How to look after your skin as you age

Turning a milestone age like 20, 30, 40 or 50 is often cause for reflection – and the decisions of our youth can literally stare us in the face.

Two experts from the Australasian College of Dermatologists tell us what we need to do – and avoid – to put our best face forward.

Terrible teens

Dermatologist and acne specialist Dr Jo-Ann See says the maze of information, treatments and myths about acne can be confusing for young people.

“Teenagers are very conscious about how they look and the photos they are posting on social media, and there are a lot of entrepreneurs and celebrity endorsements for different products,” says Dr See, a contributor to All About Acne.

“Unfortunately, a lot of it is spin. It’s really down to genetics and hormones at that age.”

Cosmetic and laser dermatologist Dr Michelle Hunt says teens should avoid greasy make-up and sunscreens and opt for “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic” skincare products.

“Cleansers containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid help acne but may cause dryness,” says Dr Hunt.

“Non-prescription products for acne include benzoyl peroxide lotions and creams, glycolic or azelaic acid preparations. If these fail, prescription creams or tablets may be required.”

Roaring 20s

Dr Hunt says “skin turnover” is good in our 20s, so we radiate a youthful glow.

Focus on a good skincare regime – including a gentle cleanser, moisturiser, broad-spectrum SPF 50+ sunscreen – and a healthy lifestyle.

“Avoid smoking, sunbathing, excessive alcohol consumption and sleep deprivation, and eat a healthy diet. Consider using a moisturiser containing antioxidants (such as Vitamin A, C, E) in the late 20s,” she says.

Dr Hunt says treatments for acne scars include laser resurfacing, micro-needling radiofrequency, subcision and dermal fillers.

Dr See says acne in the 20s can also be triggered by polycystic ovary syndrome and pregnancy.

“People who still have hormonal acne in their 20s can feel cheated – and some people still have it in their 40s,” says Dr See.

She recommends a low-GI (glycaemic) diet, which research has linked to a reduction in flare-ups.

Flirty 30s

Exposure to sun, pollution and smoking causes oxidative stress on the skin and early signs of ageing appear such as expression lines (crow’s feet, smile lines), broken capillaries, open pores and pigmentation.

“Pregnancy can also result in skin changes including melasma (pigmentation),” says Dr Hunt.

She advises introducing a serum or moisturiser with anti-ageing ingredients such as anti-oxidants and/or retinol.

skincare in 40s

Fabulous 40s

Dr Hunt says cellular energy production and skin turnover declines in our 40s, often resulting in early to moderate “photoaging” (sun damage) and blotchy pigmentation.

Serums and moisturisers containing anti-oxidants like Vitamin A, C, E, green tea and caffeine can help promote cellular repair and reduce damage from free radicals formed by exposure to sun, smoking and pollution.

Dr Hunt recommends AHAs and retinoids to help reverse signs of ageing, as well as a brightening serum or cream to help reduce pigmentation.

Fantastic 50s

A decline in skin barrier function is seen in the 50s, and the skin often becomes drier, duller and more easily irritated.

“Consider adding a medical-grade retinoid such as tretinoin at night, which modulates cell turnover and differentiation, traps free radicals and stimulates the production of new collagen,” says Dr Hunt.

“This results in improved skin texture and a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles over time. It may also reduce the formation of pre-cancerous spots. They can be combined with an AHA cream in the morning.”

She says not everyone tolerates topical tretinoin, and patients should seek expert advice.

Swinging 60s

Continue medical-grade topical skincare products and look for products that provide extra hydration.

“Lasers, dermal fillers and surgical procedures such as face lifting are often considered at this age,” says Dr Hunt.

Read more about how to look after your skin, no matter what your age.

Written by Elissa Doherty