My nighttime skincare routine has certainly evolved over the years. At age 40, I keep about seven to 10 products in rotation. Sometimes I follow a step-by-step regimen, and other days I just wash my face and apply night cream. One thing is certain, though, I pay attention to ingredients that will best benefit my skin.
Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban tells Byrdie that if you’re in your 40s, there is a good chance you're beginning to notice the visible signs of aging, like fine lines, dryness, and hyperpigmentation. But, don’t worry. There are a few superstar ingredients that will help you target your concerns. “Look for nighttime skincare products with hyaluronic acid to bind moisture to your skin, antioxidants to help your skin recover from environmental stressors, and retinol/retinoids to increase cellular renewal ," Dr. Shamban says.
Ahead, I'm breaking down my nighttime skincare routine. Plus, a few more skincare experts weigh in on why products and ingredients matter in your 40s.
The Micellar Water
I have to admit, I got into the micellar water craze this year, and I’m sold. Though I only use it on days I wear makeup. "Micellar cleansers are formulated by suspending surfactants in water (surfactants work like little magnets by attracting and removing oils and dirt) and are a good choice for a pre-cleanser and can also double as a makeup remover,” Dr. Shamban says. “I suggest following the micellar water with a cleanser to address your specific skin type and needs.”
I love this three-in-one product from Burt’s Bees because it’s gentle and natural. The Australian white cypress oil and honey extract remove makeup and absorb dirt and oil. It’s non-comedogenic and super hydrating.
You could skip this step if the micellar water did the job. I do. A light, foaming cleanser like Exuviance’s Purifying Cleansing Gel is a nice way to prep your skin for sleep. I love the way the cool gel feels on my face. But it's the ingredients that make this product ideal for people, like me, in their 40s. “I like to recommend a cleanser with ingredients that will help exfoliate and brighten skin tone—ingredients like glycolic or lactic acids are some great examples,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Noelani Gonzalez tells Byrdie.
This cleanser boasts an alpha and polyhydroxy acid (also known as AHA and PHA) formula with glycolic acid and gluconolactone to reveal a clarified skin texture, plus a natural pH balance to leave skin feeling clean and refreshed. I rinse with cold water to close up my pores and pat my skin dry with a soft bamboo towel. I also switch it up and use Aveeno's Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser ($6).
I’m a fan of exfoliating a few times a week because it’s known to increase collagen production and polish away dead skin cells (those can make your skin look dull). However, I’m not a fan of super-gritty exfoliants that tend to irritate my skin. In my teens and 20s, I was all about an intense physical exfoliation, but these days, it’s too harsh for my nighttime skincare routine. “When you're first starting out, you should probably exfoliate once a week, especially if you have sensitive skin,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Peterson Pierre of the Pierre Skin Care Institute tells Byrdie. “This is primarily to assess tolerability and efficacy. After two weeks, you can progress to twice a week. Ultimately, two to three times a week is ideal.”
My top pick is Tatcha's The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder ($65) because it’s created with rice and papaya enzymes to deliver a creamy foam that softens and gently exfoliates. The secret is in Hadasei-3—a trio of anti-aging Japanese superfoods green tea, rice, and algae that promote youthful radiance. Also, this non-abrasive formula also combats uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation.
The Eye Cream
"The eye area is very delicate and requires extra hydration, so look for hyaluronic acid, squalene, and ceramides," says Dr. Pierre. "You also want some anti-aging benefits, so a mild retinol or glycolic acid product works well too."
He also recommends keeping your eye cream in the fridge to help soothe the area upon application and help with any puffiness you may have. I like Fresh’s Rose Hydrating Eye Gel Cream because the light formula packs hydrating ingredients like glycerin, squalene and hyaluronic acid, and dimethicone to smooth. The soothing rosewater, antioxidant-rich golden root extract, and cooling cucumber extract banish puffiness to reveal soft, supple skin.
Because my skin is a tad sensitive, I need to be careful with products containing retinol—and that’s why I love this serum for nighttime use from First Aid. The formula combines retinol, advanced peptides, and a mixed batch of calming ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, aloe, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, and ceramides that comfort, nourish and support skin health. Board-certified Dr. Gary Goldenberg of Goldenberg Dermatology tells Byrdie that serums containing both retinol and vitamin C are ideal for people in their 40s because they have anti-aging properties.
What Our Testers Say
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The Night Cream
“Use a moisturizer suited to your skin type and add an anti-aging cream with collagen-stimulating peptides,” board-certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. James Beckman tells Byrdie. “Collagen fibers decrease and weaken with age, causing skin laxity and wrinkles.” He explains when collagen breaks down, the peptides act as an alert system, informing our bodies to make more collagen to help replace what we lose naturally as we get older.
I use a cult-favorite formula—Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer—as it's cost-friendly and works wonders. The collagen peptide mirrors the way naturally occurring peptides work in younger skin. At age 40, this topical peptide supports my skin, encouraging the natural renewal processes. “Using products with peptides directly on top of our skin acts as a fake-out, tricking our skin into thinking it's lost collagen and needs to make more. Then, the carrier peptides work to help stabilize and deliver copper to certain enzymes, which are critical for functions like collagen and elastin synthesis,” Dr. Beckman adds.
The Nighttime Mask
If I opt for an overnight mask, I do skip the night cream. “I usually recommend hydrating masks because they are great for people in their 40's since we lose moisture as we age, and these can really help,” Dr. Goldenberg says. I love the F-Balm Waterlask from Drunk Elephant because it packs a four-electrolyte blend of coconut water, sodium PCA, magnesium PCA, and prickly pear extract. Just like we enjoy sports drinks containing electrolytes after a workout, they are also vital to maintain hydration levels in our skin, support barrier strength, and lipid content.
If you’re not up for sleeping with a mask on, cleanse your skin and apply Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Hydrating 100% Hydrogel Sheet Mask for 30 minutes. It’s a steal at $4 (and I admittedly keep a stash in my bathroom). It’s a serious drink for thirsty skin and works to boost firmness.