Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You’ve come to the right place. In our weekly series, Ask a Beauty Editor, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, haircare, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.
What’s the best skincare routine as I’m about to turn 40! I definitely use sunscreen…anything else? Thanks! – @aliciamarie_z
I’ve talked about preventative skincare in your 30s and a rigorous anti-aging routine in your 50s. Now it’s time to talk about the sweet spot in between.
Derms say we lose 1 percent of our collagen every year from the age of 20, which means that by the time we reach our 40s, our collagen supply is running really low. In fact, I’ll make the case that your 40s is actually the most important decade for anti-aging because it’s when your face hits the aging tipping point.
“This is when aging appears the most dramatically, becoming thin, wrinkled, dry, and dull,” says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “As estrogen production declines during perimenopause, the skin’s fibroblasts produce less collagen and elastin. This leads to a thinner epidermis, reduced hydration, compromised barrier function, and loss of elasticity.”
In other words, your skincare routine has some work to do. I’m super happy to hear you’re already using sunscreen, not just because that means you’re covered on that front, but also because I can finally skip that familiar lecture. Let’s shift our focus towards promoting collagen and elastin, the mighty duo of proteins that keeps your complexion plump.
I’m going to simplify things by tackling the side effects of aging in your 40s one by one: thinness, wrinkles, dryness, and dullness.
The good news: Thin skin and wrinkles are two birds that can be taken down with one stone, and that stone is retinol. Retinol, a vitamin A derivative that acts directly on the DNA in skin cells, is an anti-aging powerhouse. When applied topically, it can increase skin cell turnover and collagen production.
Dryness can be combated with hyaluronic acid, a substance that naturally occurs in our bodies and works to both attract and seal water into the skin. Dr. King adds that it’s important to use ceramides and emollients in your moisturizer, which will help make your skin baby butt-smooth.
And last but not least, shed away dullness with regular exfoliation two to three times a week. Though it’s important to note that skin naturally sheds on its own, this cycle can vary greatly depending on your age. And unfortunately, it’s not working so well in your 40s. Stimulating the skin renewal process by getting rid of dead skin—either by physical or chemical (i.e., glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid) exfoliation—will help you get your glow going again.
Now that we have the building blocks for a stellar skincare routine, let’s hone in on the specifics. Keep scrolling to see which products you should be using.