It’s no big secret: As we age, the connective tissues that keep skin looking plump, vibrant and smooth start to lose momentum. “After the age of 30, skin cell turnover slows down, collagen production decreases and antioxidant defenses decline,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology. “This means that the skin cannot protect or repair itself from environmental damage the way it could when it was younger. They say that hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to your skin, what you really need is foresight.”
Of course, that means that the better you take care of your skin earlier, the easier it will be to maintain your skin — and the rest of your body — as it matures. If not, a few things happen: “Fine lines and wrinkles become deeper folds that are present not only when we are in a state of dynamic movement but when we are static, sun-exposed areas experience a thicker almost leather effect with changes in the connective tissue reducing the skin’s strength and elasticity, and sebaceous glands produce less oil as we age so skin becomes dry,” says Dr. Ava Shamban, a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles who is the founder of Ava MD Dermatology, SkinFive Medical Spas and The Box by Dr Ava.
“This can make it harder to keep the skin moist, resulting in dryness, dullness and cracking or itching. I always say that we should focus on maintaining what we’ve got — not reclaiming what we’ve lost,” says Ava. “The good news is, we’re able to in fact change the trajectory of how we age and how our skin both looks and functions.”
We consulted four skin care experts, including dermatologists and plastic surgeons, to find out the best skin care products for women in their 40s, 50s and beyond. Ahead, find all their favorites, plus the exact ingredients they recommend.
The first major step of any daytime or nighttime skin care routine, the right serum is packed with ingredients to target anything from fine lines to hyperpigmentation and dullness.
Dr. Loretta Intense Replenishing Serum ($70; drloretta.com)
“This hydrates and replenishes skin’s healthy barrier with bio-identical skin lipids and protects with antioxidant Lipochroman,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board-certified derm and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care.
Pacifica BabyGlow Booster Serum ($16; ulta.com)
“This has low concentrations of vitamin C and glycolic and is a nice treat for our purses,” says Loretta.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166; dermstore.com)
Like so many derms, Dr. Carlos Charles, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of 4.5.6 Skin, loves this cult-favorite serum, which is “packed with pure vitamin C, E and ferulic acid to enhance protection; this product is one one of the leaders for antioxidant protection in mature skin,” he says.
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Anti-Aging Night Serum ($21.99; target.com)
Charles calls this bestselling drugstore retinol serum an “excellent choice for the budget-conscious that want to start using retinol.”
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($6.80; ulta.com)
The Ordinary’s no-frills hyaluronic acid serum is a favorite of derms and customers alike.
Solara Suncare Juice Boost Serum ($48; neimanmarcus.com)
“This contains stabilized vitamin C, along with prickly pear and coenzyme Q10 to offer complementary antioxidant benefits,” says Zeichner.
Aforé C Serum ($125; aforebeauty.com)
“After cleansing your skin in the morning, antioxidants calm and cool the skin while providing a layer of protection from free radicals and environmental pollutants,” says board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Julius Few. “We have a vitamin C serum for both oily and dry skin types, so you can tailor it to your skin’s type and needs.”
Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum ($19.99; ulta.com)
Customers love the way this vitamin C serum sinks in without feeling tacky or sticky.
Slather on moisturizer after the serum sets in to be sure skin is getting the hydration it needs.
Dr. Loretta Concentrated Firming Moisturizer ($70; drloretta.com)
“This combines powerhouse antioxidant Lipochroman, which is ranked the strongest antioxidant on the TBARS Assay for antioxidant strength, with retinoic ester, a skin-friendly form of retinol and CoQ10 to brighten skin as it protects from free radical damage,” says Loretta.
Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion for Sensitive Skin ($6.99; target.com)
“This body lotion is is artificial fragrance- and dye-free, paraben-free and loaded with long-term moisturizing, including panthenol (vitamin B5), glycerin and mineral oil, to hydrate skin all day but not leave a greasy look or feel,” says Loretta.
Dimes Restorative Night Cream ($34; dimesbeauty.com)
“This contains both glycerin and hyaluronic acid,” says Charles. “Both act as excellent humectants to attract water to the skin.”
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($14.89; target.com)
Charles loves this because it’s “loaded with ceramides to help maintain skin hydration and minimize water loss,” he says.
456 Skin Day Hack ($65; 456skin.com)
“The hyaluronic acid and natural moisturizing factor of this cream provides great hydration,” says Charles of this product from his own line. “Also, the niacinamide and hemp seed oil helps to calm inflammation. This is particularly important for melanin-rich skin, as inflammation can lead to unwanted hyperpigmentation.”
Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Moisturizer ($37.49; target.com)
Charles says this is an excellent retinol for novices “because it’s gentle and less likely to cause irritation. It also contains niacinamide, and B3 helps calm inflammation that can induce aging.”
Rodan + Fields Redefine Overnight Restorative Cream ($90; rodanandfields.com)
Zeichner recommends patients use this as a hydrating base because it “delivers niacinamide to the skin to soothe inflammation,” he says. “It also contains skin-strengthening peptides and bakuchiol to help stimulate collagen.”
SkinMedica Retinol Complex ($93; dermstore.com)
Ava recommends this retinol, which earned a 4.87 rating from Dermstore customers.
We can confirm: Every single dermatologist says sunscreen is the No. 1 way to prevent early signs of aging.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 ($37; dermstore.com)
This mineral sunscreen isn’t just a favorite of Charles’; it’s also one of Dermstore’s bestsellers. One reviewer says, “This is the only facial sunscreen that I purchase. It is perfect for everyday wear and is fantastic under makeup. I love that it has zinc oxide in it for strong protection.”
Shiseido x Tory Burch Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+ Sunscreen ($49; ulta.com)
This limited-edition sunscreen may have fun packaging, but the formula is serious business. It goes on smooth and feels hydrating — never drying.
Dermalogica PowerBright TRx Pure Light SPF 50 ($68; ulta.com)
“Anywhere above or below the towel needs to be covered daily even when working from home,” says Ava. “If you’re outside and in more intensive sun, double down on sunscreen every 90 minutes with 30 SPF and add a hat or sun-protective clothing.”
Skinceuticals Physical Fusion Daily Brightening UV Defense ($35; dermstore.com)
“This multipurpose sunscreen contains several active ingredients, including niacinamide and tranaxemic acid, to assist with brightening while also providing excellent UVA and UVB protection,” says Charles.