Skin-Care Tips

The ‘Big Four’ Ingredients Dermatologists Want Everyone Over 50 to Be Using Every Day

Kells McPhillips

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Like any long-lasting, satisfying relationship, your skin-care routine should adapt and evolve as you do. At age 50, in addition to taking a moment to take stock of all the amazing things your skin has done for you, Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, points out, it’s also time to start applying specific ingredients that will help take care of your skin as you move forward.

Proper skin care in the fifth decade of your life revolves around a few key principles, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Among them is, of course, wearing sunscreen and seeking shade whenever possible, applying moisturizer frequently to stave off skin dehydration, washing your face twice daily, and getting a good night’s sleep. Beyond that, though, there’s a quartet of ingredients to look for on labels to keep you complexion game for everything you’ve got planned. Ready to see the lineup? Keep scrolling for the four ingredients dermatologists recommend.

Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide

No surprise here: Some of the starring ingredients in sunscreen make the tip-top of Dr. Mudgil’s list. “These two ingredients are physical blockers [of UV rays], so not only do they prevent skin cancer, but they also prevent photo agents like sunspots, wrinkles, dilated capillaries, and that sort of thing,” Dr. Mudgil explains.

In the past, sunscreens that tapped these particular two ingredients have often had the effect of making darker skin have a white-cast, but new releases (like Supergoop! Zincscreen, $34) help to make physical sunblockers blend more seamlessly into all skin tones. Look for an SPF 30 (at least), and order a bottle you can apply consistently all summer long.


Arguably one of the finest human discoveries, retinol (or its more concentrated, prescribed version, tretinoin) has a laundry list of benefits that can help benefit more mature skin. Derived from vitamin A, retinol stimulates cell turnover to help nix hyperpigmentation on the skin, and it boosts your skin’s ability produce more collagen (the structural protein that makes up skin). While some complexions can tolerate retinol every day of the week, in other complexions using too much too soon can cause irritation. If you’re going to add it to your routine, start with one pea-sized dollop once a week. The following week, try using that amount twice a week. From there build up steadily to that your skin doesn’t get irritated from the potent (but effective!) ingredient.

over-50 skin care
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Hyaluronic acid

“As we get older, our body’s way of moisturizing the skin, which is by creating oils, tends to slow down. So the skin gets drier as you get older, but hyaluronic acid is a very effective moisturizer because it can hold many times its weight in water. It really kind of locks in moisture,” says Dr. Mudgil. Hyaluronic acid is basically a water balloon that absorbs all that good-for-your-face moisture.

What’s more? A small 2014 study found that two, four, and eight-week hyaluronic regimens resulted in increased skin elasticity, less skin roughness, and overall more-quenched skin. Pro tip: Apply this one while you’re skin is still wet, because the molecule will help bring some of that moisture into skin.

over-50 skin care

Vitamin C

Carolyn Treasure, MD, co-founder and CEO of Peachy, says that vitamin C helps all skin types synthesize collagen. “As the main structural protein in the human body, collagen helps skin maintain its strength and elasticity. Increasing collagen results in plumper skin and the minimization of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. This is important for all skin types because a whopping 90 percent of aging comes from exposure to the sun, and while that can present differently on different people, this ingredient can have a multitude of uses. Because vitamin C is also an antioxidant, it helps to neutralize free radicals from provoking skin cells, and resulting in hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and more.

Everything you ever wanted to know about vitamin C serums: 

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