Level 2: Intermediate
If you’re noticing a few brown spots or fine lines, upgrade your basic routine with key products that go even further toward erasing sun damage and boosting the production of collagen, which helps keep skin firm. Incorporate all four into your regimen, or pick and choose the ones that suit you.
An antioxidant serum: A broad-spectrum sunscreen is a great first line of defense, but it’s not an impenetrable shield. And that’s where antioxidants—for example, green tea, resveratrol, and vitamins C and E—come in. A serum with antioxidants will help prevent and repair environmental damage from sun and pollution that destroys skin cells and collagen. Bonus: Vitamin C also stimulates collagen production.
How to use: Layer one under your moisturizer with sunscreen during the day for added protection. “There are sunscreens that contain antioxidants, but a separate product usually has a higher percentage,” says Brandt. Try: Clarins Vital Light Serum ($86, clarins.com).
A retinoid product: Retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative, penetrates deep into the skin to stimulate collagen production, causing cell turnover. “If I had to pick the most effective anti-aging ingredient, it would be a retinoid,” says Terezakis. Retinoids are available by prescription, but their gentler over-the-counter cousins, called retinols, can work just as well, she says, and are “much less irritating to the skin.” Not to mention cheaper.
How to use: Start by applying a retinoid two to three nights a week, and build up to every night. (You can put your night cream right on top of it.) Retinoids exfoliate, so skip any other exfoliator that night. Try: La Roche-Posay Redermic R ($57, laroche-posay.us).
A peptide cream or serum: “Peptides are short chains of amino acids that form proteins such as collagen,” says Brandt. “In the skin, these protein segments act as sneaky messenger signals. Because they appear to be a breakdown product of collagen, peptides fool the body into making collagen.”
How to use: Peptides can be used in tandem with retinoids, so apply them on nights when you’re not using your retinoid. Try: StriVectin-TL Tightening Face Serum ($89, strivectin.com).
An eye cream: “The skin around the eyes has few oil glands to keep it hydrated, so that’s usually where wrinkles appear first,” says Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist in New York City. “That’s why you need a special formula to address just this area.”
How to use: Look for an eye cream that contains retinol or peptides, plus a hydrating humectant, like glycerin or aloe. Apply morning and night with your ring finger, rolling the cream over crow’s-feet. Try: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye ($36, kiehls.com).