Let's Talk About Skin Care Through The Decades

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Let’s just get it out in the open: Our skin matters. It’s the largest organ on our body, and we should try to take care of it.

And no, it doesn’t make you vain or narcissistic if you want your skin to look its best, invest in occasional (or regular) facials, or your skincare routine takes you longer to complete than cleaning your entire house.

For many women and men, it’s a hobby of sorts. I love slathering on a nice serum after I’ve done a hydrating mask. I’m in my 40s and my skin drinks that shit up like a thirsty dog at the bark park on a summer’s day.

But that wasn’t always the case. In my 20s, my skin was plump and luminous without having to do much. In fact, I think I used the same lotion for my whole body, including my face. I shudder at that thought now.

In my 30s, I noticed the laugh lines stuck around after laughing, and now that I’m in my 40s, I’m starting to get dry patches on my face (especially around my mouth), in places that were never dry.

Because our skin care needs are changing as we age, we set out break down our skin and what it (typically) needs through the decades. Slap on a mask, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get down to business.


Licensed aesthetician and co-founder behind Sarah Nicole Skincare, Sarah Payne says taking care of your skin in your 20s is a great way to be proactive and ensure your skin will look great later. “This is when starting good skincare habits, like daily SPF and antioxidants, are incredibly important,” she says.

You skin is still producing collagen and elastin, but that is starting to slow down. In your late 20s, if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun or smoked in your lifetime, this is when you may start to see the damage from that. It’s never too early to start antioxidants and a low dose of retinoids as a preventive measure, says Payne. And you should be wearing SPF every day. Yes, every day.

Dr. Anthony Youn, holistic anti-aging health and wellness expert and author of The Age Fix, says your 20s are a time when your skin looks great with little effort — even if you go on a bender the night before, it’s not as noticeable on your face as it is when you age.

He adds this is a great time to start getting mini-peels on your lunch hour and start microdermabrasion.


This is when my friends and I started looking in the mirror and saying, “What the actual fuck? These lines, or that spot, weren’t there last night when I was washing my face. Please send help!”

Payne says this is because “cell turnover is slower, dull skin and uneven texture become a reoccurring theme and a highlight of our skincare routines.”

This is also when our collagen and elastin production slow way down. If your skincare routine has been minimal up to this point, you may start (everyone is different) to see pigmentation from sun exposure and more pronounced lines especially around the eyes, mouth, and forehead.

“Starting an acid toner now as well as adjusting your retinoid dose can help your skin,” says Payne who adds, “Don’t forget to adjust your skincare during the dry/cold months.” For example in the winter as we age, we may not need to exfoliate the skin as much. You can try a gentler cleanser, or exfoliate less if you notice your skin is becoming more dry and irritated even if you haven’t changed anything about your normal routine.

Dr. Youn says these are the years when your acne might creep up again, even if you haven’t had to deal with it since your teens — acne and wrinkles are such a delightful combination to sport at the same time, aren’t they?

Dr. Youn says this is a good time to start with painless radio frequency skin tightening like ReFirme, which is a non-invasive, painless way to tighten up your skin. This treatments are optional, of course, and not necessary to having healthy skin.


This is the decade our skin produces less oil, says Payne. And I can attest — I’m witnessing that firsthand, and I’d never though I would say I miss my face oil, but here I am.

Something else that starts to become more scarce in our skin at this age are lipids, fatty acids, and cholesterol. Your skin begins to feel less firm and plump and you may notice some sagging. “This is when you want to start using a product with hyaluronic acid if you haven’t been already. It helps to support dry skin and maintain a plump appearance,” she says.

Dr. Youn adds that this is definitely the decade where past damage begins to show and many begin to freak out about our skin’s appearance. You may even notice your skin has a grayish hue and is less vibrant.

Microneedling is something you can look into, but the recommendation is finding a properly trained aesthetician or dermatologist, versus trying it at home (especially your first time).


Payne says your 50s are when you really notice the sagging, especially around your jaw line and neck, “as skin elasticity decreases.” Your skin tends to become thinner and more dehydrated as your skin stops producing as much hyaluronic acid, says Payne.

Continuing to do everything you’ve done in past decades to care for your skin is imperative in your 50s, but again, don’t forget to adjust accordingly, recommends Payne. If you need to back off exfoliating or up your retinoids, what matters is your skin looks and feels good. What worked for you when you were younger might not be working as your hormone levels change.

Even if you’ve taken good care of your skin, lines begin to deepen. “This is the time when good skincare is essential to keeping your skin looking as youthful as possible,” says Dr. Young.


You will notice more sagging and drying of the skin in your 60s that is often accompanied by “an increased sensitivity and redness,” says Payne.

At this age, even if your diet and skincare routine is on point, Dr. Youn says you may want to turn back the clock by using, “lasers, peels” and some may “even consider surgery.”

Payne says even if you don’t want to invest time in your skin, the most important thing you should do, no matter your age, is apply sunscreen.

Taking time every day to reduce to signs of aging goes a long way. “It’s all about commitment and consistency and should be done every day,” she says.

Keep in mind your skincare routine isn’t all you need to take into consideration when it comes to putting your best face forward. Dr. Young says it’s important to remember hormones changes and diet are important factors as well.

I can say, as a woman in my mid-forties, regular facials, using sunscreen every day, removing my makeup each night, and acid exfoliation products have been game changers for me. You don’t have to be an expert on skincare or spend a lot of money, either. A little care can go a long way.

However, if you are noticing big changes to your skin or see something pop up that doesn’t look normal, it’s best to contact a dermatologist and discuss your options.

In the meantime, have fun with your skincare routine, and find products you love. Loving the skin you have and feeding it the best way you can will pay off in spades later on.

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