Skin Care in Your 50s: How To Evolve Your Routine As You Age, According to Dermatologists

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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.

Experts In This Article

The Essential Skin-Care Ingredients for People Over 50

1. 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.

Watch the video below to learn how to use sunscreen:

2. Retinol

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.

Watch the video below to learn how to use retinol:

3. Hyaluronic Acid

over-50 skin care
Photo: Well+Good Creative

"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.

Watch the video below to learn how to use hyaluronic acid:

4. Vitamin C

over-50 skin care

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. Similar to niacinamide, 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.

Watch the video below to learn how to use vitamin C serum:

How To Change Your Skin-Care Routine Over 50

While lot of skin-care maintenance has to do with combating the effects of aging, it's about more than just vanity. Diane Berson, MD, FAAD, a 63-year-old board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains that, like mature people, mature skin has different needs.

"When your skin ages, the outer layer becomes a little bit thinner and that's why it becomes more fragile," says Dr. Berson. "It's less likely to retain moisture, which is why it becomes dry and flaky and itchy. And there's been damage to the collagen and elastin in the dermis which makes it wrinkle."

skin-care over 50
Photo: Diane Berson, MD, FAAD, a 63-year-old dermatologist with a private practice in New York City.

Three factors play into these changes: chronological aging, environmental and sun damage, and for women, loss of estrogen after menopause.

"Sunlight ages to the skin, causing things like discoloration, thinning of the surface, loss of collagen and elastin, wrinkles, dullness, and roughness," she says. "And we know that estrogen interacts with certain skin cells, the keratinocytes, which are in the outer layer of the epidermis, which make the epidermis nice and thick, and protect the skin from outside irritants. Estrogen also interacts with the fibroblasts, which are the cells that stimulate collagen production, which makes the skin feel supple and wrinkle-free."

Dr. Berson says the most important thing to do with aging skin is make sure it's getting enough moisture. When it comes to ingredients, you'll want an emollient such as ceramides, which are the glue that keeps all the surface cells together. Next, you'll want a humectant like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which help bind water to the skin. For very dry skin, she says to look for an occlusive like petrolatum, which helps seal in moisture. Lastly, she says to still pay attention to sun protection, because sunlight exacerbates damage.

"We give the same advice to our patients of all ages and we usually tell them to protect their skin in the morning and repair their skin at night," she says. As you age, "you might want to use a moisturizer that might be a little greasier or heavier for your extremities, which she says get more dry the older you get."

Below, shop the products Dr. Berson uses herself and recommends to her patients.

10 best skin-care products for people over 50

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic — $166.00

Dr. Berson isn’t the only skin expert who loves this serum. It provides environmental protection, while also lightening lines, firming skin, and brightening your complexion.

Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Fluid Face Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 — $31.00

This lightweight sunscreen is complete with antioxidants, which Dr. Berson says is the winning combination for protecting your skin from environmental damage.

SkinBetter SunBetter Tone Smart SPF 68 Sunscreen Compact
SkinBetter SunBetter Tone Smart SPF 68 Sunscreen Compact — $65.00

Dr. Berson says she uses this compact after she’s applied her makeup. She loves that it provides an extra layer of sunblock. Consult with your dermatologist, or find a partnered dermatologist in your area, to purchase.

SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum — $281.00

This dual formula gives you the benefits of two serums in one. One side houses a protein- and amino acid-rich serum to reduce inflammation, and the other side includes a mixture of anti-aging ingredients, peptides, and antioxidants to strengthen sagging skin.

Isdin Eryfotona Actinica
Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ — $60.00

Dr. Berson says she loves this mineral sunscreen because it contains DNA-repair enzymes and antioxidants that provide an even stronger layer of protection to your skin.

Sente Dermal Contour Pressed Serum
Senté Dermal Contour Pressed Serum — $198.00

Dr. Berson says she loves this serum for repairing the skin at night. It contains heparin sulfate analog, or HSA, “which is an ingredient in the dermis that plumps the skin and stimulates collagen production,” she says. The formula is a hybrid of a cream and a serum, and it works to firm, repair, and hydrate your skin.

Biopelle Emepelle Night Cream
Biopelle Emepelle Night Cream — $195.00

This night cream contains methyl estradiolpropanoate, or MEP, which Dr. Berson says is a game-changer for menopausal skin. She says it looks like estrogen and binds with estrogen receptors in the skin. “It causes all of the benefits that estrogen would give in terms of plumping the skin, promoting collagen, thickening the dermis, thickening the epidermis, making the skin look and feel smoother and more plump, but it’s not a hormone,” she says. The cream also contains antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and retinol.

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream
Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream — $34.00

This cream, perfect for day or night, is formulated with vitamin B3 and hyaluronic acid to exfoliate and improve the look of wrinkles. Dr. Berson says she loves this one because it’s budget-friendly, and is packed with great ingredients.

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum
La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum — $51.00

Dr. Berson is a strong believer in retinol, and loves this one from La Roche-Posay. It helps reduce wrinkles, smooth skin texture, and even tone.

Alastin Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen
Alastin Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen — $40.00

This sunscreen pairs sun protection with antioxidants and skin-soothing phytonutrients, leaving you with nourished, hydrated, and protected skin.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Latha, M S et al. “Sunscreening agents: a review.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 6,1 (2013): 16-26.
  2. Zasada, Malwina, and Elżbieta Budzisz. “Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments.” Postepy dermatologii i alergologii vol. 36,4 (2019): 392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443
  3. Jegasothy, S Manjula et al. “Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 7,3 (2014): 27-9.
  4. Grether-Beck, Susanne et al. “Photoprotection of human skin beyond ultraviolet radiation.” Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine vol. 30,2-3 (2014): 167-74. doi:10.1111/phpp.12111

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