By the time you reach your 40s, you should know a thing or two about skincare. If you’re a beauty connoisseur, you’ll have discovered retinol in your 20s and serums in your 30s. But now it’s time to up your game in all areas. In your 40s, your skin cell turnover rate has halved since your 20s, meaning wrinkles have started to sink in and your skin is probably a little less radiant.
Hormonal changes are also common, as your levels of estrogen begin to decline, affecting the function of fibroblasts, which produce elastin and collagen, as well as melanocytes that keep the skin firm, smooth, and toned. Consequently, your skin becomes less supple and can begin to sag, and as it produces less oil, it can become drier. This is why having a thorough regime to keep your skin hydrated and fed with as many nutrients as possible is essential.
We spoke to two board-certified dermatologists: Dr. Jessica Wu M.D, L.A-based dermatologist, Founder of Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals and author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days, and Dr. Timm Golueke, Founder of the Dr. Golüke clinic in Munich, and patented plant-based skincare brand Royal Fern, to get the ultimate skincare routine for your 40s. Here goes…
The Ultimate Skincare Routine For Your 40s:
Step 1. Cleanse
The start of any great skincare regime begins with double cleansing – our fave K-Beauty ritual, where you first cleanse with a cleansing oil, followed by a milk, foam, or water-based cleanser. By cleansing twice, you’ll ensure that all of the dirt, bacteria, and oil is removed from your skin. As your skin is now producing a lot less oil, you can actually cleanse twice with hydrating cleansing oils. Alternatively, Dr. Timm Golueke recommends, “A cleansing balm, as it doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils.” Just make sure you’re super gentle when you’re cleansing – don’t tug at your skin, instead gently massage the oil into a lather, as this will help stimulate collagen while the soft fluid movements upwards and outwards will help boost lymphatic drainage.
Our go-to products: We love the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, $28, which is enriched with vitamin E and olive oil, so it’s super hydrating. Another favorite of ours is the Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil, $46, which also has vitamin E, plus vitamin A to boost radiance and fight free radicals that cause premature aging. We then follow with the Tatcha Deep Exfoliating Cleanser, $38, as it encourages skin cell renewal, which naturally slows down with age.
Step 2. Tone
In your 40s you want to use a toner that’ll hydrate and rebalance your skin, so look for toners infused with rich moisturizing ingredients like natural botanicals and peptides. Peptides are amazing for aging skin as they’re made up of chains of amino acids that can help with cell renewal and tissue repair.
Our go-to products: We love the Pixi Petra Glow Tonic, $29, as it’s infused with soothing, hydrating ingredients like Aloe Vera and ginseng, and it also contains 5% glycolic acid, which helps decongest and tighten pores. The Terry Cellularose Hydra Toner, $65, is also great for mature skin as it’s extremely moisturizing.
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Step 3. Exfoliate
Exfoliation is an essential step in all skincare regimes, but it’s especially important for mature skin as it helps increase skin renewal. By using a gentle chemical exfoliator twice a week with AHAs like moisturizing lactic acid, you’ll boost cell turnover and your glow. Gentle exfoliation can also help reduce the appearance of sun spots and age spots, which typically occur due to sun exposure and hormonal changes. Like we said exfoliation = essential!
Our go-to products: We’re currently obsessed with the Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment, $105, (or check out this dupe: The Inkey List’s Lactic Acid Serum, $11) although we also love the ALPHA-H Micro Cleanse Super Scrub, $46, which is infused with soothing ingredients like cucumber and peppermint.
Step 4. Antioxidant serum
If you haven’t already invested in a serum, now is the time. Serums have a lightweight formula with a smaller molecular structure, which means they can penetrate further and repair and hydrate the skin at a much deeper level. Both Dr. Jessica Wu and Timm Goueleke recommend serums containing antioxidants, “Vitamin C and E, which will brighten and improve skin tone, leaving it with a radiant glow.” A peptide and growth factor-based serum are also ideal for mature skin as peptides are made up of amino acids, which help rebuild the skin’s epidermis and also stimulate collagen.
Our go-to products: The Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, $67, is definitely our product of the moment: it’s packed with radiance-boosting antioxidants, and fruit enzymes that’ll leave your skin glowy AF. We’re also loving the WHB2 Power Duo Face Serum, $145, a two-phase serum that contains probiotics, bioactives, niacinamide, and tripeptides to improve the texture of your skin, rebuilding the skin’s epidermis.
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Step 5. Use a brightening agent (daytime)
Dr. Timm Goueleke explains that he often sees “Patients experiencing hyperpigmentation in their 40s,” which is an inconsistency in color, resulting in dark patches and areas of uneven skin tone. To help combat hyperpigmentation, you can use a brightening ingredient, like antioxidant powerhouse vitamin C (check out our guide to treating hyperpigmentation here). We like to use vitamin C in the morning to fight against pollution and protect our skin during the daytime, and then use retinol in the evening.
