Real talk: If you want truly healthy skin after 40, you’re going to have to give your skin just a little bit more TLC than you probably gave it in your 30s. Now, while that may not feel like a huge ask, I think you’ll agree that nothing kills a thoughtful skincare routine quite like a full day’s worth of work, a trip to the gym, and a long commute. (And yes, this goes both for women and men.)
The good news? There are a ton of things you can do for healthy skin after 40 that is actually quite easy. We’ve compiled them all right here. So memorize this list if you want to always maintain your effervescent glow! And for great more advice on living your best life, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter now!
Use the right cleanser for your skin type.
The healthiest skin is always clean, so make sure you’re using a facial cleanser appropriate for your skin type. Look for one that foams, as those will remove dirt beneath the surface as well as makeup and the like. Dry complexions should look for cleansers spiked with natural emollients, such as an oil-based cleanser; greasier types should find zit-busting formulas that contain ingredients like salicylic acid. And for more great skin care tips, check out the 20 Beauty Products for Always Waking Up Gorgeous.
Invest in a new daytime serum with antioxidants.
Antioxidants—specifically vitamins C and E—work brilliantly at fending off UVA and UVB free radicals, acting almost as an assistant to the boss that is sunscreen. Dermatologists agree that quality antioxidants will help repair and prevent further skin damage. Try Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid ($165), widely considered the gold standard in daytime serums by skincare pros.
And a serum spiked with retinol at night.
Save vitamin C for mornings. (Think about it like your daily glass of fresh-squeeze orange juice). Instead, opt for a form of vitamin A—retinoids or retinol, as it’s also known, depending on whether you see a dermatologist for a script or buy an over-the-counter concoction.
Because retinol is rather strong, talk to a pro before starting any kind of treatment, especially if you have sensitive skin. (In that case, docs will often recommend a similar substrate of vitamin A known as retinyl palmitate.) Then, once you’re done applying the stuff, be sure to brush up on the 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster for your best sleep ever.
Moisturize as often as needed during the day.
After your serum dries (wait about five minutes), apply a healthy coat of hydrating moisturizer to your skin. Oil production slows down after age 40, so you’ll need to replenish skin from the outside in more frequently.
Use one that packs in hydrating ingredients, such as the hyaluronic acid. One great version is the Peter Thomas RothWater Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream ($65), which also comes in a handy, 0.67-ounce travel size that’s just $24. Never forget: regular moisturizing is one of 20 Ways to Look a Decade Younger.
Make sure to always wear SPF.
Any dermatologist will tell you over and over again that daily (heck, even bi-hourly) application of a UVA/UVB SPF 30 or more is the ultimate tool to preventing any future damage or signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
However, new research from 2016 found that the ingredients in sunscreen may actually help reverse the signs of aging, too. (Miracle product? We’d say so.) A secret favorite among the skin-care junkies on Reddit is Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF50+ ($22).
Opt for a separate night cream.
While you’re shopping for your new skincare, find a night cream best suited to your skin type. These moisturizers tend to be a bit heavier and contain occlusive ingredients, which help to seal in moisture while you snooze. Many also contain regenerative properties, which aid in skin-cell turnover, leaving you eight hours of beauty sleep later with a smooth AF complexion. Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydration Mask ($35) is gentle enough for all skin types.
Or try a facial oil instead.
Face oils aren’t just a trend—they’re a proven beneficial way to hydrate skin, especially before you hit the hay. Treat yourself and indulge in one that offers some great olfactory delight, as well, such as the Rodin Olio Lusso Lavender Absolute Face Oil ($170).
Always use an eye cream.
Though some of us starting using eye creams at the tender age of 18, 40 is the time to shop for one, if you haven’t yet. Because the skin around the eye is thinner and thus more gentle, it requires a different efficacy and mix of ingredients than the skin on the rest of your face does. Get bonus points by stashing it in the fridge to help constrict blood vessels to reduce puffy bags in the mornings.
Skip processed foods and sugar as much as possible.
You know the idea that you are what you eat? It applies to your skin, too.
If you live off of junk food and sugar-laden eats, you will likely have a duller complexion that’s also more prone to breakouts. Try cutting sugar from your diet and within days you’ll notice a huge difference in your skin. Easier said than done? Sure. Worth it? Definitely.
Reach for eats rich in probiotics.
For every food that may mess with your complexion, there’s another great choice that will leave you radiant. Specifically, look for foods that are high in not only antioxidants, but also probiotics, which are naturally occurring, good-for-your-gut bacteria that help strengthen your immune system.
A strong immune system, of course, strengthens all of your protective organs, including the largest one: your skin. You can find high levels of probiotics in yogurt and kefir as well as kale, kombucha, and sauerkraut. (In other words: There’s a probiotic for every taste bud.)
