Skin Care For All Ages
By: Sabrina K. Sahni, MD • Lynn Simpson, MD • Posted on January 25, 2019
Skin Care Must-Haves Over The Decades
As we age, we tend to become more in tune with the changes in our bodies, but it’s easy to forget about the changes that occur in our largest organ – our skin. Just as our bodies change over time, so does our skin. It’s no doubt that skincare routines can be overwhelming at any age, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated.
Skincare in the Teen Years
Skin can be all over the place during your teen years. Adolescence plays a large role in this and fluctuating hormones can cause clogged pores, oily skin, and worsening acne. There are various options that can help combat these symptoms.
1. Birth Control Pills
Certain pills are actually formulated to help clear up hormonal acne. These pills are deemed to be “anti-androgenic” meaning they tend to lower the male hormones (Testosterone, DHEA) in the body. Overall, this can have a significant impact on adolescent skin.
2. Salicylic Acid (SA)
This potent beta-hydroxy acid that is used to treat mild to moderate acne works by shedding dead skin cells and decreasing inflammation, but does not have any effect on acne causing bacteria. Many over the counter cleansers, lotions, face washes contain a small amount of SA.
3. Benzoyl Peroxide
Conversely, benzoyl peroxide works on sebum production and actually kills acne-causing bacteria. This is often used to treat moderate to severe acne and can also be found in several over the counter products. However, your physician can often prescribe higher strengths.
Commonly known as Accutane, Isotreitinoin is used to treat severe acne and requires a prescription from a physician. It can be extremely effective, but is contraindicated in women who are pregnant or those who are planning to become pregnant.
Skincare in your 20s
As we enter our 20s, we can often graduate from the teenage acne to the adult variety, which can mean persistent use of your favorite acne fighting products. If you have graduated from the awkward acne years, however, prevention becomes the name of the game!
- The regular use of SPF is a must in your 20s. It doesn’t matter if you live in sunny Florida or in the cold arctic of Minnesota, a basic daily moisturizer with SPF 30 or greater is a must.
- If you are planning a Caribbean spring break, use your SPF liberally and frequently throughout the day and bring a wide brimmed hat to wear during the day at the beach.
- Avoid tanning beds! The UV rays emitted from tanning beds can be just as harmful to your skin.
- Be sure to ingest vitamin D.
Additionally, now would be the time to reach for a retinoid agent, many of which can now be found over the counter in creams or cleansers. Retinoids are not only great for acne, but helpful in stimulating collagen production and are anti-aging. Remember to apply this not only to the face, but to your neck as well. Some would say that because the neck has thinner skin, it’s the first to go!
Skincare in your 30s
By the time you’re 30, theoretically, you have your life together and caring for your skin is likely the last thing on your list of priorities. You are now busy with work, having a family, and setting up for your future, however it is in your 30s that we often see the biggest and most significant changes in our skin. Cell turnover begins to slow down and the first signs of aging begin to show.
Now might be the time to switch from your low potency retinoid to something a bit stronger. Higher strength retinoids are prescribed by a physician and can sometimes be more irritating to the skin. It is recommended to start using this every other day or you can even try mixing it with a moisturizer. If you notice your skin begin to flake or become more sensitive, back down to every 2 days, or try using a smaller amount. You may want to add one acid based serum to your routine, but there are many out there, so be sure to just choose one that you think targets your needs.
1. Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) helps even out skin tone, brighten skin and can target signs of aging.
2. Glycolic Acid
Similar to retinoids, glycolic acid can help boost collagen formation and fights against fine lines and wrinkles.
3. Lactic Acid
Lactic acid is similar to Glycolic acid, but less harsh and more gentle for skin .
4. Chemical Peels
Chemical peeling is a procedure that aims to accelerate skin exfoliation by using chemical substances, resulting in renewed, healthier looking skin and a more uniform complexion.
Skincare in your 40s
Once you enter your 40s, you think you have your skincare routine all figured out until your hormones begin to reap havoc yet again. Most women often go through perimenopause during their 40s – which means your skin can take a hit. Fluctuating hormones can cause:
- worsening acne
- thinner skin
- loss of elasticity
- dry skin
If you develop dry skin, be sure to use a moisturizer that has SPF in it and use liberally. If you develop hyperpigmentation or melasma “the mask of pregnancy”, hydroquinone can be used alternating with a topical retinoid.
Hydroquinone can be found in some over the counter products, but higher potency will require a prescription from your doctor. If your skin is taking a hit and you are having symptoms of perimenopause, you may want to speak with your physician about going on hormones (estrogen) or a low dose continuous birth control pill/hormonal contraceptive.
Skincare in your 50s and Beyond
By now, most women have entered menopause and continue to experience residual effects of their skin that were noted in their 40s.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy can help rejuvenate skin and can even help with hair thinning that can be seen during the transition.
- Wrinkles and fine lines become more evident and skin may begin to sag. Firming creams, serums and topical retinoids still play a vital role during this time.
- You may want to start getting regular skin checks from your dermatologist as the incidence of skin cancers rise with age.
- When it comes to SPF, the earlier you start the better!
- Remember to drink a lot of water, keep alcohol to a minimum.
- Avoid smoking at all costs.
- Adhere to an overall healthy lifestyle.
- Diet and exercise are key components to anti-aging.
- Get your beauty sleep.
Speak with your women’s health physician, dermatologist, and/or local aesthetician if you have specific skin care needs. And remember, beautiful, youthful looking skin requires commitment…not a miracle!
Be Strong. Be Health. Be In Charge!
- Sabrina K. Sikka, MD, NCMP and Lynn Simpson, MD
Lynn Simpson, MD is a retired physician from the Center for Specialized Women's Health at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Simpson was a physician at Cleveland Clinic from 2010 - 2021.
She earned her medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Simpson completed her residency in OB/GYN at Grant/Riverside Methodist Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio. She has numerous publications in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
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