When Should I Worry About...

When Should You Start Using Anti-Aging Skin Care Products?

Feb. 6, 2023 - Katie McCallum

Acne scars, sunspots, dry patches, lines and wrinkles — it's hard to ignore the gradual changes that happen to our skin as we age.

Plenty of anti-aging skin care products exist to help prevent or delay these imperfections. And we do mean plenty. Our social feeds are full of ads promoting the various options, and a quick trip down the beauty aisle can turn into ... a not-so-quick trip.

So when do you actually need to add an anti-aging cream or serum into your skin care lineup? Is starting in your 20s and 30s too early? Is starting in your 40s and 50s too late?

"Normally, I don't see people come in interested in it until their mid 40s to mid 50s, but anti-aging skin care should really start before that," says Annie Christenson, a medical aesthetician at Houston Methodist. "It's never too early or too late to help delay skin aging."

When should anti-aging skin care start?

According to Christenson, good skin care habits should start as soon as we're able to keep up with them.

"I see kids as young as 10 years old," says Christenson. "I teach them how to take care of the skin — washing their face, moisturizing their body and, maybe most important, applying sunscreen. Our skin is an organ. Just like all the others, we need to start taking care of it as soon as we're born."

The simple habits Christenson mentions are important because they keep the skin free of irritants and bacteria, as well as nourish the skin and protect it from the sun's harmful UV rays. All help delay skin aging.

But Christenson points out that, even still, your skin ages along with you.

"This is probably going to be scary, but your skin is already starting its slow downhill trajectory around age 25," says Christenson. "So this is when we start discussions about adding additional steps to our skin care routine."

She points out, though, that it's best to start this process from a healthy place.

"You want to look your best and feel good about yourself, but it's important to do so with a realistic mindset and not being overly worried about your looks," Christenson adds. "Work toward keeping your skin healthy but know that obsessing over how it looks can become unhealthy."

Is there a best anti-aging skin care product?

The options can seem endless. So which should you choose? For the most part, it depends.

"Anti-aging is customized to every skin type," say Christenson. "And it's so, so, so easy to get this wrong if you're just using what Instagram told you to buy. It's why I always ask people to bring their products with them or send me a picture of what they're using. More times than not, I tell them that several of the products they're using aren't right for their skin type."

She adds that, before considering which products might be best, you'll also need to figure out what it is you, specifically, need out of anti-aging care.

"It's identifying that 'I'm only 25, but I can already see lines under my eyes,' or 'I know my family is prone to wrinkles at a young age,'" says Christenson. "This information helps determine which products might be best for you."

Still, if you press any skin care expert, Christenson included, for their take on a universally best anti-aging skin care product, you'd get the same answer: Sunscreen!

That's because UV rays don't just have the power to cause skin cancer. The sun is the major contributor to skin aging, too.

"Regular, unprotected exposure to the sun further contributes to the loss of elasticity we naturally develop over time," says Christenson. "Wearing sunscreen every day, especially on your face, is essential to postponing the damage that quickens skin aging."

How to start an anti-aging skin care routine

No two anti-aging skin care routines will look exactly alike, but Christenson shares the foundations of any routine:

  • A daily sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher
  • Frequent exfoliation, like using a retinol or alpha hydroxy acid
  • An antioxidant serum, like vitamin C or niacinamide
  • Daily cleansing and moisturizing
  • Regular facials and other skin care treatments

"Each serves its own purpose," says Christenson. "Retinol and alpha hydroxy acid products have a lot of benefits and are great anti-aging products."

Facials provide your skin with nutrients, helping keep it healthy. Chemical peels, another type of skin care treatment, promote cell total turnover, helping smooth the skin's surface and reducing lines and wrinkles.

"These are all products you can use yourself at home," says Christenson. "In fact, over-the-counter versions are pretty potent these days. But, again, you need to make sure what you choose is for your skin type."

How do you know what's best for your skin and whether you might need to include additional products or steps to achieve your more specific anti-aging needs?

That's where skin care experts like Christenson come in. Medical aestheticians can not only help you understand which at-home products are right for your skin type, they offer stronger, more customized facials and chemical peels and can recommend more advanced skin care treatments as needed.

"Everyone is at a different level of what they want to achieve, how much they're willing to do and what their pocketbook will allow," says Christenson. "We consider all of those aspects and create an anti-aging plan that also makes sense for your skin."

Advanced skin care techniques can take your routine up a notch

Despite the impressive potency of certain at-home products these days, eventually you might benefit from more specialized anti-aging options — such as the office-based treatments that medical aestheticians specialize in.

For instance, there are some things you just can't do yourself at home, like dermaplaning. This skin treatment uses a blade to remove dry dead skin, helping the anti-aging products you use to penetrate even more effectively.

"I do this before every treatment I offer," says Christenson. "That's how foundational dermaplaning is."

As for the specialized services offered, advanced anti-aging skin care treatments include:

  • Hydrafacial – a facial machine that can be customized to any skin type
  • LED light therapy – stimulates collagen production, reduces redness and kills acne-causing bacteria
  • Skin microneedling – targets wrinkles and lines by stimulating collagen production that tightens and firms the skin
  • IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) photofacials – targets dark spots and redness on the skin, evening out skin tone so that it looks refreshed
  • Lymphatic face massage – flushes out toxins and pulls in fresh, nutrient-rich fluid
  • Oxygen therapy – stimulates blood circulation and collagen production to rejuvenate skin

"Most anything you do to help take care of your skin is going to be anti-aging, no matter what it is," says Christenson. "These more advanced techniques are just what help us target really specific issues, like redness on the skin for someone with rosacea or the age spots we inevitably acquire over time."

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