It's ironic that in a world in which science and technology has given us sophisticated formulations to help us stay glowing and youthful, our increasingly high-octane lifestyles mean we're more in need of them than ever.
"Our skin is getting worse," says skincare expert and beauty therapist Nichola Joss. "Increased pollution, poor diet and stress are taking their toll - and women in their twenties particularly are wearing a lot more make-up than they used to, which is dehydrating and aggressive to the skin. Damage is made worse by the fact that we're not cleansing properly either, relying on wipes full of harsh chemicals instead of a proper oil cleanser. It all spells disaster for our skin as we get older."
It's tempting, then, to get a jump on the ageing process and start using skincare products formulated for the next stage up in an effort to exercise a little damage limitation. But hold the retinoids right there: according to dermatologist Dr Isabel Sharkar, of sensitive skin brand Sond, "applying 40-plus skincare products on 20-year-old skin may not have a major effect and will likely cost you a lot of money," she says. "There's very little need for collagen-stimulating ingredients in your 20s. However, once a woman turns 30, all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, hydration, silica, collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid in the body start to slowly decline. Applying 40-plus skincare products in your 30s can help to preserve the collagen, elasticity and hyaluronic acid responsible for plump, dewy skin. Your skin will absorb and assimilate what it needs."
Whether you're 20 or 70, the basic principles of skincare are the same, according to cosmetic dermatologist Dr Mervyn Patterson, of Woodford Medical and botanical skincare line Epionce. "It's crucial to repair the skin barrier from the damage that occurs from environmental factors such as too much sun, pollution and smoke, as well as poor diet and stress, and reduce the resulting inflammation," he says.
"In your 20s, your skin is more resilient to this kind of damage and your body is better able to absorb the nutrients that will help to heal it, so you don't need a vast array or topical serums as long as you have a good diet. In fact, additional products at this age risk flooding the skin and increasing inflammation. As you approach your 40s and 50s, however, three things happen - the levels of sebum (oil) your skin naturally produces begins to fall, by about 1 to 1.5% every year, so that your skin becomes drier, and your body absorbs vitamins and minerals less efficiently, meaning the skin gets fewer nutrients. Levels of oestrogen, which helps skin stay soft and smooth, also start to decline. Around this age you may need a little extra help from products containing ingredients that help to repair and restore, such as vitamins B and E, a complex of fatty acids and an emollient such as Argan oil."
For those who like to take a proactive approach, both Dr Sharkar and Dr Suchitra Badvey, consultant dermatologist at 25 Harley Street, advise using an antioxidant such as a vitamin C serum from the mid-20s onwards. This counteracts environmental damage from pollution and UV rays, as well as "pigmentation caused by acne in our 20s due to hormonal fluctuations and excess sebum," says Dr Badvey. "If you have dry skin and are prone to dark circles in your 20s, you can use an eye cream containing moisturising ingredients," she adds. If your eye cream causes puffiness or seems to be exacerbating fine lines or dryness, however, you're either using too much or you don't need it yet, according to beauty therapist Nichola Joss.
"Less is more when it comes to eye creams," she says. "Using too much overloads the delicate eye area, which becomes puffy and starts to retain fluid and get congested. In your 20s you'll get enough product around the eye area from your face cream – the eye is designed to draw moisture from the surrounding area to ensure healthy function. If you don't get on with eye cream, an alternative is to gently massage and tap around the eye area to remove tension and stimulate the muscles. This helps to gently get rid of excess fluid that sits under the skin and causes puffiness."
YOUR SKINCARE REGIME AT-A-GLANCE
20s: Sunscreen, vitamin C or antioxidant formulation serum. Towards your late 20s, "you can alternate your eye creams, starting off with a little retinol (vitamin A derivative) to build collagen and switching to a more hydrating hyaluronic acid formula for moisture," says Dr Sharkar.
30s: Try a gentle exfoliating cleanser with alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), which stimulate skin cell renewal. "Follow with an antioxidant cream containing vitamin C, and sunscreen," says Dr Suchitra Badvey. "Use a retinol-based cream at night [to boost collagen production] and exfoliate twice a week."
40s: Add a hyaluronic acid moisturiser to your regimen (it absorbs up to 1000 times its own weight in water for extra dewiness). "A stronger retinol cream may also be considered and applied nightly if well tolerated," adds Dr Badvey.
50s: Make sure your skincare products include vitamins C, E, and peptides (amino acids, or proteins) to promote collagen and elastin regeneration.
Via Harper's Bazaar UK