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The Skincare Products To Use In Your 40s

Skincare would be so much easier to navigate if once you found your personal “holy grail” products, you could use them forever and keep seeeing results — but sadly, the skin just doesn’t work that way. Thanks to things like seasonal changes (dryness in the winter, clogged pores in the summer), hormonal shifts (from puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond), and pollution and sun exposure, your skin’s unique needs are always in flux. Add getting older to the equation, and it’s clear: The ideal skincare products to use in your 40s probably aren’t the same ones you reached for in your 20s.

“For women in their 20s, the focus is often on oil control and preventing hormonal breakouts,” Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, a dermatologist known as Dr. Heather, tells The Zoe Report. These issues (thankfully) tend to clear up as you age; she notes that only 26 percent of women have acne in their 40s as compared to 50 percent of women in their 20s. The oil and acne of your youth are gradually replaced by dry skin, fine lines and wrinkles, and a loss of elasticity, though — so, yeah, your skincare routine deserves an upgrade.

“In the 40s, the skin may have switched over from oily to being dry,” Dr. Heather tells TZR. “Hydrating products are generally better in this age group.” Since studies show that lack of moisture actually contributes to the appearance of lines and wrinkles, now’s the time to stock up on hydrating essentials. Add an oil cleanser like One Love Organics Vitamin B Cleansing Oil to your lineup to cleanse without stripping the skin of its natural oils, and consider incorporating an essence (Vintner’s Daughter is about to launch a game-changing one) as well. Look for serums and moisturizers that boast ingredients like hyaluronic acid or snow mushroom; both have been shown to dramatically affect skin’s hydration levels (in a good way).

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“Collagen production tends to slow down after the age of 30,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner of Zeichner Dermatology in New York City tells TZR. After that, you lose about one percent of your skin’s natural collagen stores per year — which is a significant amount by the time you hit 40. “The skin has less elasticity, and when stretched it takes longer to ‘snap back,’” Dr. Heather explains. “Fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes, start to become more prominent.” The dermatologists suggest that you counteract these issues in two ways: by using vitamin C to build up collagen, and reaching for retinol to treat fine lines.

“Besides its role as a potent antioxidant, vitamin C is an essential cofactor for the production of healthy collagen,” Dr. Zeichner says. In other words, it’ll stimulate your skin to create more of the good stuff and keep the signs of aging to a minimum.

Retinol is best to treat fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Heather adds. “In the skin, retinol is converted into retinoic acid, which binds receptors to increase cell turnover rate.” This increase in cellular turnover results in “smoother, more even skin,” the dermatologist says. Thanks to the recent rise in over-the-counter retinol formulas, you’ll have no trouble finding a product that works for you — beginners can start with a few drops of MARA Beauty Algae Retinol Oil (packed with plumping oils to mitigate any possible irritation from retinol), while retinol veterans should reach for Sunday Riley’s brand new A+ High-Dose Retinoid Cream.

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“In addition, retinoic acid inhibits matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs,” Dr. Heather tells TZR. MMPs are the enzymes that break down collagen; thus, by inhibiting MMPs, you can improve fine lines and wrinkles. Manuka honey has been shown to have a similar effect on the collagen-killing enzymes, and L’Oreal’s new Age Perfect Manuka Honey range was specifically designed to support aging skin in this way.

“Freckles, brown spots, and uneven skin tone from the sun become more prominent in the 40s, especially for those who did not practice good sun protection in their younger years,” Dr. Heather says. “Some studies suggest that an uneven skin tone impacts the appearance of aging even more than fine lines and wrinkles, so maintaining an even skin tone as you age is equally important.” To lift any dark spots or patches of hyperpigmentation, the derm is a fan of skin brightening ingredients like licorice (for the natural beauty lovers) and niacinamide. Vitamin C serums and exfoliating acids are helpful in this area, too — and Tatcha’s latest release, Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHAs, has both.

Finally, “The skin on the neck and chest starts to change texture and lose elasticity,” Dr. Heather tells TZR. This is often exacerbated because most people aren’t diligent about applying daily sunscreen to the neck and décolletage. It’s a good idea to incorporate specific neck and chest firming treatments, like Perricone MD Cold Plasma+ Neck & Chest Broad Spectrum SPF 25, into your routine. But the best thing you can do? Start getting serious about daily sun protection — for your face, neck, chest, hands, and any other exposed area — ASAP.

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As you reach your 40s, what you remove from your skincare routine is just as important as what you add to it. To that end, Dr. Heather suggests avoiding products with added fragrance, as “some women are more sensitive to heavily perfumed products with age.” She also recommends skipping out on “overly drying astringent products,” like alcohol-heavy toners, since they may exacerbate textural changes and make the skin look older.

