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Is a Skin Care Regimen Really That Important?

You’re busy — we get it. Even if your nest is empty, you’re retired, or you’re continuing to climb the corporate ladder, spending precious minutes on a multistep skin care regimen morning and night might not appeal to you. But here’s the thing: A dedicated skin care routine first thing in the morning and right before hitting the sheets at night makes a difference later in life.

“Mature skin does require both a day and night regimen — sorry!” says board-certified oculofacial plastic surgeon Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton, at Brooklyn Face & Eye in New York City. “Generally, the morning is when you should use products to protect your skin, and in the evening products should be used for repair. This is particularly important for mature skin, because the rate of cellular turnover slows as one ages.” If you need more convincing — and a little bit of direction to reap the most benefits from your regimen — read on.

What Your Skin Needs for Prime Time: Day

You wake up; you shower; maybe you wash your face with some soap. Good enough? Not a chance. Daytime is all about prevention, according to Dr. Jeanniton. “A morning routine should include — at a minimum — protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays with a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher,” she says. Her reasoning: Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects and prevents threefold: “It reduces the risk of skin cancer, helps prevent skin discolorations like brown spots and blotchiness from forming or worsening, and slows the development of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. 

While using broad-spectrum sunscreen checks the box for minimum daytime requirements, Dr. Jeanniton advises also cleansing your skin — hopefully with a face-specific formula — and following with a product (cream, serum, or lotion) containing antioxidants, which defend skin against what sunscreen can’t — mainly, environmental stressors like pollution and cigarette smoke. “Look for ingredients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10, niacinamide, or alpha-lipoic acid to deliver antioxidant protection,” she says.

Read about vitamin C for the skin.

What Your Skin Needs for Downtime: Night

By the end of the day, you might find yourself too exhausted to go through the skin care motions, but skipping care for your complexion before bed is a major no-no. “While mornings are the prime time for prevention, night regimens should switch the focus to repair,” says Dr. Jeanniton. First things first: Remove makeup and the day’s dirt and sweat using a cleanser of your choice; you don’t want your skin stewing in grime all night long. Then focus on renewal with a product containing retinoids, a vitamin A derivative available in lower concentrations over the counter or higher prescription formulations (like tretinoin).

“There are decades of clinical studies that have shown retinoids to address the concerns of mature skin by regulating skin cell turnover and stimulating collagen production, which translates to smoother skin with fewer imperfections like wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots,” Dr. Jeanniton says. And who wouldn’t want to wake up to smoother, more even-toned skin? Plus, nighttime is the best time to apply retinoids, as sunlight interferes with their efficacy. For those who experience sensitivities to retinoids, Dr. Jeanniton offers this advice: “First, try washing with a gentle cleanser, applying a light moisturizer, and then letting your skin dry for 10 to 15 minutes; then, use a pea-size amount of the retinoid product for your entire face.” After several uses, your skin’s tolerance to retinoids should build while irritation decreases.

Learn about a collagen-producing treatment.

Extras Worth Adding

If you have your absolute essentials listed above — cleanser, broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, and an antioxidant-rich serum or lotion for day; cleanser and retinoid formula for night — there are additional products that Dr. Jeanniton stresses are worth the effort.

Moisturizer: “Mature skin tends to get drier, adding to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. To counteract dryness, incorporate a moisturizer for both the face and eye area to add hydration, which, in turn, visually plumps skin. She recommends applying moisturizer day or night or both — depending on the level of dehydration your skin experiences. 

Discover moisturizers we like.

Exfoliator: The benefits of chemical exfoliators, like alpha hydroxy acids, can’t be stressed enough for mature skin: They help slough away dead skin, clear up menopausal acne, and stimulate collagen production. But Dr. Jeanniton warns that exfoliators should be used only two or  three times a week max. “Depending on the formulation, they can be used day or night, but moderation is key. And avoid harsh physical scrubs!” she warns.

See reasons to exfoliate.

Anti-aging Ingredients: While there are enough anti-aging ingredients in the skin care field to make your head spin, Dr. Jeanniton points to peptides, cell growth factors, and brighteners like alpha-arbutin and kojic acid as ones to put your faith in. “These ingredients are for the skin geeks out there, and they all benefit mature skin,” she says. When you shop for your daytime serum, lotion, or cream, choose one that not only packs in antioxidant benefits, but also some of these ingredients.

Learn about cell growth factors.

Photo: Irina Polonina

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