Use a targeted mask weekly.
To really magnify your newfound skincare efforts, employ the aid of a face mask weekly to see even more results. Look for formulas designed to firm, brighten, lift, or smooth the complexion. (With so many options available, there are so many different ones to try every #SelfCareSunday.) Start by mixing up Erno Lazlo Firmarine Lift Face Powder Mask ($80), which has four single-serving kits so that you and a friend can get in on the mixing magic.
Don’t forget about your hands.
Hands are the sneaky secret giveaway to age. Since hands are frequently exposed to the elements and receive little car, they tend to look the most weathered—and quickly. Use a crazy hydrating hand cream, like Rituals The Ritual of Ayurveda Hand Balm ($17), along with a daily coating of SPF to keep things smooth and protected. Bonus points if you use a cuticle oil around your nail beds, such as Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil ($9), which will fortify nails and keep skin from ripping.
Treat age spots with a skin lightener.
Age spots—also known as hyperpigmentation—are inevitable if you don’t use the proper SPF your entire life. (Most of us are guilty as charged.) Therefore, you may have noticed some dark marks on your face you hadn’t seen before—or on those oh-so-exposed hands as well. Find a lightening treatment that contains ingredients including licorice extract or hydroquinone, such as Glytone Dark Spot Corrector ($52).
Think about dermaplaning.
Inexplicable peach fuzz becomes somewhat of a norm as women age and their hormonal levels adjust accordingly. While dudes can whip out a razor (or head to a barbershop for a hot shave), women have been more, ah, creative.
Enter: dermaplaning, the new at-home tactic to help effectively smooth skin, eliminate peach fuzz, and eliminate excess dead skin cells that have built up, leaving you instantly brighter. The DermaFlash ($190) has been nick-proof every single time I’ve played with it, TBH.
Or use on-the-go hair removal tools.
If you’re not feeling the blade—or are maybe looking for more specific, targeted hair-removal options—know that there are plenty. Best of all, none of them require a salon or spa visit. If you’re concerned about your upper-lip hair, try the NoMostache Portable Lip Waxing Kit ($18), which contains 12 dual-sided wax strips and a pint-sized container of hydrocortisone cream to calm skin after you DIY.
Use a separate product to treat your neck.
There’s a reason there are so many neck creams available. As you age, the skin on the neck and the décolletage gets crepey, a different effect than seen on the face in terms of fine lines and wrinkles. Therefore, use a product specifically targeted to it and incorporate into your daily regimen. The brand-new Make Moonlight Neck Repair Cream ($52) has a built-in applicator to help the formula penetrate while temporarily creating a smoother effect.
Exfoliate regularly but gently.
Aiding in cell turnover by removing the dead stuff—the process of exfoliation—is key to keeping skin clean and the lympathic system moving. Use a gentle exfoliant about once a week, such as Tatcha Indigo Soothing Rice Enzyme Powder ($65), which doesn’t have tough walnut-shell or other harsh exfoliant granules. Make sure to never over-scrub, too: You’ll trigger the overproduction of oil, which is counterintuitive to exactly why you were exfoliating in the first place.
Keep an eye out for adult acne.
Adult acne is all too real—and all too common, especially after thinking high school would be the last place you’d see a zit. Alas, these cystic zits are due to a change in hormone levels. Unlike other pimples, which form on the surface of the skin (the epidermis), these painful, swollen guys tend to live in the dermis, and are thus impossible to treat with a topical cream.
And treat these zits differently.
Now that you’re looking for healthy skin after 40, you’ll likely have to seek out the help of a doctor if you want it to heal quickly, and without scarring the skin (because of its mere size). An M.D. will often prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and/or give you a cortisone shot, the latter of which helps swelling go down significantly within 24 hours. (And for the love of god, do not squeeze these. You will literally get nothing done and just end up making it worse.)
Look for skin-care products rich in peptides.
Take a closer look at the ingredient label when you’re stocking up on beauty products, and look for scrubs, essences, and lotions with skin-fortifying ingredients, particularly peptides. Ask any aesthetician and they’ll swear by the amino acids, essentially fragmented proteins. They’ll help skin become more resilient against any kind of attack—from pollution, cigarette smoke, or whatever irritants are lurking in the air.
Or products with AHAs.
Another great ingredient to look out for is AHA—alpha hydroxy acid—which is often found in peels and other skin-resurfacing products. These are often seen called by their actual names, such as glycolic or lactic acids (both are AHAs). These chemical exfoliants are different from a physical scrub, but note that they’re harsh, so it’s best to start with a small dose and work your way up (or use just a drop of one akin to a serum booster for a little extra evening TLC).
