After we reach 40 years old, we all know that collagen and firmness of our complexion aren’t what they used to be. The skin produces less collagen and elastin as the years go by; combined with accumulated sun damage, our skin starts to look dull, uneven, and saggy.
This is where a fantastic skincare routine can make a world of difference. Using the right products for your skin type and concerns can reverse a lot of the damage, stimulate collagen production and give new life to your complexion.
In this article, I will show you my step-by-step morning and nighttime skincare routine. They stem from what I’ve learned over the years from my amazing dermatologist, Dr. Marjory Nigro, and personal experience. You will also get a list of my favorite products that are very effective and affordable – you can find most of them at the drugstore.
Please check out this video for further information:
Best Skincare Routine for 40s
To establish the best skincare routine for your 40s, we need to address the main problems as we get older. Remember, I always talk about women our age (meaning 40+) as being in their prime because the grace and wisdom you gain over the years are priceless.
But how we feel in our own skin is very important, too, so taking care of our body, inside and out, should be a priority. This is why I try to live as clean as possible, with a good diet, enough exercise, and a more natural skincare routine.
That is why in the last few years, I made a shift towards all-organic and natural skincare products, and I’ve got some great recommendations for you today. But first, let’s see what happens to our skin as we age.
- Sun Damage and Sunscreen
Over the years, our skin is bombarded with free radicals – a type of unstable molecules that damage our cells. This comes from a natural process within our body or the outside environment – pollution and the sun.
Many times, sun damage is our biggest enemy. If you grew up in the 80s, like me, you know it was a great decade, but not for skincare! Because having that killer tan, from staying in the sun with baby oil and iodine applied, was all the rage. That did enormous damage, but the signs can be reversed if you know what you’re doing.
The sun gives UVB and UVA rays that can cause damage to your DNA, produce dark spots, and damage collagen and elastin chains (that hold the structure of your skin). So as more damage accumulates, our skin becomes saggy, with fine lines and wrinkles, and loses that plump and firm appearance. Plus, the dark spots we get, called melasma, further contribute to a dull and uneven look.
An excellent sunscreen can save you a lot of trouble and shield your skin from most of this damage. Be sure to wear a high SPF with broad-spectrum protection (that covers both UVB and UVA rays) every single day, year-round. This alone is the best anti-age prevention you can do for your skin.
- Neck and Chest Area
The neck and chest area are essential for our overall appearance and what makes us look older. We get a lot of sun damage there because those areas are exposed most of the time, and the skin is more sensitive. So it gets saggy, wrinkly, and with many dark spots and marks.
The sun tanning you do over the years sure doesn’t help, but there are ways to reverse this damage. If the problem is not too extensive, special creams and treatments do a great job in this department; tretinoin and alpha hydroxy acids are some of them.
For heavy-duty damage, I personally recommend IPL treatment – this is a procedure that helped me get rid of most of the signs on my neck and chest. The results are amazing, and the treatment is worth its weight in gold.
- Do I Need Eye Cream?
The short answer is no. The eye area is more sensitive, the skin being at its thinnest here, but you don’t need a special lotion for this part unless you have a very oily skin type, but feel your eye area is dryer, for example.
Otherwise, the products you put on the rest of your face are good, as long as you keep in mind to stick to the more gentle ones. Always choose the cleaner version of products, especially when it comes to this sensitive area – fragrance-free, phthalates-free, and so on.
That being said, there are some very good eye creams out there, I’ve recommended a few on my channel before. But they are not absolutely necessary, especially when you are on a budget and want to get more out of your skincare products.
Best Skincare Products for 40-Year-Olds
We are all aging, but we just want to do it well and gracefully and take advantage of what’s out there for us. I was amazed by all the wonderful products available at the drugstore that are natural and organic.
So I have created a simple list of the steps I take morning and night for a great anti-aging routine. Of course, you can always try your own products and decide what is best for you, but here you have a starting point. Something I’ve tested and compared over the years to come up with this routine targeted towards those aging signs we all wish we could reverse.
When first waking up in the morning, nothing is more refreshing than a bit of pampering and self-care. You will notice that I’ve included no cleansers here because I don’t like washing my face in the morning. That would make my skin too dry and tight-feeling, so I skip this step.
The main goal is to prepare your complexion for the day with beneficial products and sunscreen that are not too greasy. Keep reading so you can get a better idea of what that means for me.
