Although we all know that skin changes as we age, it’s not always an easy thing to accept—especially as those changes become more pronounced. “Signs of skin aging that first show in someone’s 30s, like fine lines around the eyes, increased pigmentation, poorer texture, and deeper smile lines all become more pronounced in the 40s,” says Jennifer Herrmann, a Beverly Hills-based dermatologist. As those details make themselves known, it may feel like there are only two options for moving forward: Accept that wrinkles are a part of life or lament all of those young, naïve days spent in the sun. But age and lifestyle choices aside, Herrmann does say that there’s a third option available: a specific skincare routine to prevent aging.
Meet the Expert
Jennifer Herrmann is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon based in Beverly Hills. Dr. Herrmann has received several research grants, lectured to colleagues and the public on skin health, and published more than 20 peer-reviewed studies and book chapters.
“The best topical ingredients for this age aim to repair DNA damage, increase collagen production, fade unwanted pigmentation, and thicken skin,” she notes. We asked Herrmann for the best ingredients to look for when building an anti-aging regimen for someone in their 40s, as well as what products to avoid. And to make sure that you see results as soon as possible, we also asked Herrmann to offer her advice on how to apply these items morning and night. Lastly, she says that those in their 40s shouldn’t rule out in-office treatments to support their skincare routines, since they can complement what’s done at home.
“Crow’s feet and forehead lines can be softened with Botox, and pigmentation, dullness, and texture problems can be removed with lasers,” she continues. “Plus, the judicious use of fillers like Restylane can help restore tissue loss and smooth folds that have emerged with aging, and radio-frequency heat devices can help tighten skin.”
Bottom line: Don’t feel like you have few options when it comes to knowing how to prevent aging in your 40s. By creating a skincare routine for this time frame, the changes you notice can be diminished with every passing day. “Doing small, but consistent treatments in this decade set you up for much more natural-looking skin and minimize the need for more invasive, ‘obvious’ procedures in the 50s and 60s,” Herrmann says.
Ingredients to Look For
DNA repair enzymes: Opt for products with DNA repair enzymes, such as DNA Renewal Intensive Renewal Moisturizer, to help repair damaged DNA. These enzymes "improve skin's health and help decrease the chance of early pre-cancerous spots from emerging,” Herrmann says.
Retinoid or retinol creams: If you haven't already started on retinol, it's time. “These help increase collagen synthesis, which improves skin elasticity and decreases fine lines,” Herrmann notes.
High-quality vitamin C: “Stabilized versions of vitamin C, like that in SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, can help fade dark spots,” Herrmann says. A few other ingredients to incorporate to fade dark spots are kojic acid, black licorice, bearberry, azelaic acid, arbutin, niacinamide, and hydroquinone. "Pigmentation can result from both sun and hormonal influences, and depending on your skin type, different combinations of these ingredients may be more or less appropriate for your skin. For those with extra-sensitive or rosacea-prone skin, gentler ingredients like azelaic acid and kojic acid may be better choices," she says.
Epidermal growth factor: Epidermal growth factors help thicken skin and boost collagen production. “Formulations like DNA Renewal Regeneration Serum are light and less irritating to skin than many retinoids, and it uses a plant-based EGF derived from barley," Herrmann notes.
Oral acne treatments: The struggle of adult acne is real, and it can continue into your 40s. “Topicals that may have been helpful in your teens and 20s often fail in this decade, so dermatologist-prescribed oral medications that can decrease testosterone are often more helpful," Herrmann says.
Moisturizer: It might be time to swap your gel moisturizer for a heavier cream. “Because skin thins and dries in the 40s due to decreased estrogen, most women also need more moisturization during this decade,” Herrmann continues. “Simple products that are fragrance-free and formulated for sensitive skin tend to be my go-to's, like Cetaphil and CeraVe. Hyaluronic acid is another skin hydrator that binds water and keeps skin looking dewy and young.”
Sunscreen: “Using one that is broad-spectrum and contains an SPF of at least 30 is key every day!” she says. Make sure not to forget your neck, chest, and the backs of your hands.
Ingredients to Avoid
We all love the way our skin looks after a good exfoliation, but be cautious of going too far. “Over-exfoliation can cause increased irritation, dryness, and amplification of signs of aging," Herrmann says. "The same goes for under-eye circles—avoid the temptation to scrub or rub this area, because this skin is thin, and doing so will worsen the darkening." A few other things to remember are to never skip sun protection and avoid junk-food binges. Drinking plenty of water and eating healthy fats will keep your skin hydrated and lubricated.
In the Morning
Step 1: Avoid the urge to use harsh scrubs or drying acne products and opt for a gentle cleanser. “Use cool water and a gentle cleanser like Neutrogena Gentle Facial cleanser or EltaMD foaming cleanser, which will help remove nighttime products without stripping your skin of its natural oils,” Herrmann says.
Step 2: Next up, apply a reparative agent like DNA Intensive Renewal Moisturizer, which has DNA repair enzymes to fight DNA damage all day.
Step 3: When it comes to moisturizer, apply based on your skin type. “Those with acne-prone skin will still need an oil-free option, while those that are feeling the effects of decreased estrogen and have drier skin will need something heavier," Herrmann says.
Step 4: “Apply a broad-spectrum SPF like EltaMD UV or elements to help protect against UV damage,” Herrmann says. Elta is a good choice because it's sheer, has tinted options, and is good for all skin types, even sensitive.
Step 1: Always start with a cleanse to remove makeup, oils, and pollution. “If your skin is acne-prone or dull, often an option with salicylic acid or AHA acids can help gently exfoliate without creating excess irritation, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleanser or Caviar and Cashmere’s Clarifying Cleanser," Herrmann says.
Step 2: To your clean skin, apply a retinoid like Renova, or a growth factor serum like DNA Regeneration Serum to target collagen and elastin synthesis. “For those with more sensitive skin, I often recommend a retinoid twice weekly and a growth factor for the remaining evenings," Herrmann says.
Step 3: If needed, you can apply a brightening agent for pigmentation. “All vitamin C is not created equal," Herrmann notes. Because it’s an inherently unstable molecule that breaks down in the air, it’s important to purchase a high-quality, stabilized variety.”
Step 4: As you would in the morning, apply a moisturizer specific to your skin type. Wait a few minutes between product application to allow for absorption.