The most important things you can do to take care of your skin in your 40s

When you enter your late 30s and early 40s, skincare starts to take on a bit more importance, even if it was something you always valued. While some women start to be concerned or uncomfortable with the idea of visibly aging, for others, developing and sticking to a healthy skincare routine in your 40s is more about aging as gracefully as you possibly can and keeping your body's largest organ as healthy as possible, rather than trying to stubbornly prevent aging entirely.

There are many things you can do beginning in your 40s (or even earlier in some cases) to keep your skin healthy for the rest of your life. If you're looking for more ideas about how to take care of your skin during your 40s, here's what you need to know.

Boost collagen and elastin production

While the skin on your face likely looks full and plump rather than thin and sunken, as it can while you're aging, in your 40s your body's production of elastin and collagen starts to slow. "Therefore, we need to boost collagen and elastin production with peptides as well as antioxidants that can increase collagen production, which gives our skin that supple tone," Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, a dermatologist, told me

"Our skin cell turnover dramatically reduces as well, resulting in dullness, dryness as well as fine lines and wrinkles. Retinols are critical to help speed up the process once again and brighten the complexion," Nussbaum continued. "Due to the extra layers of dead skin cells, we are also less hydrated and losing moisture. Therefore, it may be time, depending on your skin type, to switch over from oil-free products to creamier, thicker humectants and occlusives with ceramides and hyaluronic acids to rehydrate and plump the skin."

Consciously adding thicker hydrating creams and retinols can help keep your skin looking healthy, dewy, and refreshed, which is what women of all ages want, after all.

Exfoliate

To help keep your skin glowing in your 40s, you likely need to exfoliate more regularly than you did in your 20s and 30s because skin cell turnover happens slower than in earlier decades. 

"Regular peels and exfoliation products help, Retin-A, peptides, and vitamin C are great in the anti-aging arsenal at this time," said Celebrity Esthetician Angela Caglia. "It's also a time when fillers can take back years." Using scrubs and other exfoliators can help in between professional peels.

Drink lots of water

Drinking plenty of water each and every day is exceptionally important for your overall health. It's good for your organs, your energy levels, and — you guessed it — your skin. According to Jean Rossolillo, a medical aesthetician and laser technician with Full Circle Health, drinking plenty of water is important because "hydrating internally can help our skin hold on to moisture." That's important as you get older and your skin doesn't automatically retain as much moisture as it did in previous decades.

Take care of your neck

When you're thinking about how to go about developing your skincare routine in your 40s, don't focus solely on your face at the expense of your neck. "Don't overlook your neck — do put sunscreen on it every day as well as moisturize it," said Maricela Lewis Watson, a cosmetic specialist at The Shoreditch Spa

Apply your nighttime serum, moisturizer, and any other products that you'd apply to your face to your neck as well. If you only take care of the skin on your face, your neck will give away not only your age, but also how much time you spent in the sun in your younger years and any other skincare mistakes you may have made. Don't neglect your neck.

Consider laser treatments

You may not be interested in getting laser treatments to prevent visible signs of aging or to otherwise take care of your skin as you get older, but Diane Gillin, an advanced registered nurse practitioner at Couture Med Spa recommended that you consider them. 

"In your 40s I recommend a one-two punch of IPL and Fractional Skin Resurfacing treatments," said Gillin. "IPL stands for intense pulsed light therapy and gets rid of anything pigmented on the skin such as sun damage, rosacea, broken capillaries, and melasma. Fractional laser treatments minimize fine lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, acne scars, and stimulate collagen causing skin tightening. The combination of these laser treatments will take years off your skin and help prevent further aging." 

If those are the kinds of results you're looking for, you may want to do a little research to see if laser treatments are right for you.

Wear sunscreen

As a board-certified physician assistant, Neekan Rivera works with patients on developing a skincare routine. She said her first goal is to make sure that they consistently apply sunscreen every day before moving on to other goals. 

"The better we are with sunblock, the more our skin will just improve over time," Rivera said. "Even though we can't reverse the sun spots that are showing from ten or 20 years ago, at least we can protect it from getting worse over the next five, ten years." Sunscreen is important for prevention, but it's also important when it comes to minimizing sun spots and changing pigmentation and sensitivity associated with the use of retinols.

"Sunblock, to me, is number one because if you're not disciplined with sunblock, you also can't do a lot of other skin procedures that really benefit the skin like chemical peels or skin resurfacing that really help rejuvenate the skin in our 40s," said Rivera. "So I always make sure women understand that sunblock is key because otherwise everything else we want to do to continue maintaining our skin and keep it looking youthful and healthy will make you sensitive."

