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Morning Skin Care: Your Ideal Routine For Each Age Group

Keeping up a solid morning skin care routine is a key to achieving healthy skin. And of course, your skin’s needs change as you age, requiring different products and routines. How you treat your skin in the morning affects you throughout the day, protecting against pollution and harmful UV rays. (Your nighttime routine, on the other hand, includes more actives to heal the skin overnight.)

“As we age, our skin care routine needs to do more of the work that our skin was able to do itself [when we were younger],” said Dr. Luke Maxfield, a board-certified dermatologist. Due to intrinsic and extrinsic factors, the skin creates less oil and can be more fragile, featuring an uneven texture and tone.

The skin can also become drier due to hormonal changes, your pigmentation can increase and you’ll see a decrease in collagen. “Cell turnover slows down as we age. We need to hydrate more and exfoliate in strategic ways to keep up a vibrant, healthy-looking face,” said Dr. Nava Greenfield, a board-certified dermatologist.

But these changes happen at different rates, depending on your age. Read on to find out the routines the experts recommend for each decade of life.

In your 20s

During your 20s, the morning routine is all about preventing damage, focusing on a mix of antioxidants and adequate sunscreen protection. Now is the time to set up good, consistent habits. “The skin has volume, it is full of collagen and the discoloration is minimal. Keeping these qualities is the focus,” Greenfield said.

At this age, you might still be dealing with adolescent acne or rosacea, explained Dr. David Li, a board-certified dermatologist at Boston Derm Advocate. “It would be a good idea to integrate a cleanser to target these concerns,” Li added.

Maxfield highlighted the importance of an antioxidant serum in conjunction with sunscreen during your morning routine. Sunscreen is of course the hero, “Everything else in skin care is wasted, is trashed, if sun protection is ignored,” he said.

“Most of the skin cancers that we diagnose and remove in-clinic are due to decades of cumulative sun damage, and the compounding effect of using a good sunscreen in your 20s cannot be understated,” Li added.

Li’s morning routine for your 20s

Maxfield’s morning routine for your 20s

Greenfield’s morning routine for your 20s

  1. Gentle cleanser: La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

  2. Moisturizer: REN Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream “because of its combination of natural oils and antioxidants which hydrate and protect your skin.”

  3. Sunscreen: Eucerin Sensitive Mineral Face because “it’s economical, rubs in really nicely without leaving a white cast and offers broad spectrum coverage.”

In your 30s

In this decade you can start incorporating anti-aging products while keeping up with damage prevention and antioxidant protection. “The 30s have been defined as the aging decade by some,” Maxfield said.

The skin starts to lose some hydration and develop some fine lines and discoloration from sun damage build-up,” Greenfield said. “I recommend adding a product that will not only protect and hydrate but also treat some of these issues.”

“While many but not all grow out of acne by this time, this is when rosacea most commonly manifests,” Maxfield said. Rosacea can appear as flushing, oil gland growth, eye irritation, or pimples. Sulfur is Maxfield’s preferred ingredient to combat these.

You may now consider adding an eye cream to protect the delicate eye area, which becomes dry and thinner in your 30s. Maxfield recommends ingredients like retinol, niacinamide, caffeine and peptides, which are gentle and can help with the texture, tone and collagen production.

You may also begin to experience collagen loss during this period, so Li suggests using antioxidants and keeping up with hydration.

Li’s morning routine for your 30s

Maxfield’s proposed routine in your 30s

Greenfield’s morning routine for your 30s

  1. Gentle exfoliating cleanser: Carbon Theory Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Gel Cleanser. “It is gentle but offers a subtle exfoliation to remove some buildup of dead skin and brighten.”

  2. Antioxidant Serum: Skin Better Sciences Alto Defense Serum. “This contains vitamins C and E17 which provide abundant antioxidants for young skin to protect and maintains skin tone and vibrancy.”

  3. Sunscreen: Eucerin Sensitive Mineral Face

MoMo Productions via Getty Images

Loss of collagen could become more pronounced in your 40s.