Whew. While all of that may feel overwhelming, it shouldn’t be overlooked that shopping for a brand new skincare routine can be kind of fun. (Who doesn’t love opening a big box from Sephora, right?) Ahead, the 17 derm-approved skincare essentials that every woman in her 40s needs.

Shop Skincare Essentials

Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil

$42

One Love Organices

Replace any harsh, stripping cleansers in your collection with gentler options, like this Vitamin B Cleansing Oil from One Love Organics. It features a slew of natural and organic oils (like sunflower and pumpkin seed oils) to remove makeup while keeping skin hydrated.

Aromatic Facial Cleanser

$80

Shiffa

With a milky texture and botanical ingredients, Shiffa's daily cleanser is one that will keep dry or mature faces soft and smooth. It comes with a muslin cloth to make rinsing and patting dry even easier on your skin.

Active Treatment Essence

$225

Vintner's Daughter

Vintner's Daughter's soon-to-be launched Active Treatment Essence is bound to become a cult classic. (The brand's only other product, Active Botanical Serum, is an industry staple.) A single bottle could theoretically replace your whole skincare routine — it features 13 botanical extracts (to soothe), vitamin C (to brighten), micro and mini hyaluronic acid (to plump), probiotics (to protect), and micro-exfoliating acids (to polish). Whew! Get on the waitlist to be notified when it launches on Feb. 25.

Violet-C Brightening Serum

$88

Tatcha

Bursting with 20-percent vitamin C, plus gentle skin-resurfacing AHAs, this serum promises to reveal a glowing, smooth complexion — even in the dead of winter.

Clinical Grade IPL Dark Spot Correcting Serum

$92

DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare's latest blend of acids — including L-ascorbic acid (a fancy name for Vitamin C) and resurfacing lactic acid — works overtime to brighten hyperpigmentation and boost collagen production.

Vitamin B3+ Niacinamide Serum

$35

SKIN INC SUPPLEMENT BAR

This just-launched serum from Skin INC features a high concentration of Dr. Heather's favorite ingredient for lifting hyperpigmentation: niacinamide.

Hyaluronic Acid Champaca Hydrating Serum

$130

STACKEDSKINCARE

It's a good idea to switch serums every other day. In between brightening vitamin C or exfoliating acid formulas, throw in a hit of hyaluronic acid. The ingredient adds much-needed moisture to the skin — which does everything from give you a glowy, dewy complexion to decrease the appearance of fine lines.

Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream

$52

Peter Thomas Roth

Because you can *never* be too moisturized. Layer on a hyaluronic acid moisturizer for added hydration; this one from Peter Thomas Roth is a derm fave.

Day Moisturizer SPF 20

$85

AVYA Skincare

Made with snow mushroom (a natural ingredient that rivals hyaluronic acid) and SPF 20 (to prevent future age spots and wrinkles), AVYA's Day Moisturizer is a must for maturing skin.

Concentrated Firming Moisturizer

$70

Dr. Loretta

This dermatologist-formulated product fights signs of aging at every turn. It's made with a blend of retinoic esters (to support collagen and cellular turnover), CoQ10 (an antioxidant enzyme that firms and brightens), and Lipochroman (a medical-grade ingredient that protects from all three types of environmental pollution).

Superscreen Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40 PA+++

$38

Supergoop!

Supergoop!'s new SPF 40 is genius. Since it also acts as your daily moisturizer, you'll never forget to wear it — and your skin will thank you for it.

A-Passioni Retinol Cream

$74

Drunk Elephant

This cult classic brand now offers retinol in cream form, which makes application mess-free (and skin wrinkle-free).

A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

$85

Sunday Riley

Sunday Riley's just-released retinol features a whopping 6.5 percent retinoid formulation — so needless to say, this stuff isn't for beginners. But if you've worked your way up to a higher retinol tolerance, this will no doubt level-up your usual routine.

Fab Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream With Triple Hyaluronic Acid

$42

First Aid Beauty

Hyaluronic acid helps your under-eye area stay plump while retinol kickstarts your body's collagen production, resulting in brighter, smoother skin.

Age Perfect Hydra-Nutrition De-Puffing Honey Eye Gel

$24.99

L’Oréal Paris

Manuka honey and natural oils work together to soothe and soften skin, while a cooling rollerball applicator de-puffs the under-eye area for bright, wide-awake eyes.

Bright Skin Licorice Root Exfoliating Peel

$79

Eminence Organic Skin Care

Once a week, reach for Eminence Organic's Licorice Root Peel. It buffs away dead skin cells as it brightens age spots and hyperpigmentation with natural, organic ingredients (like licorice root and aloe gel).

Cold Plasma+ Neck & Chest Broad Spectrum SPF 25

$89

Perricone MD

Don't forget about the neck and chest. Perricone MD's formula marries ingredients that even skin tone and add moisture with a daily dose of SPF, to keep the area protected on every level.