Our go-to products: Ren Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic, $32, is a really effective treatment for uneven tone as the lactic acid and azelaic acid precursors are typically available only by prescription. Another great product to combat hyperpigmentation is the Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel, $88, which contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin and boost skin cell renewal. Although, as the peel can be quite drying, make sure you follow with a rich moisturizer and face oil to rehydrate your skin.
Step 5. Retinol (nighttime)
“In your 40s, your skin starts to get thinner from a loss of collagen, which leads to fine lines and smile creases. This is why you need to boost your skin’s natural collagen by using a retinoid. Start with an over-the-counter strength if you’re new to retinol, and work up to a prescription strength one, as tolerated. Ask your dermatologist about Renova, a prescription strength retinoid which is also extremely moisturizing,” Dr. Jessica Wu suggests. You should also use retinol on your neck and décolletage as these areas show early signs of aging. You should only use retinol in your nighttime routine, after your toned but before your moisturizer.
Our go-to products: We love The Inkey List’s Retinol, $13, which is a very strong over-the-counter serum that has 1% retinol and 0.5 Granactive Retinoid (read our full review here). The Kate Somerville DermalQuench Liquid Lift Retinol Advanced Resurfacing Treatment, $98, is also amazing – the formula contains both collagen-boosting retinol, as well as natural botanicals to help your skin maintain that glow.
Step 6. Eye cream
Your eyes are one of the first places to show signs of aging as the skin around the eye is super delicate, so you should be using an eye cream day and night. Look for a formula that has antioxidants as well as retinol, as these will deliver the best results. Hydrolyzed collagen will also help smooth and strengthen the skin around the eye. Dr. Timm Goueleke advises looking for an eye cream that contains “Vitamin C, green tea, and chamomile as these are great for puffiness and reducing dark circles.”
Our go-to products: The Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream, $95, features ferulic, which enhances the retinol as well as the properties of other antioxidants and vitamins in the formula. If you don’t fancy splurging, the Roc Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream, $22.99, is a great dupe!
Step 7. Moisturize
By now you’re probably a moisturizing pro, and you know you need to use it both morning and night. But you also need to make sure that it’s the correct formula, enriched with anti-aging ingredients. Dr. Timm Gouleke says to “Look for niacinamide and hyaluronic acid for brightening and moisturization.”
Our go-to products: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, $10, features both niacinamide and hyaluronic acid making it a major beauty bargain! We’d also recommend the Kiehl’s Rosa Arctica, $60, which is infused with the rare flower; rosa arctica, also known as the resurrection flower due to its anti-aging abilities.
Step 8. Face oil (nighttime)
In your 40s your skincare regime is all about hydration and locking in as much moisture as possible. Adding a face oil is a must. Oils are lipophilic, which means they have a smaller molecular structure so they can penetrate further into your dermis, allowing your skin to retain hydration at a much deeper level. They’ll also repair and protect the skin’s barrier while nourishing the skin. Plus, as you’re using a lot of anti-aging ingredients like retinol and AHAs, which can be quite drying, an oil will rebalance hydration levels.
Our go-to products: Look for any natural essential oils like plum oil (our new fave oil!), passion fruit or African Marula oils in your local health store. Although the Ren Skincare Rose O12 Moisture Defence Oil, $80, is one of our all-time fave beauty products, we never travel without it!
10. Sleeping mask (nighttime only)
During the night our skin loses the most moisture, which is why Timm Goueleke recommends “Incorporating a hydrating mask once or twice a week.” More specifically, we’d suggest using a sleeping mask as they create a layer of protection, allowing the active ingredients to penetrate while you get your beauty sleep.
Our go-to products: We love the K-Beauty, Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, $25, it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth (it’s not a sheet mask, more like an intense moisturizer). We also really like the Origins Drink Up Intensive, $26, which contains moisturizing botanicals including apricot kernel oil and mango butter – it smells delicious too!
Treatments you could also consider:
Laser: The Isolaz laser is an effective treatment if you’re still facing hormonal breakouts as it can penetrate and cleanse deep into your pores, improving the texture of your skin. Similarly, if you have hyperpigmentation, dark spots, or uneven tone, you could consider the Fraxel 1927 Laser as it can help reduce sun damage, which can also help lower the risk of skin cancer. The fractional CO2 lasers will also help to rejuvenate the skin while radio frequency devices will help tone and tighten the skin.
A monthly peel: A monthly peel is a great idea as it’ll encourage skin cell renewal to brighten your skin and gradually fade hyperpigmentation from acne.
Botox: If you’ve always wondered about Botox (find out more here), be sure to discuss your options with an expert. Botox can be very discreet and can help prevent existing or future lines from deepening.
Fillers: If your thinking about fillers, be sure to check out New York’s leading dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day’s guide on how to use fillers and injectables for the most natural look here.
Let us know if there are any other skin concerns or issues you’d like us to ask the experts about in the comments below!