Skin Changes in Your 40s
While the skin doesn’t have the thin, sunken-in appearance that it starts to have in your 50s, this is a decade when the natural life cycle of skin begins to slow down. Collagen and elastin production continues to decline, meaning the appearance of wrinkles, crow’s feet, discoloration, dullness, and loss of tone. Additionally, there may be the beginning of some hormonal changes that can trigger adult acne.
Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Aging
Intrinsic (aka chronological) aging is a genetically determined process influenced by fluctuating hormones, the deteriorating effects of free radicals such as sun exposure and pollution, the body’s inability to repair damaged skin, lower levels of hyaluronic acids within the skin, and the loss of collagen and elastin that gives our skin tone. The skin surface’s overall collagen content per unit area e is known to decline approximately 1% per year starting in your early 20s. With that in mind, while it’s possible to see the beginning signs of aging at this age, it doesn’t come close to what your 40s will bring — especially if poor lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive sun exposure, living in a polluted area, and an unhealthy diet are at play. These influences make up the extrinsic aging process. Additional factors include habitual (and animated) facial expressions, ethnicity, and genetics.
Interestingly, intrinsic aging is only responsible for 10 percent of the aging process and is based on DNA and gene expression. So, your lifestyle habits are incredibly influential in terms of how your skin ages — and how soon the process begins.
12 Ways to Take Care of Skin in Your 40s
One of the most essential things you can do to take care of your skin in your 40s is to use your entire skincare routine day and night religiously. While dermatological and facial treatments can be beneficial, they can’t entirely replace this vital daily habit. This means removing your makeup at night, wearing sun protection daily, incorporating essential products like a serum and eye cream, and adopting a healthy lifestyle. The best anti-aging skincare products for 40s skin are formulated with results-driven ingredients such as retinol, alpha, and beta hydroxy acids, peptides, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and other antioxidants, and niacinamide.
Related: Morning Skin Care Routine
1. Tweak Your Skincare Routine
If you’re starting to notice fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots, dullness, and an overall tired complexion when you look in the mirror, it’s time to up the ante in the skincare department. Of course, you shouldn’t wait to see these signs of aging in your 40s to begin using retinol products with hydrating and skin-brightening ingredients that treat and prevent skincare concerns.
2. Wear Sunscreen Every Single Day
The sun is responsible for 90% of the visible changes to the skin, so something as simple as making sunscreen a regular part of your routine can significantly impact the development of marionette lines. Remember, you still need to protect your skin on cloudy days too. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that, even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays can penetrate the skin.
- Skin Authority SkinSuit Face, $59
There are moisturizers with SPF, and then there’s this super formula from Skin Authority. For starters, it has a broad spectrum SPF of 50, which can be hard to come by. But it’s also a high-performing moisturizer that protects against blue light, infrared radiation, activity-induced heat, and pollution. We can’t forget to add that the formula contains retinol (an anti-aging powerhouse) and vitamins C and E — up to 200%. Even though this moisturizer seems to do pretty much everything, it’s void of parabens and fragrance.
- No7 Lift and Illuminate Triple Action Day Cream with SPF 30, $27
This day cream features No7’s proprietary Double Defence technology and age-defying actives to reduce three key signs of aging: wrinkles, tone, and texture — all of which are improved in two weeks, more so after time. Skin remains moisturized for up to 24-hours after application.
3. Exfoliate Regularly
If you’re skipping out on the exfoliation process, you’re making it more difficult for the other products in your regimen to work efficiently. The skin renews itself every 28 days, so dead skin cells shed naturally. However, in your 40s, the cell turnover rate starts to slow down. When this happens, dead skin cells harbor on the surface. Not only will your complexion look dull and lackluster, but your serums and moisturizers can’t penetrate the skin, so you may feel as though they’re not working. In reality, it’s the layer of dead skin that’s standing in their way. This is why regular exfoliation is a vital part of your skincare routine.
