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Anti-aging products are the backbone of the skin-care industry. This category of creams, serums and masks promises to rid faces of wrinkles, saggy skin, dark spots and most other evidence of the natural passage of time. The term often comes under fire for enforcing the ridiculous idea that age is something to be battled, but cosmetics companies continue to release new products with the same pie-in-the-sky promises, delivered to women – and men – who might not even think of themselves as older.

According to Dr. Michael Roskies, a facial plastic surgeon and the medical director of SpaMedica in Toronto, skin care works best when its goal is preventative. “Once you’ve had that skin damage and those changes in the face, there’s no great one cream that can treat that,” he says. “If you’re being sold on that, then you’re wasting your money, unfortunately.”

Forgetting any notion of fighting the signs of aging, your skin’s needs do change over time, says Marisa Dufort, director of research and development at skin-care brand NeoStrata. “As our bodies age, the skin doesn’t produce as much collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. That just keeps going down,” she says. On top of that, Dufort says that exposure to UV rays and pollution contributes to the breakdown of these components in the skin.

So instead of “anti-aging,” maybe it’s time to start searching out skin care that works for the condition of your skin at this point in time, using age as a guideline without being defined by a number.

In your 20s …

The experts agree that your 20s are the time to put best practices in place. Develop a daily skin-care regimen that includes UV protection using a broad-spectrum SPF. “It’s of utmost importance to protect your skin,” Roskies says. Also, incorporate a product that uses antioxidants to deal with damage caused by pollution. “What we’re finding is that UV and pollution actually cause synergistic damage to the skin,” Dufort says. Adopting an attitude of what the industry calls prejuvenation (a play on the word “rejuvenation” – preventing skin damage before it starts rather than repairing it later on) can help no matter your age. This new product from Shiseido protects from UV rays, pollution and environmental factors, including temperature and humidity.

Shiseido Future Solution LX Universal Defense E SPF 50+, $130 through shiseido.ca.

In your 30s …

Your 30s are when visible signs of aging begin to make themselves known; specifically, skin’s texture can become rougher and fine lines can start to appear. Because skin’s natural cell turnover has begun to slow down, Dufort recommends incorporating products that exfoliate on the surface with ingredients such alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or polyhydroxy acid (PHA). “It’s going to work on normalizing skin’s exfoliation process,” she says. Furthermore, it “reduces inflammation, it treats browns spots and, most importantly in this decade, it starts to treat skin laxity,” Roskies says of glycolic acid, a type of AHA found in SkinCeuticals’ new overnight treatment.

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SkinCeuticals Glycolic Brightening Renew Overnight, $110 through skinceuticals.ca.

In your 40s …

“Retinol is really one of the best forms of prevention for fine lines and preventing collagen loss,” says Roskies, who suggests easing into a retinol regime in your 20s. For his patients in the 40s age bracket, Roskies recommends using a retinol product daily. With so many options to choose from at price points reaching into the stratosphere, Roskies is quick to point out that more expensive doesn’t always mean better. “Not all skin care is created equal, that’s for certain. At the same time, the active ingredients in many of the higher-end skin-care lines can be found in much more affordable formulations. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a good retinol.”

Lindsay Craven

NeoStrata Retinol 0.3% Overnight Peel, $80 through beautyboutique.ca.

In your 50s …

“Hormones are wreaking havoc at this point. A decrease in estrogen leads to a decrease in oil production and significant dryness in the skin,” says Roskies. When choosing a daily moisturizer, “you really want one that has a strong emollient property to it. Those are the cream-based moisturizers,” he says. But without undergoing any professional treatments such as injectable fillers or laser treatments, Roskies says desired results may be limited as a loss of bone mass and fat displacement may have led to sagging skin. However, he points to a placebo study that found that dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) gel results in a possible improvement in underlying facial muscle tone.

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Perricone MD No:Rinse DMAE Firming Pads, $105 through sephora.ca.

In your 60s …

At this age, the most important factor in skin care is hydration. “Postmenopausal skin is different. The skin gets very dry,” Dufort says. “You really just want to add moisture on top of what you were already doing.” She recommends incorporating a hydrating serum after cleansing, a time when it is best absorbed. “Adding a serum or treatment step is very important because [these products] are very fluid and typically have higher levels of benefit ingredients,” she says, suggesting hyaluronic acid (HA) as a top hydrating ingredient. Vivier’s new Ultimage gel has HA as well as the added bonus of neuropeptides – peptides that are released as chemical messengers from nerve cells – to help smooth skin.

Yellow Images/Yellow Images

Vivier Ultimage Hydrating Gel with Neuropeptides and Hyaluronic Acid, $140, visit vivierskin.com for retailers.

In your 70s and beyond …

By your 70s, skin care is all about maintaining comfort and upping radiance. To fight dryness and dullness, consider that all of the products you use, including makeup, should have a part in contributing to hydration. The formulas of many new makeup products including foundations, lipsticks and blushes now contain ingredients such as HA that keep skin moisturized. This foundation from L’Oréal Paris contains HA as well as vitamin B3, which helps to prevent moisture loss. If you’re looking for more drastic results at this age, Roskies says that going under the knife is likely necessary. “Setting expectations is very important. Skin care cannot reverse 50 years of aging.”

Tomoya Fujimoto/Handout

L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation, $20 through lorealparis.ca.

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