Much like the mini–skirt, there are certain cosmetics you just can't get away with when you're older. A simple sunscreen and lip balm might've sorted you out in your 20s. However, as you age, you need to bump up your skin care routine if you're to keep Father Time off your back (or more importantly, your face!) Fortunately, we've got the skinny on what it takes to make sure you're taking care of your skin a way that ensures maximum beauty that's best suited to your age.
In your 20s
Right now your skin is young and resilient – it can forgive late drunken nights and even forget the odd ciggie. Still, there's one thing you won't be able to get away with and that's sun damage. That's why it's important that you cleanse, tone and protect it with an SPF of at least 15.
If you still battle the odd breakout, look out for products that contain beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and benzoyl peroxide. Unlike alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which exfoliates on a topical level, BHA is able to penetrate deep into the pore and clear it from the inside out. (There's only one known BHA and that's salicylic acid). Benzoyl peroxide, despite being one of the oldest and most unexciting ingredients in the book is still around because it's scientifically proven to work. (It gets deep down into hair follicles and zaps acne causing bacteria with a minimal amount of irritation to your skin).
When choosing a day cream, obviously you want one with a high SPF, but look out for the addition of proven antioxidants. Just two of the best are vitamin E (often listed in the ingredients as tocopherol) and vitamin C.
We like Neutrogena Anti–oxidant Age Reverse day lotion SPF20, R159,99. It's enriched with gamma tocopherol, one of the most potent forms of vitamin E. Another gem? Dermalogica Clean Start Hit the Spot, R230, a handy benzoyl peroxide pen.
In your 30s
This is the 'fun' decade in which you start to notice things you never saw in your twenties. (Was the lighting in club bathrooms super–forgiving or did the tequila slammers have something to do with it?)
Your main concern now is the beginning of wrinkles. Also, you could well be seeing the first signs of sun damage in the form of light pigmentation. Your complexion may also begin to dull as cellular turnover starts slowing down. Sigh...
To help get your show back on the road, look to anything with retinol in it. Retinol's still the gold standard in treating fine lines and uneven skin tone. If, however, you've got a seriously resistant little sun spot chat to your dermatologist. Chances are they'll recommend a hydroquinone cream which is only available on prescription.
To help take care of that cellular turn over issue, invest in an AHA cream. You don't have to use it every day, simply slap it on every third night in place of your retinol–enriched night cream. This will help to exfoliate your skin at a chemical level.
Last, but not least, if you've wanting to try a little Botox, now's the time to give it a bash. It works best as a preventative measure against wrinkles rather than a treatment.
Our top thirties picks? ROC Retin–Ox Intensive Anti–wrinkle Moisturiser with SPF15, R310 and Environ Alpha Hydroxy Cream Mild, R193.
In your 40s
As your oestrogen levels drop, you can expect a little more dryness, the deepening of fine lines and an increase in hyper pigmentation. Your skin will also lose a bit of elasticity and get a little thinner in texture. (Fortunately, if you've got a teenager, you're not likely to even notice...)
Still, now is the time to bring out the big guns and ask your dermatologist for a prescription retinoid, something like Renova or Retin–A. To help out on the radiance–front, start using your AHA cream every other night to help keep cellular turn over at an optimum. Really battling pigmentation? Consider upping the strength of your hydroquinone or pop into a laser clinic.
Ingredients that have been shown to improve elasticity include copper peptide, co–enzyme Q10, niacinamide and vitamin C and E. (We like the niacinamide and vitamin E enriched Olay Regenerist line). If you're still dragging your feet on getting a prescription face cream, give Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti–wrinkle Intensive SPF20 (with retinol and hyaluronic acid), R127,99, a bash. Hyaluronic acid is a 'water–binding agent', meaning it's deeply moisturising and can help to 'plump up' deep–looking wrinkles.
In your 50s
Feeling a little droog? These are the years your natural oil production goes on strike, leaving your skin a desperate need of more moisture. You may also notice you're slightly more sensitive to things that never really bothered you in the past. (Think certain ingredients, seasonal changes, cleansers that aren't rich or milky enough...)
To help plump you up, switch to the more moisturising variant of your favourite cleanser, toner and foundation. You'll also need to step up on the retinol and AHA. (Of the two prescription retinoids, Renova is the more moisturisuring...) If your skin can tolerate it, you can now use your AHA cream up to five times a week.
In regards to day creams, ensure yours is a super–hydrating, soothing mix of antioxidants like vitamin E and C. (In case you didn't know, all anti–oxidants act as anti–inflammatories, but not all anti–inflammatories are anti–oxidants). For a list of ingredients that sound super–soothing, but aren't (think lavender), pay a visit Paula Begoun's website. She's known as America's 'Cosmetic's Cop' and there's almost nothing that woman doesn't know about skin!
Product–wise, we like Clinique Repairwear Lift Firming Night Cream, R595. It's deeply moisturising, contains retinol and a nice mix of antioxidants like vitamin E and 'red tea'. Another goodie? Vita–collagen–enriched L'Oreal Age Re–perfect Re–plumping foundation, R184,95.
If you're looking for serious results, consider something like a glycolic peel. It's a quick way to blitz fine lines, uneven skin tone and age spots. However, should you wish to go under the knife, you certainly won't be alone. According to the 2009 Female Nation Survey, 59% of the women interviewed said they'd consider a 'vanity operation'. (Interestingly, however, being pro–plastic surgery was linked to women with lower happiness ratings.)
So tell me girls, how do you feel about aging gracefully? Would be keen to hit the scalpel when the jowls rock up? Have you done it already? And why do you think those wanting to have surgery are a little less happy? (Do you think they're only blue simply because they're yet to have it done? Perhaps they'll be thrilled to Betsy once they've had a little 'lift'...)
Talk to me girls!
Women24.com's 2009 Female Nation Survey results have been weighted to represent 600 000 urban South African women who: have Matric as a minimum qualification, are over 21 and are earning R4500 or more a month.