Estrogen: It’s pretty much everything. Not only does the hormone fuel all things girl-power, it also supports healthy skin cell functioning—and can even help slow skin aging. So when estrogen levels plummet during menopause, “the skin can’t protect itself, maintain hydration, or produce strong collagen the way it once could,” explains Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist in New York City. (And you thought hot flashes were bad.) What’s more, he adds, older skin suffers from a loss of natural lipids, like ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol, which contributes to inflammation, dehydration, and a wholly compromised moisture barrier. The fallout can be dramatic. “So many 50-somethings come to me saying, ‘My skin seems to have totally changed overnight,’ ” says Joely Kaufman, a dermatologist in Coral Gables, Florida, noting that women on hormone replacement therapy or bioequivalents tend to fare better, experiencing less dryness and wrinkles. To help repair a depleted barrier—and ready the complexion for anti-agers—look for a cream rich in skin’s own lipids, like
As estrogen and lipids begin their natural descent, the skin’s pH actually begins to climb. “Particularly as we move into our 60s, the skin’s outermost layer, which is normally slightly acidic, becomes more alkaline, further weakening the moisture barrier, and exacerbating dryness and sensitivity,” says Robyn Gmyrek, a New York City dermatologist. Don’t throw up your hands just yet—there is hope: Both oral and topically applied “probiotics have been shown to produce acidic molecules, like fatty acids, which can help restore the youthful pH of the skin, so it can better retain moisture for improved suppleness and glow,” she says. As a nice, little bonus, probiotics can also neutralize free radicals and quell inflammation to safeguard collagen and elastin. According to New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, ingesting probiotics can also hinder transepidermal water loss to “help hydrate skin from within.” Try incorporating fermented foods, like yogurt and kefir, into your diet, or taking a daily supplement containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
From cleansers to serums, “oils are wonderful for this group,” says Kristina Holey, a holistic aesthetician in San Francisco, who finds her clients who are over 50 are especially partial to creamy cleansing balms, “because they’re really not trying to remove anything besides makeup at this point.” If you haven’t already, upgrade your daily dose of antioxidants to a soothing oil like this one from Biossance, with vitamin C. Beyond delivering a moisture boost, oils don’t sting dry, delicate skin the way some ordinary C serums can. And since you’re now more prone than ever to hyperpigmentation and skin cancers, be sure to use it morning and night.
Biossance The Nourisher Precious Rose Face Oil, $72 (biossance.com).
Boost radiance with a mild, enzyme-laced exfoliant.
Once you’ve shored up your barrier, get back in the habit of gentle bi-weekly exfoliation to keep dead skin cells from stacking up and stealing your glow. “Most women in their 50s do really well with enzyme peels, which gently exfoliate without stripping or scratching,” says Holey. Made for dry complexions, this Naturopathica peel tempers its sloughing power with a blend of soothing omega fatty acids and polyphenols.
When Bowe asks her over-50 patients what’s bothering them, she always anticipates what she calls the lower-face stretch: “They place a hand on either side of their jaw line, and pull up and out toward their ears,” she says. “That sagging around the mouth and chin, and the lines and folds that come with it—that’s what bugs them the most.” To help rescue a falling face, she suggests using ingredients that rev up collagen production (retinoids, peptides, stem cells, growth factors) and plump the skin (hyaluronic acid, primarily, and lots of it). At the risk of repeating ourselves, “retinoids truly are a pan-age therapy,” says Robert Anolik, a dermatologist in New York City. “You may have used them in your 20s to clear acne; in your 30s to control pigment; in your 40s to strengthen collagen and fight lines; and now, as they continue to do all of those things, they’re also helping prevent pre-cancerous changes in the skin that can come with age.” Ask your dermatologist about moisturizing retinoids, like Atralin with built-in hyaluronic acid, or Renova, which has an emollient base. And always top your vitamin-A cream with a ceramide-packed moisturizer to quell inflammation like this one from Elizabeth Arden.
Seeing spots? You’re not alone. As early as the end of your 50s, “brown spots tend to crop up along the hair line, across the chest, and on the tops of the hands,” says Bowe, who often custom-blends for patients a supercharged cream containing the gold-standard lightener, hydroquinone (HQ), plus kojic acid and tretinoin. For those who can’t tolerate it, or simply prefer a HQ-free fix, she recommends this one from ZO Skin Health, which relies on a brightening complex plus fruit enzymes to exfoliate dead skin and purge existing pigment. Of course, daily high-SPF sunscreen is still crucial to staving off spots. And you’ll want to keep up with annual skin checks to ensure all spots are benign.
ZO Skin Health Ossential Brightalive Non-Retinol Skin Brightener, $120 (zoskinhealth.com).
Pay attention to your lips…
Our social feeds are currently jammed with dermatologists celebrating the arrival of the new hyaluronic acid (HA) filler, Juvéderm Volbella XC, which recently got FDA approval for use in the lips. Why the explosion of heart-eyed emojis? With age, lips are especially hard-hit by collagen degradation and wrinkles because they’re subject to “intense repetitive motion, and they’re very susceptible to sun damage, as sunscreen never lasts in this area,” says Doris Day, a dermatologist in New York City. One common woe among 50-somethings is what dermatologists liken to a “bar code” of fine lines resting atop the mouth. “Many women are also seeing their lips losing shape, and collapsing on each other,” explains Bowe. While HA injections can rectify both issues pretty swiftly, you can help plump and smooth at home with a collagen-boosting formula that takes aim at lines around the mouth. Try a lip-specific product, like this peptide-rich serum from Rodan + Fields.
We get this question almost daily: Do I really need a separate neck cream? The answer, according to experts: No, but you do need to be putting something on your neck every day. “Our necks are thin-skinned and lack oil glands,” says Kaufman. They’re also at a major gravitational disadvantage—all of which makes them highly prone to dryness, wrinkles, and sagging. Kaufman’s advice: Find the thickest cream possible, even if it’s a hand cream, and smooth on a generous dose twice daily. (This neck-specific formula from Algenist is superrich and plumps with nonirritating peptides.) Then, one or two nights a week, apply a drop of your moisturizing retinoid to help thicken the skin. Follow it with a ceramide-based cream to help offset irritation.