It doesn't take much to look your best, no matter your number. Here's a concise (yet comprehensive) skin-care syllabus.
While prevention of lines and sun spots is still the main goal, you also need to start combating the smattering that have begun to crop up. "What began as cute freckles in your 30s coalesces in your 40s into larger splotches that remain long after summer's end," says Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist. You may still battle the occasional breakout as well, so look for products that address both flare-ups and the early signs of aging. On the bright side, many dermatologists say that you no longer need to use a cleanser in the morning (assuming that you washed your face before bed). A rinse in the shower or a splash of cool water is enough to refresh. Skipping cleanser in the morning ensures that you won't strip your skin, as this is the decade when sebum production begins to decline due to perimenopause or, in some cases, full-fledged menopause.
Your Simple Skin-Care Strategy
In addition to preventing free-radical damage from the UV rays that are not blocked by sunscreen, the antioxidant vitamin C, specifically, has collagen-boosting (read: line-plumping) effects. Try Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Serum ($105, sephora.com).
Opt for one with a creamy, hydrating base, which moisturizes and protects, says Fredric Brandt, a dermatologist with practices in New York City and Miami. Wu recommends BB or CC creams to her patients over 40 because they offer moisture, sun protection, and tint. Try BeautyRx Exfoliating Green Tea Complex SPF 20 ($90, dermstore.com) or Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($38, nordstrom.com).
Not everyone needs an eye cream. For some, the moisturizer you're using on the rest of your face will suffice. But if you're noticing a proliferation of crow's-feet, or if dark circles are a chronic issue, "add a product that targets them head-on," says Brandt. Anything that contains retinol or glycolic acid should help. Both ingredients boost collagen production, to plump up lines, and fade dark circles caused by hyperpigmentation. Try ROC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream ($22, drugstore.com) or Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic & Retinol Eye Cream ($88, sephora.com).
While you get a pass on morning cleansing (but not sunscreen—never sunscreen!), you do need a product to remove makeup and grime at day's end. Because your skin is becoming drier, stick to mild, nonacid-based washes. If you want a deeper clean a couple of times a week, use a cleansing brush in conjunction with your sudser. Try Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser ($7, amazon.com) and the Foreo Luna cleansing device ($169, sephora.com).
To help keep sun damage and wrinkles from deepening (or surfacing), using a dead-cell sloughing, collagen-boosting retinoid or glycolic acid product is essential. Try Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer ($18, drugstore.com) or a prescription-strength retinoid, such as Renova.