As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment. But when it comes to skincare, when are you actually supposed to start using certain anti-aging products, to get the most bang for your buck? Too early, and you might be unnecessarily wasting money and not actually making much of a difference, based on the biological need not being there; too late, and you might end up spending more money to counteract problems. So what’s a gal to do? We enlisted the help of Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, board-certified dermatologist and co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C., to set the record straight on when you actually need to start using specific anti-aging products. The answer might surprise you for some of the products, so keep scrolling to see the official dermatologist opinion!
The Product: Retinol
The Age: 25
Many people begin applying topical retinol in their 20s (this editor included), and Dr. Tanzi says this is right on target. “It’s best to start applying retinol at the first sign of sun damage and wrinkles,” she says, which, for most people, starts to happen in their mid-20s. Still, Tanzi says starting at 35 will provide anti-aging benefits, so don’t despair if your 20s passed without a touch of retinol. Over-the-counter treatments, as well as prescription-strength retinol (vitamin A), will help to accelerate cell turnover so your skin produces new, healthy-looking skin faster than it would naturally.
Kate Somerville RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream
The Product: Antioxidant Moisturizer
The Age: 15
Antioxidant moisturizers supply skin with a variety of anti-aging, antioxidizing power ingredients from vitamins C and E to black tea, white tea, and grape-seed extract, to protect against stress, pollution, and other elemental agers. Tanzi says 15 is the age to incorporate an antioxidant-based moisturizer into your skincare routine, in the morning, so it can help ward off environmental enemies like smog and smoke. “After puberty and as you enter early adulthood is when you want to start moisturizing with antioxidants will help reduce damage from environmental stresses on the skin,” she says.
Philosophy Hope in a Jar
The Product: Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
The Age: 6 months
The broken record isn’t ever going to stop playing: a broad-spectrum sunscreen is the most powerful anti-aging product a person can have in their arsenal (for themselves and for their children). Even better, protecting skin from the sun with this weapon can begin as early as 6 months old. “It’s NEVER too early to start using SPF, with babies older than 6 months. Before that, just keep the babies in the shade,” she says. So no matter your age, be sure you’re applying a broad-spectrum SPF each morning.
The Product: Skin Brighteners/Dark Spot Correctors
The age: 35-40
Skin-brightening products typically contain ingredients like acids and proprietary blends of various vitamins and bleaching agents that lighten the appearance of dark spots caused by the sun and age. Though hyperpigmentation will depend on the needs of the person, Tanzi says 35-40 is when most people see the formation of sun spots, for which brightening products can help treat the first sign of.
The Product: Hyaluronic Acid-Based Serum
DERMAdoctor Wrinkle Revenge® Ultimate Hyaluronic Serum68
The age: 40
For those who are unacquainted with the ingredient, also a naturally occurring acid within our bodies, hyaluronic acid is synonymous with “plump.” Along with its partner in anti-aging crime, collagen, it’s responsible for keeping your skin looking supple and filled from within, versus hollow, sagging, and lacking volume. Tanzi says that it’s around age 40 when skin can really use a boost and benefit from hyaluronic acid. “It’s around this time that skin gets driest, during the pre-menopausal years, so it’s a good idea at this age to add a serum that hydrates the skin well.”
The Product: Collagen-Based Eye Cream
Peter Thomas Roth Neuroliquid Volufill Youth Eye Serum
The age: 25
Though you always want to be wearing SPF in conjunction with eye protection when you’re outdoors so as to minimize sun exposure to the ultra-thin, delicate skin around the eyes, Tanzi says you should start using an anti-aging eye cream, like one that contains collagen, in your mid-20s. “This is when people start to see the first signs of crow’s feet and wrinkles,” she says.
Algenist Genius Ultimate Anti-Aging Eye Cream
The age: 45-50
Alpha-hydroxy acids, better known in the beauty world as AHAs, are fruit acids such as glycolic acid found in cosmetics as well as chemical peels, that promote cell turnover to improve the tone and texture of the appearance of the skin to lessen the visible signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Tanzi says you technically don’t need to start using products that contain AHAs until your mid-40s. “As skin cell turnover slows down with age, you can step up the glycolic acid-containing products to help keep a healthy, radiant glow,” she says. However, your skin can still reap major benefits from the regenerative power of AHA peels, like the below cult fave from Dr. Dennis Gross, starting in your 20s and upwards.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skinc Alpha Beta Peel Original Formula
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