Anti-ageing skincare can be overwhelming. There’s the ever-expanding catalogue of super-ingredients we’re apparently supposed to synthesise into an achievable daily routine in pursuit of smooth, wrinkle-free skin. Then there’s the reams and reams of seemingly contradictory wisdom about the relative merits of said super-ingredients that you’ll find on the Internet. To use retinol or not to use retinol? So goes the skincare-based existential crisis.
If your 3-0 milestone is on the approach, the chances are you want simple answers to just a handful of key anti-ageing questions: when should I start? How should I change my routine? And can starting early do more harm than good? We asked four skincare experts to share their thoughts on those very subjects. Consider this anti-ageing 101 - and remember that prevention is always better than cure...
When should I start using anti-ageing products?
According to clinical facialist Kate Kerr, 'it's really never too early to start thinking about preventing the ageing process,' but our late twenties marks the point when we need to start taking anti-ageing seriously. 'When we hit 28, our collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production declines. Collagen gives skin its strength, elastin its stretchiness and hyaluronic acid its hydration and plumpness: together they are what keeps our skin looking youthful,' she explains. 'Therefore, if we don't use products to kick start production again, we'll begin to see the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, increased dehydration as well as loss of volume and sagging becoming evident in our thirties. The skin's cell turnover also slows at this age, causing the skin to absorb light rather than reflect it, making the skin look dull.'
Consider your skin type, too. ‘Dehydrated and sensitive skin may start to show the signs [of ageing] sooner than an oily or combination complexion,’ say Andrea and Valerija, the skincare experts at Gazelli House in Chelsea, adding that the ‘eyes and neck’ are typically the first areas to focus on. ‘Always take products down to the neck, even when cleansing,’ she recommends.
How should my skincare routine change as I move into my thirties?
To lay the groundwork for better skin in your late twenties and beyond, it’s important not to fall into a common skincare trap: becoming dependent on over-moisturising. ‘As we get to our mid-twenties, some of our skin cells which are responsible for the process of exfoliation in the uppermost layer of the skin start to slow down,’ explains Dr Rikin Parekh of Avanti Aesthetics. ‘We start to notice roughness as a result. Most people misinterpret this as dryness and reach for a moisturiser. This "false" moisture doesn’t penetrate the uppermost layer of dead skin cells and can result in the weakening of our skin’s natural barrier.’ So, what does a good preventative skin care routine actually look like? ‘Include a good cleanser, exfoliation and a functional day cream like ZO Ossential Daily Power Defence, which would replace a moisturiser. It provides antioxidant protection to combat free radical damage and help support the skin’s natural mechanism to repair and protect,’ he recommends.
Seek out products, too, with active ingredients that will increase the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. ‘Adding a retinol or Vitamin A product such as ZO Skin Health Ossential Advanced Night Repair or SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 to your regime will stimulate skin to produce more of these structural components, as will treatments like microneedling,’ Kate suggests.
If there's one thing our experts agree on, it's that when it comes to ageing, prevention is always better than cure: incorporate a daily SPF into your routine if you don't wear one already, add an antioxidant serum and try to exfoliate once or twice a week with an acid-based liquid exfoliant (try Gazelli's Illuminating Perfecting Skin Polish, which contains glycolic and lactic acids, or Glossier's new Solution). Facialist and skincare expert Abigail James recommends adding products containing Vitamin C to your regime. 'It's a great antioxidant that's good for supporting pigmentation issues and for brightening, which all skins benefit from,' she says.
Can starting anti-ageing products too early have a negative effect?
If we choose to believe one persistent piece of skincare legend, getting a head start on anti-ageing products can have the opposite effect to the desired one, causing the complexion to become lazy and slack over time. For Kate Kerr, doing so isn’t necessarily detrimental, just unnecessary. ‘Before we hit 25, our skin is still effectively producing collagen, so incorporating products to stimulate this is quite simply a waste of money and time,’ she says. Abigail James agrees. ‘You won’t suddenly need products that are too rich as they will overload the skin and could bring you out on spots and milia (small white bumps below the skin).’ Should you introduce retinol into your skincare arsenal, it’s always worth doing so slowly and cautiously, especially if you are still in your mid to late twenties. ‘Keep it low level, below 0.5%, while your cell turnover is still good,’ she suggests. ‘You don’t want to thin the skin.’
Our anti-ageing skincare recommendations
When should I start anti-ageing product gallery - Grazia
Finally available in the UK via Cult Beauty, A-list skincare expert Kate Somerville's Wrinkle Warrior Eye Gel features not one but three sizes of hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate the under-eye area.
ZO Skin Health's multi-functional cleanser targets excess sebum in oily complexions, boosts hydration, fights against free radicals *and *contains BHAs for an exfoliating boost.
Prevention is always better than cure, and a high SPF broad spectrum sun screen like Murad's is non-negotiable. Plus, the formula is non-greasy, meaning it won't cause break outs, and works under make-up too.
This exfoliating polish contains glycolic and lactic acids for healthy exfoliation of dead skin cells, stimulating renewal and promoting a brighter complexion.
The low price of The Ordinary's hyaluronic acid serum belies just how effective it is: the £5.90 formula is just as hydrating as products ten times more expensive. Keep an eye out for online stockists, because this one sells out fast.
Formulated with 1% retinol, ZO Skin's Advanced serum offers major anti-ageing benefits, boosting collagen production, reducing pigmentation and promoting a more even skin tone . If you're new to retinol, though, we'd suggest starting off with a product with lower concentration.
Kate Kerr recommends using Jan Marini's gently exfoliating cleanser two to three times a week to encourage a glowing complexion. The sensitive formula is perfect for those with oily or acne prone skin.
If you're new to retinol, we'd suggest getting started with a lower concentration, like this night time serum from Skinceuticals.