(Oprah.com) -- For many of us, the way our skin looks in the morning dictates, like the weather, what kind of day we might have. We get out of bed, skip (or stagger) over to the mirror, and peer at our reflection as if we were peering out the window. What did the day blow in? A clear, calm complexion? A shower of breakouts? A mist of fine lines? A gloomy new cumulus of dark spots?
To help you in your quest for brighter horizons complexion-wise, we talked to top dermatologists across the country about what it takes to get gorgeous skin, and came up with this straightforward, thorough, easy-to-follow, bottom-line guide for every age.
Your No-Fail Plan: In your 20's
Use gentle products, and focus on damage prevention. "You don't need anti wrinkle creams or microdermabrasion in your 20's," says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., president-elect of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery.
Your No-Fail Plan: In your 30's
Even if you've taken good care of your skin, you'll probably start noticing fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and mouth, says Susan Taylor, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University.
Your No-Fail Plan: In your 40's
Those great beach vacations you took in your teens are showing up on your face: You're beginning to see cumulative sun damage in the form of blotchiness, red spots, and ruddiness. You're also losing more collagen and elasticity, and your skin retains less moisture. Because it doesn't reflect light evenly, your complexion is losing some of its glow.
Your No-Fail Plan: In your 50's and beyond
Don't even think of retiring from the skin care game. It's never too late to prevent sun damage and to stop the progression of damage you may already have. Cell turnover is slow; the most significant change you'll notice in your complexion is dryness and loss of elasticity. Expression lines no longer disappear after you stop smiling or squinting; pores are more visible, especially on the nose and cheeks. You're likely to have developed spider veins and hyperpigmentation (age spots), and precancerous spots from sun damage.
Once you hit your 60's and 70's, basically all the issues that arose in your 50's become more extreme. Aren't you glad you're flooded with postmenopausal zest?
Cleanser: Wash morning and night with a non-soap cleanser (like Awake Deep Purity Gel Cream Wash, $30, or Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel, $29) or a creamy, foaming one (we like Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser, $6, and Estée Lauder Soft Clean Moisture Rich Foaming Cleanser, $19).
Moisturizer: Apply a serum containing peptides or an antioxidant like vitamin C when your face is still damp (try SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $128, or Cellex-C High Potency Serum, $90). Serums, in general, are more easily absorbed than creams and lotions. Then apply a broad-spectrum moisturizer containing SPF 15 or 20, with UVA/UVB protection.
Nighttime treatment: Try Renova, a prescription retinoid, which is more moisturizing than others, says Wendy E. Roberts, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
From "O, The Oprah Magazine," November 2007 E-mail to a friend
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