skincare

If you want to keep looking young, your skin-care regimen has to change too. Here’s how to keep pace.

What You Need to Know About Your Skin in Your 20s

HOW YOU AGE:
Most guys coast toward 30 enjoying a clear, supple, and line-free face no matter how badly they treat it. “In your twenties, you’re pretty lucky,” says Debra Jaliman, a New York City dermatologist. “You can do a lot of damage that might not show up for another 10 years.” Not so, however, for the fair-skinned and for sun worshippers, who are apt to see age spots and fine lines before they see 30. “There are two kinds of aging: One is caused by genetics, the other by sun exposure,” says Bradford Katchen, another New York City dermatologist. “In your twenties, most of the visible signs of aging can be prevented by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.” The damage from ultraviolet rays first appears as brown, freckle-like age spots. Fine lines start to appear between ages 25 and 30, as the production of skin-plumping collagen and elastin—the proteins that help skin snap back into shape after stretching—slows down.

THE PROGRAM:
THE BASICS

CLEANSER
If you want to skimp, do it here. “Cleansers are in contact with the skin for only 30 seconds twice a day, so they’re limited in terms of how much they can do for you,” says David E. Bank, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York. For oily skin, any drugstore-brand antibacterial soap (like Dial) will do. A fancier option is a gel with glycolic acid (which helps shed the top layer of skin). If you have dry skin, opt for a mild cleanser, like Cetaphil, that’s labeled “non-soap”—regular soaps contain moisture-sapping ingredients.

MOISTURIZER WITH SUNSCREEN
Using sunblock is the best way to prevent your skin from aging prematurely. These days, most drugstore brands have added sunscreen to their moisturizers, so it doesn’t require an extra step to apply it. For dry skin, try thicker, more concentrated moisturizing creams or ointments—the sort that come in a jar (like your wife’s Crème de la Mer). If you have oily skin, skip lotion and just use a toner and a light spray-on sunscreen. “It’s a little bit of a myth hat everyone has to wear lotion,” Bank says.

What You Need to Know About Your Skin in Your 30s
HOW YOU AGE:
This is when the sins of your past start to catch up with you. “Depending on the amount of accumulated sun over the years, your skin can look mottled, with large areas of discoloration and spiderlike broken capillaries from exposure to ultraviolet rays,” Katchen says. At the same time, the body’s natural aging processes pick up steam. “The skin around your eyes will show the first signs of lines and crow’s-feet because it is the thinnest skin on the face,” says Seth Matarasso, a dermatologist in San Francisco. In your late thirties, as collagen diminishes, wrinkles emerge on the forehead and between the eyebrows—making visible years of squinting and brow furrowing. And another natural process begins to slow: the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Unless you exfoliate, you’ll start to take on the leathery look of the Marlboro Man.

THE PROGRAM:
WHAT TO CHANGE

CLEANSER, MOISTURIZER
If you’re on a harsh-soap-and-no-lotion regimen, you’ll want to reconsider as you get older and your skin gets drier. “This is the decade for the most dramatic change,” Bank says. “The guy who is oily at 31 may not be at 39.”

WHAT TO ADD
NIGHT CREAM
Before bed, apply a lightweight facial serum (basically, a more concentrated moisturizer) with simple anti-aging ingredients, such as retinol (vitamin A), glycolic acid, vitamin C, or vitamin E. Don’t be tempted by heavy night creams for now. “Those won’t feel good until your forties,” Bank says.

EYE CREAM
After late nights, it’s a good fix for dark under-eye circles. Use one with caffeine, which constricts the dilated blood vessels that make that area look sunken.

EXFOLIATOR
If you use a night serum containing retinol or glycolic acid, it will already be exfoliating your skin. But if you still think your face looks dull, try using a gentle facial scrub (body scrubs are too harsh) once a week.

What You Need to Know About Your Skin in Your 40s
HOW YOU AGE:
Even the healthiest skin will start to show signs of aging. The type and extent depends on how well you’ve cared for it. Wrinkles develop or deepen—especially the lines on your cheeks that run from the sides of your nose to the corners of your mouth—as once oil-rich skin naturally becomes dry and rough. Sun damage leaves the complexion further dappled with areas of brownish discoloration and more age spots and broken capillaries. By the late forties, it’s all downhill, as the lax skin on the cheeks, lips, eyelids, and jaw is unable to resist the tug of gravity and starts to droop. The fat pads beneath your eyes also begin to slide, causing puffy bags and a tired appearance. “Even the tip of your nose starts to point south as the support structure of cartilage breaks down,” Matarasso says. Last, as the body continues to age, it begins to redistribute fat; on your face, that shows up as deflated cheeks and sunken temples. At least you can look forward to great cheekbones in your fifties.

THE PROGRAM:
WHAT TO KEEP
CLEANSER, MOISTURIZER
Your skin is likely to have lost a lot of moisture. So if you haven’t already, switch to a gentle non-soap cleanser and a daily lotion with sunscreen. Keep using an eye cream and exfoliator as well.

WHAT TO CHANGE
NIGHT CREAM
Upgrade your nightly anti-aging product to a thicker cream that’s rich in natural lipids (fats)—one too thick to squeeze through a tube. “It does more than help your appearance,” Bank says. “It reverses sun damage—which helps in avoiding skin cancer.” Or, if you’re seeing lots of fine lines, you may want to ask your dermatologist about a prescription anti-aging cream, such as Retin-A.

WHAT TO ADD
HYDRATING MASK
Once a week, use a hydrating mask with cleansing ingredients like glycerin and moisturizers like hyluronic acid and soy protein to help unclog pores and plump up sagging skin. Plus, every two to four months, visit your dermatologist for a glycolic peel and a microdermabrasion treatment.