There's an undeniable fascination with unlocking the secret to anti-aging. But the truth is that aging is a complex process that requires a multifaceted approach to resisting it. We can all agree on some hard truths that can better your chances of aging gracefully—wear sunscreen, don't smoke, wash your face—but beyond those universal mantras, the best strategy to save your skin gets a little more complicated. As we get older, different processes are at work that contribute to aging. While a consistent beauty regimen that keeps skin clean and moisturized is key to having a healthy complexion and youthful skin, the exact ingredients you need varies from decade to decade as different processes are at work on a cellular level.
On a recent press trip, I visited the Olay labs in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they develop the latest products to combat skin aging. Frauke Neuser, Ph.D., Olay's principal scientist, shared the company's findings from a vast study being conducted in collaboration with Harvard scientists and genetics company 23andMe. They've spent years testing what ingredients work to fight a variety of skin issues. As she described which products she prescribes for each age group, Neuser explained what we can expect with aging at the cellular level with every decade from our twenties and beyond.
Keep scrolling to discover the number one skin issue for every decade of your life as well as Neuser's recommendations for how to fix it.
Though the effects are minimal, aging begins in your twenties when your natural antioxidancy starts to go down. This means that the body becomes less and less equipped to protect skin against damage caused by free radicals. You can help combat this by making sure to incorporate a healthy dose of antioxidants into your diet and also look for topical treatments that contain similar nutrients. Neuser recommends seeking topical solutions that contain vitamin E and green tea extract. These antioxidants "protect all parts of the skin cell (both lipid-based and water-based components), giving full protection against free-radical damage," she says. And of course, be sure to lather up on sunscreen. Even if you never burn, the daily exposure to sun takes its toll (especially as your antioxidancy decreases) and will express itself later in life. As Neuser notes, "using an SPF daily is key, as UV exposure is the main source of free-radical damage."
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In your thirties, cell energy—think of it as the cell's metabolism—goes down. The ability for your body to renew itself and repair damage decreases, so it's important to incorporate products into your beauty regimen that boost cell energy and encourage cell turnover. Niacinamide, also called vitamin B3, is an ingredient that assists with this. Carnosine also helps to "protect structural proteins against micro-insults, which drain skin's radiance and make it look dull," Neuser says.
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Your forties are "the time to start using a pre-moisturizer step if you aren't already doing so!" Neuser says. During this time, cells grow larger and flatten in shape and normal diploid cells cease to divide. This limits their ability to function effectively, contributing to the effects of aging. Products with carob seed extract applied before a cream or lotion moisturizer can help "accelerate the recovery of aged skin and stimulate collagen and hyaluronan production," Neuser says.
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In your fifties, the texture of the skin can begin to really change due to the decrease in volume of the skin barrier. It's especially important to provide nourishment to the skin during this time and strengthen its natural moisture barrier with topical products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and niacinamide (vitamin B3).
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Once you've reached your sixties, the biggest thing you can do is "moisturize, moisturize, moisturize," Neuser says. The ingredients noted above will all play a role in bettering your skin and assisting your body in combating natural aging processes. While you can begin using them whenever, "retinols can really make a difference to your skin at this age," Neuser says.
Head here to see what "ageless women" all have in common.