There is a magic number that many skincare experts agree upon as the time that a person starts aging. “The aging process starts around 29,” Joanna Czech, the esthetician behind Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, and Christy Turlington’s skin told us. That number surprised even us, so we asked a variety of other experts—Renee Rouleau, Dr. Harold Lancer—and, even more shockingly, we got the same answer. “That’s about the age that collagen fibers start losing their elasticity,” Czech says.
It turns out, 29 is the generally-accepted number that marks the beginning of the aging process.
Of course, lifestyle and genetics, as well as diet and sun protection, can change everything—and so can a good skincare routine.
If you're worried about aging, but aren’t sure about what you should do, let our slideshow guide you. We’ve outlined the accumulation of our skincare knowledge as editors, with the most important products you need, ingredients to look for, and the steps to combat aging, no matter your proximity to the magic number.
In an effective anti-aging morning routine, you need to pick products that will protect your skin from the sun (the largest cause of premature aging) and free radicals (the pesky, uninvited molecules that cruise around your body causing damage).
There is a beauty myth that says it’s best to not wash your face in the morning, because skipping cleanser will allegedly help keep your skin hydrated. Numerous experts, including Rouleau, assure us that is not the best practice in an effective routine. You need to cleanse in the morning to remove residue from the products you apply at night, she says. If you’re worried about drying out your skin, try using a cream or oil cleanser in the morning. If not, a basic gel face wash is your best bet.
One of the roles of a day serum is to deliver anti-oxidants like vitamins C and E. These ingredients will help to fight the free radicals that can age skin, plus, they make skin brighter and more hydrated!
You already know why a day cream is important: hydration! Smooth on a formula suited for your skin type approximately 10 minutes after applying serum to keep your skin moisturized and soft. We like Clarins' Extra-Firming Day Cream ($84) for dry and normal skin, and Kate Somerville’s Oil Free Moisturizer ($65) for oily complexions.
The most important step in a daytime anti-aging routine is sunscreen. You can apply a day cream with built-in SPF on hurried mornings, but dermatologists—like Dr. Fredric Brandt —recommend using a separate SPF for optimal protection. Make sure you choose a formula that is broad spectrum SPF. Formulas that are not broad spectrum protect against UVB rays (the rays that burn skin), but don’t fully protect against UVA rays (the rays that age skin). We like La Roche Posay’s Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen ($30).
Night is when your body naturally regenerates, so aid the repair process by applying your active ingredients before bed. Keep clicking for exactly what you need.
The goal of your evening face wash is to thoroughly cleanse your skin, so your products have a chance to be effective. If you remove your makeup with anything oil-based—like an oil cleanser or makeup remover—you’ll want to use a gel cleanser to remove the residue before moving onto your serum. Anti-aging products can’t soak into skin if you have a thin layer of oil on your face, Rouleau says.
The first product you apply should be a potent serum. We suggest one with a retinol or alpha hydroxyl acid. Apply nightly, skipping every third evening to avoid irritation. The former, retinoic acid—an over the counter version of vitamin A, the same active ingredient in Retin-A—is the most powerful anti-aging ingredient available. AHAs, like glycolic acids, help to exfoliate skin, prompting faster cell turnover, which helps to prevent fine lines. (Our favorite retinols here, and the best AHAs here.)
Just like in the morning, at night you should allow your serum to fully soak into your skin for approximately 10 minutes, then apply a night cream. Choose a formula suited for your skintype. (Click here for our favorite formulas.)
The delicate skin around your eyes is the first to show your age, because it’s thinner than the rest of your complexion. Fight back with a hydrating, extract-packed eye cream (retinol is a great ingredient to look for, too!). We like Roc’s Retinol Correxion Eye Cream ($23) or Tarte’s Marcuja C-Brighter Eye Treatment ($38).
Depending on your primary concern, it’s necessary to have a weekly treatment. Dry skin can benefit from a hydrating mask, oily or acne-prone skin should use an AHA-packed mask or pad, and normal skin should use a weekly physical exfoliating scrub or mask.