Antioxidants and moisturizers are essential

When considering what kinds of skincare products might be important to incorporate into your routine in your 40s, Nussbaum said that you need to make sure that there are products that are moisturizing and contain antioxidants, which fight free radicals, making your skin healthier and happier. 

"Antioxidants and moisturizers are also a must for all ages as they prevent oxidative stress to skin cells protecting that healthy glow and producing collagen and elastin," Nussbaum said. Because collagen and elastin production have started to really decrease in your 40s, you — and your skin — can take all the help you can get.

Consider micro-needling

In your 40s, you might need to incorporate some skin rejuvenating procedures into your overall skincare routine. Rivera said she often recommends micro needling. 

"I recommend it for almost everyone because it's so safe, anyone can do it," said Rivera. "And what micro-needling does, is it causes these little micro-injuries to our skin which then stimulates our skin repair system and therefore gives us this huge boost of collagen, which, over time… we don't produce collagen as quickly as we did in our 20s and 30s, so that's usually what women are complaining of, they're complaining of collagen-related changes. They're like, 'you know, my skin is looser, I'm getting some loose skin, I'm getting fine lines and wrinkles.' So by doing the micro needling or doing a series or just kind of doing it for maintenance, it just kind of keeps that building over time." 

The takeaway is to make sure that you're not simply addressing issues as they arise, but you're also working on preventative measures. Micro-needling does both.

Sleep well

Sleep is always important for your overall health and wellbeing — mental, physical, and emotional — but it's even more important in regards to skincare in your 40s. "Even a late night or too much alcohol can show up more on our face in our 40s, so it's more important to get a full night's rest, eat well, and exercise to stimulate blood flow and keep our skin glowing," said Caglia. Make sure you get your full seven to nine hours of sleep. Your skin will thank you. You'll wake up feeling more refreshed, but also looking visibly more rejuvenated.

Use a nighttime face serum

If you aren't already using a nighttime face serum, you should start to incorporate one into your skincare routine when you enter your 40s. "Face serums contain effective anti-aging ingredients not typically found in cleansers, moisturizers, or facial oils," said Dr. Alex Roher, from San Diego Botox

At night, choose a serum that incorporates a retinol. According to Roher, facial serums have higher concentrations of healthy skin ingredients than most moisturizers, which make them a good choice for your over 40 skincare routine.

Address your eyes

Your eyes can noticeably change and visibly age in your 40s, but there are things you can do to address these changes. "Injectables are still big for this age group, but women in their 40s may also feel self-conscious about drooping and puffy upper and lower eyelids," said Dr. Fred Fedok, the president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Fedok recommended blepharoplasty, which is "an advanced scarless technique using an incision inside the lower eyelid." It can be done on the upper eyelid as well if you have any worries about that.

If a procedure isn't for you, you may want to incorporate an eye cream — or enlist the help of a professional to find one that works better for you and addresses the ways your eyes have changed since you started using one in your 20s or 30s.

Stay consistent with your skincare habits

One of the most important things you can do to take care of your skin in your 40s is to consistently employ every piece of your skincare routine. "Good skin care habits should begin in our early 20s to ensure that we will be looking better in our 40s," Caglia said. "This means regular facials, removing makeup at night, sun protection, and a healthy lifestyle." 

It can be tempting to skip bits and pieces of your skincare routine because you're busy, tired, or just plain old lazy, but you'll likely end up regretting it if you do. Stay the course, you'll be grateful.

Invest in good products

While you can likely just buy whatever product you think might be best at your local drug store or beauty supply store when you're younger, as you get older, you'll probably need something with a little more oomph. 

"I think in our 40s, that's when I see patients coming in who are starting to wonder, 'what's going on with my skin? I'm getting fine lines and wrinkles everywhere, I always look tired, my skin looks dull, I'm getting sun spots.'" said Rivera. "And at that stage we really need stronger skincare, you know, things that have been medically proven, stronger ingredients." 

Rivera recommended daily sunscreen, retinol products, and products with hydrating and skin brightening ingredients. They'll both treat and prevent any skin qualities that you view as flaws. No matter what you're concerned about, there's something you can do to help.

Skincare in your 40s is about both treatment and prevention

While the majority of skincare in your 20s and 30s serves to prevent any issues that may arise as you grow older, minus the treatment of things like acne, psoriasis, and other skincare conditions, in your 40s, it becomes both about prevention and about treating any sun or age spots, collagen depletion, ruddiness, and fine lines and wrinkles you may be beginning to notice.

Religiously wearing sunscreen, getting a good night's sleep, boosting your collagen and elastin production, and investing in quality products are just some of the ways that women in their 40s can keep their skin looking glowing, dewy, healthy, and refreshed.

Sure, you might have to get a little bit more aggressive when it comes to regular skincare, but your skin will look healthy and rejuvenated throughout your 40s and beyond as a result.