The warm, moist air of a steam room will help open pores up, purging dirt and oil while allowing for the products that follow the steam to absorb more completely.
Reach for a multi-vitamin.
To quote Seinfeld: “More of anything?” “More of everything!”
As well as a fish-oil supplement.
Fish oil is rich in heart-healthy (bonus!) omega-3 fatty acids, which help ward off inflammation in your organs with a flood of hydration. When taken regularly, the regularity and severity of adult acne goes way down, as does the appearance of sagging skin, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Prioritize 8 hours of snooze time.
It’s the exact amount of snooze time that’s imperative for our bodies to slow down, shut off, and regenerate from a really busy day. Try planning a few days’ schedules out by those eight hours, and see how you feel—and how much healthier your skin your be—after a few good nights’ rest.
Don’t layer on too much face makeup.
While the idea of foundation and concealer are to conceal imperfections, too much of them can definitely be a bad thing—if anything, you want to use a sheerer, hydrating tinted moisturizer as foundation. Concealer often settles into lines and wrinkles, actually placing more emphasis on them than if you hadn’t worn any makeup at all.
And wash your face also every single night. Period.
If you’re just too tired, leave a set of micellar water-spiked face wipes, such as MAC Gently Off Wipes + Micellar Water ($29), on your nightstand. That way, you can wash your face in bed—officially leaving you with no excuse.
Drink lots of water.
Probably the most oft-given piece of celeb advice for glowing skin—and easily the most employed by professionals—is simply: drink a ton of water. The more water you drink, the more you flood your cells and your organs, skin included. When the skin is at its optimal moisture levels, it’s at its healthiest—and you know all the good things that means. So drink up, boo.
Play with red-light at-home devices.
Recently, there’s been a proliferation of at-home anti-aging devices, most of which use LED light technology. (Don’t worry, it’s entirely different than the sun’s damaging rays of light.) Red light, in particular, triggers skin cells’ metabolism and boosts collagen production.
Consider the Mediterranean diet.
The Greeks got a lot right. Case in point: Their diet, rich in whole, fresh foods—including fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish—has been proven to have a litany of health benefits, including making your complexion glow.
Add a booze-free day to your week.
Alcohol is inherently dehydrating, which, as you by now know, leads to grayer, duller skin, and gives you puffy AF eyes the morning after a night out. By cutting out one day’s worth of wine, you’ll create one more day of more radiant skin, and hopefully build on a healthy habit that has double the payoff.
Indulge in a regular facial massage.
You know how sometimes the best things in life are actually free? A face massage is one of them. After carefully cleansing both hands and face, spend 30 seconds gently using your fingertips, working your way from the center of the face out.
And visit a pro facialist or dermatologist monthly.
A pro will tell you what to do and when to do it—taking out any guesswork out of the equation and leaving you with a complete regimen and a newly revitalized outlook on skincare.
Limit screen time—especially before bed.
Because your beauty sleep is so essential, turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. (Yes, this includes your iPhone, even on Night Mode). HEV rays, emitted from devices’ blue light, may damage skin in different ways than UVA and UVB rays—so keep tech time at bay.
Get a pillowcase made for your skin.
There are sheets, and then there are really good sheets. Same goes for pillowcases. Considering you spend a third of your life in bed, invest in pillowcases made to keep skin smooth, such as a Slip Silk Pillowcase ($80).
Always wear sunglasses outdoors.
The more you keep your face from the sun and elements, the less wrinkles you’ll have. It’s that simple. Consider yourself shady.
Try dry brushing.
Don’t brush off this Goop-popularized exfoliating technique when it comes to the skin on your body—it’s actually quite an invigorating way to get healthy skin after 40 without using a cream, seeing a doc, or working out. Merely by using long strokes towards your heart, you’ll stimulate your lymphatic system and the body’s natural detoxing process, while also leaving your skin as smooth as silk.
Face mist frequently.
When you can’t hoard a whole container of moisturizer, or need something a little bit less, well, obvious, reach for a hydrating face mist. Look for one with electrolyte-loaded coconut extract or anti-inflammatory rose water. My favorite is the James Read Tan H2O Tan Mist ($31), which has a blend of rosewater, coconut oil, and a light DHA—that’s self-tanner—to give me a hint of color even in the dead of winter.
Stash your products in the fridge.
Although experts are divided when it comes to upping the efficacy of storing products in the fridge, it definitely doesn’t hurt. Plus, not only will the cool temps feel good on a freshly showered, warm face, they’ll also help to temporarily de-puff eye bags and smooth the appearance of wrinkles. Now that is cool.