When it comes to skincare, there are two rules to remember: Persistence is key, and timing is everything. “I always say that at 20 years old you’ve got the skin you were born with, but at 50 you get the skin you deserve,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. In other words, making a few smart tweaks at the right time can make a huge difference in how you age. Here, her game-changing strategy for a healthy, glowing complexion—now and forever.
You’ve likely established some basic skincare habits—cleanse, moisturize, repeat—but at this stage, the most important thing to do is preserve and protect. “If you start caring for your skin now, you’ll have less to worry about later on,” says Engelman. That means practicing sun safety (read: no more burns) and implementing these helpful tips.
Choose a skin-type-specific face wash.
Step one of any good skincare routine: proper cleansing. Washing with the wrong formula can actually make skin worse. If you have normal skin, pretty much any cleanser type—gel, mousse, oil, you name it—will work. If you’re dry or sensitive, steer clear of foaming formulas and anything with fragrances, which can be irritating. Try creamy options like balms and milks instead. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for cleansers with two percent glycolic or salicylic acid to keep oil and bacteria in check. For the best results, “work the formula in circular motions and let it sit on your skin for at least a minute before rinsing off,” says Engelman.
“They’re the superheroes of skincare that fight free radicals, prevent collagen breakdown, and repair sun damage,” says Engelman, who recommends starting off with a potent but lightweight booster (something you apply before serum or moisturizer) like Elizabeth Arden SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster regardless of skin type. “It has flaxseed and sea fennel extracts to help strengthen the stratum corneum—the outermost layer of your skin—and enhance the skin’s natural ability to protect itself,” she says. Other top antioxidant choices include vitamin C, green tea, and pomegranate.
Apply (and re-apply) sunscreen every single day.
Slathering on a broad-spectrum SPF like Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield forms an invisible protective barrier to help prevent harmful toxins and pollution particles from penetrating skin, while its 100% mineral broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen (micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) component filters out UVA and UVB rays. “But just applying it isn’t enough,” says Engelman. For all-day protection, you need to re-apply every few hours. You can make things easy by stashing it in your bag, and this version comes in a convenient tinted cream format (in a universal hue) perfect for on-the-go.
It’s also time to step things up in the anti-aging department, because those fine lines and wrinkles are creeping. To do that without making your skin freak out, follow this advice.
Swap your cleanser for toner.
“Specifically one that’s pH-balanced,” suggests Engelman. The reason? Skin gets drier as we age, and washing too often can over-strip it and mess with your moisture barrier. Besides, you’re not exposed to pollutants or dirt while you sleep, so “there’s really no need to cleanse in the morning if you were diligent about removing makeup and oil the night before,” she says. When you get up, pour a few drops of toner into your palms, rub them together, and gently press them into your forehead, cheeks, and chin. Lock in hydration by layering your serum on top while your skin’s still damp.
By now, “it takes twice as long—40 days versus 20—for dead cells to slough off,” explains Engelman, which means skin looks less radiant and more blah. The best way to bring back that youthful glow? Use a chemical exfoliator with glycolic or lactic acid (no harsh scrubs please, they can actually trigger inflammation) two to three times a week to retexturize, lift pigmentation, and reduce fine lines. On these days, exfoliate first, then apply your toner and serum.
Start using an eye cream.
Real talk: By the time you hit 30, you’ll have lost about 10 percent of the skin-plumping collagen under your eyes. Factor in the cumulative effects of sun damage and squinting, and suddenly you’re dealing with the double whammy of dark circles and crow’s feet. To stop them in their tracks, take Engelman’s two-pronged approach: Invest in a killer pair of shades (not to hide anything, but to filter out UV rays) and an antioxidant-rich eye serum like Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE Anti-Aging Eye Serum. It has a cooling tip to instantly decrease inflammation, and helps with signs of aging and puffiness whilst brightening.
Dryness and wrinkles are your biggest issues, so your overall strategy should be to boost moisture and repair damage. Do that by rinsing with a soothing cleansing water each morning, followed by these simple steps.
Invest in a multi-functional serum.
This is the decade where our past skin mistakes catch up to us and expose themselves in tons of heinous ways—from sun spots and fine lines to sagginess. While it may take in-office treatments to completely reverse all signs of damage, using a multi-tasking serum full of ingredients that work double duty can help a lot. Opt for a product that’s packed with a supercharged antioxidant like Idebenone, suggests Engelman, who usesElizabeth Arden PREVAGE Anti-Aging Daily Serum. It’s especially effective because it can defend against multiple free radicals at the same time, in addition to preventing fine lines and wrinkles.
Throw on an oil.
Face oils are the holy grail of youthful skin—they can soften fine lines, reduce irritation, boost hydration, and actually make whatever you put on top of them work even better. Press a few drops (that’s all it takes) onto dry areas post-serum.
Upgrade your moisturizer.
Your former go-to probably isn’t cutting it anymore. That’s because both oil production and estrogen levels take a nosedive in our 40s, making skin super dry and flaky. Switch to a skin-plumping cream with ceramides, which can “help replenish natural lipids and prevent water loss,” says Engelman. Her easy solutions for waking up more luminous and dewy? Slap on a hydrating overnight mask and get some solid beauty sleep.