There are two types of exfoliants to choose from: Chemical exfoliants dissolve dead skin cells, whereas physical exfoliants slough them off. Available as a cream, lotion, mask, gel, pads, or even a cleanser, chemical exfoliants are sometimes labeled as a “peel” because they have a slight chemical peel effect. The active ingredients in a chemical exfoliant include alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which are deemed some of the safest and most effective ways to break down intercellular glue and decongest pores in your 40s.
- Formulyst Retexturizing and Perfecting Serum, $39
When it comes to exfoliating and deeply cleansing your skin, soluble acid groups like Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) are more effective than physical exfoliants, which can scratch and irritate your skin. Expertly formulated to gently exfoliate, clean, and refine pores, Retexturing and Perfecting Serum maximizes an active AHA complex, removing dead cells and visibly revealing brighter, healthier skin. Lightweight and non-drying, this refining daily formula delivers perceptible improvement to your skin’s tone and texture while also reducing the appearance of uneven, blotchy skin.
- Carrot & Stick The Brightening Pads, $40
Reveal a fresh, smooth, and radiant complexion with these pre-saturated pads. A concentrated blend of salicylic, lactic, and mandelic acids sweeps away the build-up of dead skin cells, gently exfoliating to promote clarity, refine texture, and rid pores of impurities. Herbal extracts fight visible photodamage and help keep the appearance of redness in check. Resurfaced skin is smoother, brighter, and more receptive to products.
4. Start Using Retinol
Retinol is one of the best ingredients for softening and preventing fine lines and wrinkles, encouraging collagen production, lessening the appearance of brown spots, increasing cell turnover, and improving skin texture. It’s also an ingredient composed of smaller molecules, so it’s able to penetrate the skin deeply. Any flaking or peeling you may have is because either your skin is getting used to the product, it’s too strong of a formula, or you’re applying it too often. Note that you can use a chemical exfoliant such as an AHA or BHA with retinol — in fact, it increases one another’s efficiency. Start slow and see how your skin reacts before increasing the frequency. The same goes for using vitamin C along with retinol. A recent study revealed that pairing vitamin C and retinol work together to defend skin against environmental assault when applied under sunscreen effectively — a must on a daily basis.
- Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer, $28.94
This popular drugstore buy penetrates moisture deep into the skin’s surface layers as you sleep, keeping it supple and hydrated for an impressive 24 hours. As if that wasn’t enough, Olay’s proprietary blend of vitamin B3 and a retinol complex works to soften fine lines and wrinkles, firm, lighten dark spots, refine pores, and improve radiance.
- Formuylst Anti-Aging Night Cream with Retinol, $59
An advanced overnight formula that penetrates deep below the surface, innovative Encapsulated Retinol Technology delivers a higher concentrate of the essential vitamin retinol to your skin for intense rejuvenation while naturally nourishing jojoba and safflower seed oil lock in long-lasting hydration.
5. Use a Nighttime Serum Day and Night
Worn underneath a moisturizer, serums deliver high concentrations of various active ingredients deep into the skin because they are formulated with molecules that can penetrate deeper than creams that only work on the surface level. When treating skin in your 40s, look for a serum with a combination of the following ingredients: hyaluronic acid, peptides, niacinamide (B3), retinoids (but not if you’re already using a vitamin A derivative in a cream), and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Together, these ingredients will protect against free radicals (think UV rays, pollution, cigarette smoke), increase collagen production, and improve elasticity and hydration levels.
You’ll want to invest in two different formulas: a protective one with antioxidants and brightening agents during the day and something more hydrating that stimulates collagen and elastin production at night.
- Formulyst Active Serum Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide, $80
The best vitamin C serum is this potent formula from Formulyst. It contains the highest concentration of pure vitamins C (a powerful 20%), B, and E, ferulic acid (an antioxidant that works to boost the effects of other antioxidants), and niacinamide — one of two primary forms of vitamin B3 that helps manage acne, rosacea, and pigmentation issues while softening wrinkles. With that said, this is a vitamin C serum everyone can get on board with.
- Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, $85
Full disclosure: This is not a retinol serum for rookie retinol users. This professional strength formula consists of a 5% retinoid ester blend, 1% liposomal-encapsulated retinol, and blue-green algae to provide antioxidant protection. The addition of encapsulated CoQ10 works to improve damaged or aging skin; and if you’re worried about irritation due to the strength, cactus extract, Hawaiian white honey, bisabolol, and ginger calm and soothe.
6. Boost Collagen Production With Microneedling
Microneedling, or collagen induction therapy, is a treatment that involves creating microscopic holes in the skin to stimulate collagen synthesis to fill in fine lines and wrinkles. It’s conducted by a dermatologist who uses a microneedling pen (or a derma roller), both of which are outfitted with tiny needles that puncture the skin in the area(s) of concern. This isn’t a quick fix treatment. You’ll likely have to have at least three to six additional sessions.
7. Get Ample Sleep Each Night
When you’re sleeping, your body goes into repair mode, so it’s essential to get enough shuteye every night — not just on the weekends. Nighttime is also when you’re going to want to use reparative and hydrating skincare products because your skin can effectively utilize the active ingredients.
8. Don’t Forget About Your Neck and Décolleté
Don’t lose sight of taking care of your neck and décolleté just because you’re so focused on your face. These areas have fewer sebaceous (oil) glands, so they’re more susceptible to dryness, crepiness, and wrinkling. While there are creams formulated explicitly for these areas, you don’t need a separate neck cream. Face oils are also effective treatments — mainly when used in conjunction with your day and night serums. Don’t forget to apply sun protection to your neck and décolleté, too, as it’s the ultimate anti-aging treatment.
- Formulyst Anti-Aging Night Cream, $80
A long-term anti-aging formulation developed specifically for mature and devitalized skin, Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream hydrates, soothes, and visibly transforms your skin while you sleep. Formulated with a nutrient-rich blend of complexes that are high in plant oils, essential fatty acids, and omega oils, this ultra-nourishing night cream with reparative properties gently exfoliates and regenerates the upper layer of your skin. A calming overnight replenishment for use every night, this unique formula visibly brightens dark spots and blurs age lines, so skin looks softer, smoother, and radiant upon waking up.
- SkinCeuticals Renew Overnight Dry, $62
While most night creams provide moisture, some skin types are extra thirsty, so they require additional TLC. One of the problems is the accumulation of dead skin cells that prohibits a moisturizer (and other products) from penetrating the skin’s surface, which means it’s not doing its job. This nighttime remedy contains a 10% hydroxy acid blend (malic, lactic, tartaric, citric, glycolic) to gently exfoliate while fighting dryness and diminishing fine lines’ appearance and wrinkles at the same time. Dry skin can sometimes be accompanied by irritation, so this cream was also formulated with skin-soothing ingredients such as chamomile, evening primrose, and aloe to keep skin calm and balanced.
9. Take Care of Your Eyes
The skin around the orbital bone is thin and delicate, so it’s one of the first areas signs of aging (think fine lines, crepiness, loss of elasticity) will appear. It’s more prone to allergic reactions than other areas of the face, which can prompt you to rub your eyes and exasperate damage.
The skin loses moisture, collagen, and elasticity with time, leading to wrinkles commonly called “crow’s feet.” Extrinsic aging factors that also contribute to the aging process include sun exposure, smoking, lack of sleep, eye strain, poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption. Dryness, puffiness, dark circles, and pigmentation are also common concerns, so incorporating an eye cream into your skincare routine is vital.
- StriVectin Peptight 360° Tightening Eye Serum, $69
This lightweight serum visibly tightens and firms the entire eye area while providing instant depuffing effects, thanks to a cooling applicator. StriVectin’s number one selling eye serum has been clinically proven to improve firmness, elasticity, fine lines, wrinkles, under-eye bags, and puffiness, so it’s genuinely an all-encompassing treatment product.
