrequency heat devices can help tighten skin.”
Bottom line: Don’t feel like you have few options when it comes to knowing how to prevent aging in your 40s. By creating a skincare routine for this time frame, the changes you notice can be diminished with every passing day.
“Doing small but consistent treatments in this decade set you up for much more natural looking skin and minimizes the need for more invasive, ‘obvious’ procedures in the 50s and 60s,” Herrmann says.
What Ingredients Should You Look For?
DNA repair enzymes: “Products like DNA Renewal Intensive Renewal Moisturizer help repair damaged DNA, which improves skin’s health and helps decrease the chance of early pre-cancerous spots from emerging,” she says.
Retinoid or retinol creams: “These help increase collagen synthesis, which improves skin elasticity and decreases fine lines,” Herrmann notes.
High-quality vitamin C: “Stabilized versions of vitamin C, like that in SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, can help fade dark spots,” she says. “Kojic acid, black licorice, bearberry, azelaic acid, arbutin, niacinamide, and hydroquinone are common ingredients that can help fade them too. Pigmentation can result from both sun and hormonal influences, and depending on your skin type, different combinations of these ingredients may be more or less appropriate for your skin. For those with extra-sensitive or rosacea-prone skin, gentler ingredients like azelaic acid and kojic acid may be better choices.”
Epidermal growth factor: “This is a key ingredient to help thicken skin and boost collagen production,” Herrmann notes. “Formulations like DNA Renewal Regeneration Serum are light and less irritating to skin than many retinoids, and it uses a plant-based EGF derived from barley.”
Oral acne treatments: “For some, pesky acne continues into the 40s and often has a hormonal influence in this decade,” she says. “Topicals that may have been helpful in your teens and 20s often fail in this decade, so dermatologist-prescribed oral medications that can decrease testosterone are often more helpful.”
Moisturizer: “Because skin thins and dries in the 40s because of decreased estrogen, most women also need more moisturization during this decade,” Herrmann continues. “Simple products that are fragrance-free and formulated for sensitive skin tend to be my go-tos, like Cetaphil and CeraVe. Hyaluronic acid is another skin hydrator that binds water and keeps skin looking dewy and young.”
Sunscreen: “Using one that is broad-spectrum and contains an SPF of at least 30 is key every day!” she says.
What Should You Avoid?
“As skin dulls, avoid the temptation to over-exfoliate,” she says. “This can cause increased irritation, drying, and amplification of signs of aging. The same goes for under-eye circles—avoid the temptation to scrub or rub this area, because this skin is thin, and doing so will worsen the darkening. Also, avoid skipping sun protection. And finally, avoid junk-food binges. If you drink plenty of water and eat healthy fats, your skin will stay hydrated and lubricated.”
What Skincare Routine Should You Follow?
In the Morning
Step 1: “Use cool water and a gentle cleanser like Neutrogena Gentle Facial cleanser or EltaMD foaming cleanser, which will help remove nighttime products without stripping your skin of its natural oils,” she says.
Step 2: “Apply a reparative agent like DNA Intensive Renewal Moisturizer, which has DNA repair enzymes that will fight DNA damage all day,” Herrmann continues.
Step 3: “Apply moisturizer based on your skin type,” she adds. “Those with acne-prone skin will still need an oil-free option while those that are feeling the effects of decreased estrogen and have drier skin will need something heavier.”
Step 4: “Apply a broad-spectrum SPF like EltaMD UV or elements to help protect against UV damage,” she says. “I like Elta because it is sheer, has tinted options, and is very good for all skin types, including the most sensitive skin.”
Step 1: “Cleanse to remove makeup, oils, and pollution,” she says. “If your skin is acne-prone or dull, often an option with salicylic acid or AHA acids can help gently exfoliate without creating excess irritation, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleanser or Caviar and Cashmere’s Clarifying Cleanser.”
Step 2: “Apply either a retinoid like Renova or a growth factor serum like DNA Regeneration Serum that target collagen and elastin synthesis,” she says. “For those with more sensitive skin, I often recommend a retinoid twice weekly and a growth factor for the remaining evenings.”
Step 3: “Apply a brightening agent, if needed, for pigmentation,” she says. “Also, all vitamin C is not created equal. Because it’s an inherently unstable molecule that breaks down in the air, it’s important to purchase a high-quality stabilized variety.”
Step 4: “Apply a moisturizer specific to your skin type,” Herrmann says. “Usually wait a few minutes between product application to allow for absorption.”