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Age Appropriate: Skin in Your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50+

Advice from dermatologist Dr. Marie-Christine Roy on what to expect from your skin at every age.
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I've had a lot of questions about skincare lately, from women of all ages, and mostly about what they should be using right now. While specifics depend on individual skin and existing regimens, biology and age still exert influence.

Well, duh!, some of you might be thinking, but I know more than one person who hasn't changed her basic routine -- soap and a light lotion, for instance -- in 20 years. And a plastic surgeon told me yesterday that a disturbing majority of people he sees don't take care of their skin at all. #yikes

So let's start with some details from a skincare story I wrote for Best Health Magazine (Sept. 2011). How well do you know your skin?

In your 20s “The mantra that the 20s are all about prevention is very true,” says Dr. Marie-Christine Roy, a dermatologist in Saint-Lambert, Que. “At that age, skin is collagen-rich, bouncy with oodles of elastin and glowing with youth, and cell turnover is at its optimum.” Knowing your skin type -- sensitive, dry, combination, normal or oily -- is key.

In your 30s Cell renewal and oil (sebum) production begin to slow. Expect to see the first signs of aging, such as expression lines around eyes, on the forehead and between the nose and mouth, and freckles, the result of oxidative damage if you’ve had too much sun in your younger years. If you’ve taken care, however, you might not see these changes until your late 30s, notes Roy, so don’t panic and change everything on your 30th birthday.

In your 40s According to Roy, “the 40s bring a big change.” The skin starts to thin, cell turnover slows further, and collagen, elastin and moisture levels drop. All of this results in drier skin with reduced firmness and bounce. “Hormones can play a role in dryness, but we don’t know the exact role they play,” notes Roy. Many women notice more pronounced fine lines, a loss of glow or radiance, and damage caused by sun exposure or cigar­ette smoking.

In your 50s and up Hormonal changes drop estrogen levels, which significantly cuts collagen production and hydration. Expect deeper wrinkles and a more pronounced loss of elasticity, bounce and radiance. As well, for some people, skin can become sensitive during menopause. With age, skin is more prone to redness and inflammation, depending on genetics, sun and cold exposure, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, notes Roy.

For details on skincare options for your age, visit for the rest of the article, Skincare at Every Age. And tune into our Right Look, Right Age section of The Kit for age-appropriate suggestions in every issue.

You're not still using the same skincare you started with as a teenager, are you? And if you are a teenager, what are you using?