- Formulyst Anti-Aging Eye Cream, $85
Formulated with clarifying concentrate and moisture-rich complexes that stimulate, strengthen and hydrate, this lightweight formula is also enriched with hyaluronic acid to help restore your skin’s natural suppleness and elasticity while visibly smoothing away wrinkles. This advanced eye treatment leaves skin feeling smoother and tighter. It dramatically reduces the appearance of dark circles, fine lines, and puffiness, enhancing the natural beauty of your eyes.
10. Soften Wrinkles With Laser Treatments
Laser resurfacing is a non-invasive treatment that uses lasers to remove layers of your skin. Depending on the severity of your wrinkles, either an ablative or non-ablative laser tool will be used. Ablative only removes the top layer of skin, so your lines would have to be less pronounced. Non-ablative lasers, on the other hand, also remove those top layers but also heat the dermis (underlying skin tissue) so that the body produces new collagen. As the treated area of the epidermis (outer layer) of skin heals and regenerates, the skin appears smoother, tighter, and more toned. There are several different types of lasers, but Fraxel is favored for wrinkle removal in your 40s and beyond. While results can be favorable, you’ll need to repeat laser treatments every few months.
11. Drink Enough Water
When you’re dehydrated, it shows up in your face. Fine lines and wrinkles become more prominent, the skin is dry and flaky, and under-eye circles and puffiness are more pronounced. Furthermore, you may have been able to get away with waking up to a somewhat fresh complexion after a night out on the town when you were younger, but the after-effects show up more significantly in your 40s.
12. Fade Dark Spots and Wrinkles With a Chemical Peel
Chemical peels are solutions that are applied to the skin by a dermatologist or esthetician to reduce the appearance of age spots and wrinkles via chemical exfoliation. There are various peel grades depending on whether you’re looking for a light, medium, or deep exfoliation. Some peels just target the epidermis (outer layer of skin), while those targeting deeper wrinkles and more stubborn sunspots go deep into the dermis, the middle layer of skin.
Taking Care of Your Skin in Your 40s: The Bottom Line
While you may have gotten away with developing prominent signs of aging in your 30s, fine lines, crow’s feet, subtle marionette lines, imperfect texture, and increased pigmentation seem to come into the proverbial spotlight in your 40s. While prevention is the best solution for lessening the effects of age, if you spent too much time in the sun and adopted unhealthy lifestyle habits in your younger years, you may look even older than your years. The good news is there’s still time to inhibit the more pronounced changes that occur in your 50s, providing you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and dedication to your skincare routine.
While the goal of skincare in your 20s and 30s should be to prevent any issues that may arise as you grow older, in your 40s, the focus is about prevention and about treating any sun or age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, dullness, and collagen depletion you may start to notice. Religiously wearing sun protection, sticking to a results-driven skincare routine, choosing products with ingredients such as retinol to boost collagen and elastin production, and getting enough sleep can help you maintain a healthy, fresh, and rejuvenated throughout your 40s.
While you may have gotten away with developing prominent signs of aging in your 30s, fine lines, crow’s feet, subtle marionette lines, more inferior texture, and increased pigmentation seem to come into the proverbial spotlight in your 40s. While prevention is the best solution for lessening the effects of age, if you spent too much time in the sun and adopted unhealthy lifestyle habits in your younger years, you may look even older than your years. The good news is there’s still time to inhibit the more pronounced changes that occur in your 50s, providing you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and dedication to your skincare routine. To help you out, we compiled a list of results-driven tips to make up the best skincare routine for 40s.
Skin Anti-Aging Strategies,” Dermato Endocrinology, July 2012.
Skin Aging: Genetic Nuances,” Dermatology Times, October 2014.
Photoaging: What You Need to Know,” Skincancer.org, January 2019.
Sunscreen FAQs,” American Academy of Dermatology.