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) – a group of plant and animal-derived ingredients that have many benefits for the skin. Examples of other AHAs include lactic, malic, and citric acid.
Glycolic acid is one of the most efficient ones, with extended research around it. It helps to exfoliate the top layer of the skin, made out of dead cells; the acid acts by breaking the bonds between that dead cells layer and the one right underneath it.
AHAs generally act on the skin’s surface, so they help with concerns such as dark spots, unevenness, and reducing the appearance of fine lines. It also stimulates collagen production in the deeper layers of the skin.
You’re left with a better-looking complexion since it gives the skin a beautiful glow and a smoother feel, also helping with better product absorption.
I use 20% glycolic acid, but you can only get it with a prescription from your dermatologist. But remember, I’ve been doing this for a very long time, so my skin tolerates this high concentration well. I can even put it on my neck and chest area, where the skin is more sensitive. But avoid putting it very close to your eyes and lips, since it can cause irritation.
I always recommend having an emollient product on your lips, when putting heavy duty treatments on your face, because the products will absorb to the nearby areas and cause dryness.
- Recommended product (for lips): Lansinoh Soothe & Protect Those Sore Nipples (or Lips)
When talking about an efficient anti-aging routine, keeping your skin well hydrated and moisturized is a must. As we age, our skin tends to get dryer, which always makes fine lines and wrinkles look worse.
Plus, keeping our skin well-moisturized means better protection for that outer skin barrier and fewer chances of transepidermal water loss (our skin becomes permeable, giving a chance for water to evaporate and leave the skin depleted).
A good moisturizer will have both humectants (ingredients that attract water) and emollients (this helps soften the outer layer and hold that moisture within the skin). This is the main goal for this particular product, to help moisturize and keep your complexion soft and smooth.
But more complex ones may have other beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants that help fight free radicals (vitamin C, vitamin E, niacinamide, resveratrol), or skin-identicals that are naturally found within the skin (ceramides, fatty acids, amino acids, collagen, hyaluronic acid – also a powerful humectant).
Choosing a moisturizer depends very much on your skin type and specific needs. Those with oily skin can benefit from a lightweight moisturizer with humectants, skin-identical, or antioxidants, but no heavy oils or emollients; those won’t be adequately absorbed and are likely to clog pores and cause breakouts.
Dryer skin will feel more comfortable with a richer texture, with more oils (sweet almond, argan) or emollients (such as shea butter). This will help soften and soothe a complexion that feels tight and may be flaky.
When making that choice, keep in mind the time of day and what you want to achieve. I use a lighter moisturizer that absorbs quickly and has a matte finish throughout the day when I know I’m having a full face of TV makeup. This way, I make sure all those layers sit better on the skin, and the makeup doesn’t just slide off.
- Recommended product: Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum that Locks in Moisture
I will never get tired of saying this: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Wearing one every day when going outside is the best anti-aging thing you will ever do for yourself.
As stated above, the free radicals from UV rays are responsible for premature aging, so never stay out in the sun for tanning; and always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with SPF 30 or more, no matter the weather or time of year. Apply a generous amount of it, so it forms a proper shield against those harmful sun rays.
I’m not just talking about your face here – apply sunscreen on all the exposed areas of your body, such as neck, chest, hands, and so on. Those are predisposed to premature aging, sunspots, and, why not, skin cancer. Protect them properly, and you will thank me later.
I’ve said before that I got into more natural skincare products, and sunscreen is no exception. I only use products that have mineral filters – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients are less likely to cause allergies or irritation, so they are safer for those with sensitive skin and kids.
I also like using mineral powder because it has a matte finish. When I go to work, this is especially useful because I avoid that greasy look and the makeup sliding off.
- Recommended product: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Daily Tone Correcting Primer
- Recommended product: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
Now we shift into evening routine that no longer has the sun rays as a concern. Instead, here we slide into more serious treatments, ingredients that should only be used at night, and heavier moisturizers and oils.
As usual, it all depends on your skin type and what you’re trying to achieve. But when talking about an anti-aging routine, this is what I’ve found to work best; a simple routine, with only a few products, but one that packs a punch. Keep reading so you get all the details and the product recommendations.
Choosing the right cleanser is an essential first step to your skincare regime because you get the chance to keep that skin barrier intact. In my case, this step is only for my evening routine – you might have noticed I didn’t mention this in the morning. That is because I don’t wash my face in the morning, it’s clear from the night before, and I love those natural oils left on the skin.