In your 40s

In this decade, wrinkles start becoming deeper and more abundant, and the skin may appear duller, Greenfield notes. “While many active ingredients are introduced in the evening routine, the morning is also an opportunity to incorporate a couple of helpful products,” Greenfield added.

“We want to maintain and start addressing some skin barrier aging changes,” said Maxfield. The stratum corneum (the uppermost skin layer) hydration peaks at 40 and then declines, so Maxfield recommends a ceramide moisturizer to support it.

Li explained that the loss of collagen is becoming more pronounced in your 40s and skin laxity may also be an issue, with sagging skin under the eyelids, cheeks, nasolabial folds and marionette lines.

Li’s morning routine for your 40s

Maxfield’s morning routine for your 40s

In your 50s

Hormonal changes may start causing skin issues in your 50s, especially if you are perimenopausal. This will make your skin dry, so focusing on hydration is important, as well as correcting any damage done in the previous decades.

“Remember the protection step we started in our 20s? Well, depending on how consistent we were with this, now we really start to notice a dramatic difference,” said Maxfield. A hydrating cleanser is essential at this stage, as well as “replacing lipids and oils that are no longer optimally produced in our skin,” he added.

The loss of volume becomes more prominent, resulting in a hollowing appearance and scars or trauma become more noticeable as the collagen levels decrease.

Li’s morning routine for your 50s

Maxfield’s morning routine for your 50s

Greenfield’s morning routine for your 50s

Your skin can begin to thin in your 60s.

Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

Your skin can begin to thin in your 60s.

In your 60s

Skin begins to thin, and Maxfield suggests using an exfoliating cleanser. “Exfoliation and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) signal collagen growth, which can not only help even out tone but also signal and boost collagen growth,” he advised. With the added exfoliation you have to be consistent with your sunscreen, as acids can make the skin more photosensitive.

Brown spots from the sun and genetic predisposition will continue to manifest, as well as worsening of pre-existing wrinkles and skin laxity,” said Li. Undereye puffiness may be more pronounced, so a hydrating cream can help.

The general focus is on hydration, antioxidants and brightening, said Greenfield.

Li’s morning routine for your 60s

Greenfield’s morning routine for your 60s

In your 70s

“In our 70s, some of the structural changes on the face, bone resorption, fat pad migration, and tendon laxity become more prominent,” said Maxfield. Continued collagen loss may make your skin more prone to sensitivity, dryness and even bruising.

Due to the increased sensitivity, you might consider removing any products with fragrances from your routine.

The experts agreed that the dryness of the skin also affects the body, and this is something not talked about enough. The skin cell turnover is slower allover and the natural skin oils are reducing, causing flaky, cracked skin.

An exfoliating product like a shower gel or lotion, paired with a thick moisturizer, can address these issues. Add a specialized exfoliating foot product and you’re good to go.

Li’s morning routine for your 70s

Maxfield says to add these products in your 70s

Greenfield’s morning routine for your 70s

  1. Cleanser: La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

  2. Exfoliator: REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic “to be used twice weekly.”

  3. Antioxidant moisturizer: Cetaphil Restoring Body Lotion with Antioxidants. “Use this liberally: apply a generous layer to gain the benefits of the niacinamide and vitamin E and meadowfoam seed oil.”

  4. Sunscreen: Eucerin Sensitive Mineral Face

In your 80s

“One of the main concerns people notice in their 80s is thin skin, especially on the arms, which results in solar purpura (purple/red discoloration) or spontaneous bruising of the arms from time and sun exposure. And while nothing dramatically reverses and completely treats this, thickening the skin with a body retinol and exfoliant could only help,” said Maxfield.

Transepidermal water loss is a concern here, so keep up with your reparative moisturizers. You can also add an emollient-based product (like Vaseline and Aquafor) for the hands, arms and legs, to target the flaky skin.

Li’s morning routine for your 80s

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