En español | Face cream used to be a simple shmear of goop that smoothed dry skin, softened wrinkles and (fingers crossed!) didn't make us break out. Then, like Clark Kent emerging as Superman, our humble everyday moisturizer gained miraculous powers. Amped up by powerful ingredients and lots of social media buzz, it became a bold age-disrupting skin care star. We now have thousands of choices, each with its own claim to fame. Tricky? Sure. But here's how to find your 50+ skin care hero:
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PHOTO BY: Sephora, Olay, Aveeno, Pond's, Olay
1. Figure out what you want now. Mature skin is always evolving and reacting to products, to heat, cold, hormonal fluctuations, your health, diet and habits. Be practical. Do you want a day moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF or a dual day/night cream without sunscreen? Prefer totally separate day and night creams? Are you sticking with drugstore or willing to splurge? A moisturizer's success depends on consistent use. Whatever will motivate you to apply daily is key.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta, Aveeno, Roc, Garnier
2. Zero in on your biggest concern. Very few women age 50+ have so-called perfect skin. Sun damage, gravity, genes and our skin care maintenance history keep reminding us with every glance in the mirror. Target the problem that bugs you most — not five things. No one moisturizer can solve all issues with equal emphasis. Is your big issue extreme dryness? Saggy skin? Lines and wrinkles? Sensitivity? Dark spots? Redness? A dull, tired look? Look for clues on the tube or jar label with words like moisture (can't be said enough!), rich, ultracalming, nourishing, wrinkle, repair, firming, skin barrier, radiance and illuminating.
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PHOTO BY: Honest, Garnier
3. Match your moisturizer to that issue. Check labels and ingredient lists for your most effective ingredients. Hyaluronic acid — the humectant that attracts water and locks it into your skin — is a universal goody for all mature complexions. You're going to be seeing it a lot as a major ingredient in the new water-packed gel creams and creamy moisturizers, too, for an extra moisture punch as in Garnier SkinActive Moisture Bomb Antioxidant Super Moisturizer ($17, ulta.com) and Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream ($18, target.com).
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PHOTO BY: Vichy, Neutrogena, L'Oreal, Olay, The Body Shop, Cerave, L' Oreal , Neutrogena
4. Other ingredients matter too. Here's a general guide:
For dryness look for hydrating ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, aloe, vitamin E and botanical oils, as in Neutrogena Deep Moisture Night Cream ($11, target.com), the Body Shop Vitamin E Nourishing Night Cream ($22, ulta.com) and L'Oreal Age Perfect Hydra-Nutrition Honey Night Balm ($20, ulta.com).
For saggy, loose skin look for firming ingredients such as peptides, as in Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Facial Moisturizer ($29, target.com), Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance-Free ($29, ulta.com) or CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream ($14, target.com).
For lines and wrinkles look for cell renewal and collagen boosting ingredients like retinol and pro-retinol, as in Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair cream with hyaluronic acid and retinol ($25, target.com) or L'Oreal Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging Moisturizer Fragrance-Free ($25, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: L'Oreal, Ulta, Cetaphil, Clinique, target
For sensitivity look for soothing ingredients like green tea, aloe, soy, colloidal oatmeal and niacinamide, as in La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer ($20, target.com) or Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream With Probiotic Technology ($50, ulta.com)
For discolorations and dullness look for brightening ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, malic, lactic acid), as in L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Moisturizer with SPF 30 ($13, target.com), Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream ($12, target.com) or Mario Badescu Hydro Moisturizer With Vitamin C ($18, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Curél, Clinique, Garnier, Josie Maran
5. Know if your skin is dry or dehydrated. There's a difference and it affects your moisturizer selection. Basically, dry skin lacks oil; dehydrated skin lacks water. Dry skin feels tight, rough, uncomfortable and looks dull because it needs more healthy fats like jojoba and olive oil, ceramides, vitamin E and squalene. They repair the outermost layer of your skin — the barrier that protects against irritation and infection — crucial to healthy, smooth skin. Dehydrated skin (and this can be dry, combination or oily grownup skin) looks deflated, saggy and lined. It needs a major water boost from humectant ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin that attract and hold moisture in the skin.
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PHOTO BY: Dove, BarMinerals, CeraVe
6. Choose a texture that feels comfortable and “right." Moisturizers vary from “wet” to creamy, lightweight to rich. You can't test in drugstores or shopping online so look for tip-off words. For dry and super-dry skin creams like Dove DermaSeries Overnight Face Cream ($14, target.com) are a more soothing choice than lotions. Gel creams like bareMinerals True Oasis Oil-Free Replenishing Gel Cream ($32, ulta.com) are a cool, refreshing choice for dehydrated, menopausal, hot-flashy skin. Lotions like CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Ultra Lightweight ($12, target.com) are geared toward those who prefer a lightweight moisturizer.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta, SheaMoisture, Kiehl's
7. If you want a dual cream to use day and night, skip the SPF. Sure, you'll have to add a separate sunscreen for day but you don't need that SPF while you sleep. Aim for a lush light cream like SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Healthy Glow Getter Pressed Serum Moisturizer ($12, target.com), First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($32, ulta.com) or Kiehl's Since 1851 Ultra Facial Cream ($30, sephora.com) that provides soothing protection and a major hydration boost. FYI: Any night cream you love can also be used as a day cream if your skin is extremely dry or going through a patch of winter dryness.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta (2)
8. Yes, oily, blemish-prone mature skin still needs moisturizer. Clogged pores, occasional breakouts and a still oily T-zone are for some of us a fact of life at 50. Menopause didn't help us out there but grownup oily skin is still thinner and may be dehydrated. Be sure your skin is getting the right cleansing and exfoliation prep to partner with an oil-free moisturizer like No7 HydraLuminous Water Surge Gel Cream ($18, ulta.com) or Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream ($52, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Sephora, Ulta, Sephora
9. Want to splurge? Test before you buy. Collect samples from Sephora and department store counters before committing to a pricier face cream. Ask for multiuse pods rather than single-use foil packets to get a more realistic idea of the texture and how it works on your skin over a few days. Browsing in-store provides a free opportunity to apply, test, scoop up samples of many brands and ask questions about the products you're considering or curious about comparing with your drugstore brand. I sampled the three above, and then splurged on one after a two-week trial.
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PHOTO BY: jacoblund/Getty Images
10. Apply moisturizer to damp skin. Freshly cleansed, still damp (not wet) skin absorbs moisture and locks it in way better than dry skin. If you're waiting three minutes — like while you drink your morning coffee — that's too long. Apply moisturizer to bone-dry skin and all those great benefits will be sitting on top of your skin, not sinking in. If you are applying later in the day or before an evening out, wash your face again before you apply moisture.
11. Final word: Is it working? Give your moisturizer a real chance to show results. It should immediately prompt a soothing, smoothing response but real differences in texture, and tone can take up to four weeks. Apply it with a gentle facial massage and include your neck. Be sure the rest of your skin care regimen clears the way for moisturizer absorption. Regular gentle exfoliation to polish away the buildup of dead cells on the surface is crucial to allow your moisturizer to absorb and for ingredients to work.
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your Look at Any Age by Lois Joy Johnson and Sandy Linter.
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