But at night, after sunscreen and all that heavy makeup, a proper cleanse is a must. And nothing gets the war paint off like an oil-based cleanser. These have become very popular in the last few years and are generally used as the first step in a double-cleanse.
An oil-based cleanser has great makeup dissolving properties but can also break down oils and sunscreen. So this is the easiest way to get your face clean and ready for the upcoming treatments and serums of the night.
This type of cleanser is very easy to use; you just need to put one or two pumps in clean hands, then gently massage it on the face. Maybe go a few times around the eyes, where heavy waterproof makeup is usually concentrated, but always keep those moves soft and fluid. The great advantage of oil-based cleansers is that they glide effortlessly on the skin, so it’s unlikely to be too rough and cause irritation.
Then, you can wet your palms and continue massaging because this type of product emulsifies, meaning when combined with water, they turn into a milky consistency. This further dissolves the dirt, and now you can generously rinse the product clean.
If you have oily skin, you may want to wash with a gel cleanser after this step to ensure no oily residues are left. This is where the term” double cleanse” comes from, using an oil-based cleanser, then a gel wash. I prefer not to do that, having dryer skin, so I don’t want to strip it or make it feel tight. Either way, your skin should be all cleansed now and ready for the next steps.
- Recommended product: Noriko Cleansing Oil & Makeup Remover
Tretinoin is a star ingredient in anti-aging, one that comes from the “royal family” of vitamin A derivatives, also called retinoids. These increase cell turnover, meaning they go in the deepest skin layer and make the cells reproduce faster, healthier, and younger.
Retinoids also reduce the dead skin layer, so you’re left with a smoother outer surface. Dark spots and discoloration are reduced, making you look more glowing and even. Retinoids’ leading quality lies in their anti-aging benefits – studies show that these ingredients can significantly reduce fine lines and wrinkles and stimulate collagen production.
There are a lot of vitamin A derivatives on the market, some of them you can find at your local drugstore (retinol, retinyl palmitate), and some that are prescription only. Tretinoin is a drug class ingredient that you can only get with a prescription from your dermatologist, usually under the name Retin A. So my advice is to go to your doctor and find out what your options are.
Tretinoin is a potent ingredient with the potential for peeling and irritation, so always start with the lowest concentration available (0.025%), one or two times a week, and work your way up. If overdoing it, the benefits you will get from using a strong product are annulled by the irritation and inflammation you cause within the skin.
I am up to the highest concentration, 0.1%, but that is because I started a long time ago, and my skin has built a tolerance to it over the years. Remember, skincare is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself and always be gentle to your skin; it will thank you in the long run. Use a pea-size amount and spread it well on your face, avoiding that sensitive eye area.
My dermatologist, Dr. Marjory Nigro, swears by retinoids and says she puts all of her patients on one form or another, no matter their age or skin type. I’ve seen incredible results from tretinoin over the years; my skin keeps getting better, firmer, I have fewer wrinkles now than I did ten years ago. And a lot of the sun damage and spots have vanished, so I have much more even and glowing skin.
There is no longer the concern of putting on makeup on top of your skincare products at night, so richer textures are welcomed. This is when we can really nourish that skin and lock in moisture.
I got into face oils a while ago, and I just love them. I prefer organic, pure oils with no other additions because more active ingredients on top of tretinoin can cause bad irritation. Instead, I just put a simple facial oil on top to lock in moisture and soothe possible sensitivity. You can even combine tretinoin with oil in your palms to make it more gentle, diluted.
You can find options if having oily skin – the more fluid, lightweight oils. Some of these are skin identicals, meaning they mimic the skin’s very own sebum so that they won’t clog pores. Look for jojoba oil, squalene, or rosehip oil (this has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces spots, so an excellent match for those with breakouts).
- Recommended product: Sky Organics Rosehip Oil
The Best Skincare Routine Can be Affordable
We all want the latest and best skincare products for 40s or procedures out there. But sometimes, a straightforward day and night routine is all you need. Some products pack a punch and can give you incredible results if staying consistent with using them year after year.
The best part is that you can find many amazing products at the drugstore, so both effective and affordable. Many hidden gems at your local stores can bring you excellent benefits if you know what to look for. Check out the ones listed here and let us know your thoughts!