En español | By age 50-plus we act like DIY dermatologists. We look in the mirror and analyze every spot and wrinkle. Not exactly novices, we've tried everything from Buf-Pufs to jade rollers. But right now, major stress (COVID-19, masks, isolation, politics, finances — take your pick) is showing up on our faces in addition to the usual wrinkles. We've been googling skin-care products like scientists seeking new planets in an effort to counteract all of this, including the irritation, dryness, bumps and blotches. But, hold it right there. Here are 11 simple tips to get you glowing again.
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PHOTO BY: Walgreens (2); Target; Mario Badescu Skin Care
1. Exfoliate to brighten up
If you buy one thing, make it a gentle exfoliating cleanser. You can't have better skin until you do, and here's why. Cell turnover slows with age. Instead of a peppy shed and refresh cycle, dead skin cells just keep piling up. This gives your skin a dull, dry look and a flaky, rough texture, and makes it tough for treatments to penetrate and actually work. There are two choices: Select a physical cleanser with microfine polishers like Olay Scrubs Hydrating Vitamin C + Caviar Lime Facial Cleanser ($10, walgreens.com) or Cetaphil Gentle Exfoliating Facial Cleanser ($8, target.com), or choose a glycol acid cleanser like L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Cleanser ($7, walgreens.com) or Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser ($16, ulta.com) to dissolve dead cells. The key word here is gentle. No need for aggressive scrubbing to expose fresh cells lying in wait beneath all that buildup. The only caveat: If you use retinol, opt for a vitamin C cleanser in the a.m. and a mild cleanser in the p.m. with your retinol at night — never together.
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PHOTO BY: Target (3); Walgreens; Ulta Beauty
2. Use a daily moisturizer with hyaluronic acid
Stop hopping from one trendy cream to another and count on the super-humectant hyaluronic acid to do the job. Hyaluronic acid in a light gel-cream formula — like Garnier SkinActive Gel Face Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid ($15, target.com), Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream for Extra Dry Skin ($23, walgreens.com) or No7 HydraLuminous Water Surge Gel Cream for Drier Skin ($18, target.com) — makes adult skin feel super soft and pillowy again as it plumps up lines and wrinkles, firms up saggy skin and gives your face a dewier look from day one of use. For those who prefer a more emollient texture, try a hyaluronic acid-infused cream like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for Normal to Dry Skin ($14, target.com) or Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($29, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: CVS; Walgreens; Target
3. Combine sun protection with skin care
For those wanting a less-is-more approach, try a moisturizer/sunscreen hybrid designed with mature skin in mind. Whether worn solo or layered under makeup, the addition of antioxidants (especially vitamin C) — as in Garnier SkinActive SPF 30 Face Moisturizer with Vitamin C ($17, cvs.com), Vichy Laboratoires Liftactiv Peptide C Face Sunscreen SPF 30 ($39, walgreens.com), or Soap & Glory Urban Legend Double Protection Antioxidant Day Cream SPF 30 with Green Tea & Vitamin C ($14, target.com) — helps diminish and prevent brown spots. Vitamin C (which also assists in preventing sun damage) helps reboot collagen and elastin production, so along with that UV protection expect firmer-looking skin around expression lines and the jaw.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); CVS
4. Do skin repair overnight
Snooze but don't lose by saving retinol for the evening hours. This skin-makeover star makes skin sun sensitive (and is not for those with sensitive skin), but it might become your new BFF if sun damage and wrinkles are your biggest beef. Retinol — a derivative of vitamin A — increases collagen production and cell turnover. Since it can be irritating, to minimize sensitivity choose a formula buffered by hydrating hyaluronic acid or calming niacinamide such as Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Hyaluronic Acid & Retinol Cream ($25, target.com), L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Deep-Acting Moisturizer ($20, target.com) or Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Moisturizer ($39, ulta.com). FYI: A so-called night cream doesn't need to say “night” in the description. Night and day creams are all about texture.
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PHOTO BY: Target (3); Walgreens; Dermstore
5. Add a serum to power things up
Don't keep changing moisturizers as your skin adjusts to the new normal. Instead, just layer a super serum under your favorite moisturizer to upgrade the benefits. The higher level of active ingredients in these concentrated formulas help you keep improving specific concerns. For extra moisture, choose a hyaluronic serum like Olay Deep Hydration Serum - Vitamin B3 + Hyaluronic Acid ($29, target.com) or L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum ($24, target.com). For extra skin clarity, more radiance and reduced dark spots, try a vitamin C serum such as Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C Tri-Peptide Serum ($27, walgreens.com), CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Face Serum with Hyaluronic Acid ($20, target.com), or La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum ($40, dermstore.com). Never mix vitamin C serum with a retinol cream; moisturizing hyaluronic acid serums work with everything.
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PHOTO BY: Walgreens; Ulta Beauty; Neutrogena; Nordstrom; Dermstore; Sephora; Target
6. Use an eye cream or gel daily
The skin around your eyes is where fatigue, circles, lines, sag, bags and puffy skin show up fast and first. It's the thinnest, driest skin on your face, and thus an ideal candidate for a daily dose of hyaluronic acid — as in Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream ($18, ulta.com) or Neutrogena Hydro Boost Eye Gel-Cream ($25, ulta.com) — that firms up the eye area like cushion stuffing. Bags under the eyes respond to caffeine, so if this is your pet peeve try formulas to keep them deflated for hours, such as Tula Glow & Get It Cooling and Brightening Eye Balm ($28, ulta.com), DermaDoctor DD Dermatologically Defining Eye Radiance Cream SPF 30 ($28, dermstore.com), or Supergoop! Bright-Eyed 100% Mineral Eye Cream SPF 40 ($36, sephora.com). If you spend a lot of time on screens (and who doesn't these days?), a treatment like Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel ($15, target.com) or Physicians Formula RefreshMint Cucumber & Bamboo Eye De-Puffer Gelee ($16, walgreens.com) with soothing botanicals like green tea, cucumber and aloe can help refresh fatigued, burning eyes. Keep all eye treatments (and you may want all three) in the fridge and let the chill amp up the soothing and depuffing benefits.
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PHOTO BY: Dermstore (2); CVS; Ulta Beauty; Target
7. Pamper reactive skin
If your skin is sensitive and throws temper tantrums, look for preventative ingredients like ceramides that strengthen the skin's barrier layer (which keeps moisture in) or calming niacinamide to reduce inflammation. A moisturizer/sunscreen with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid — like EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen ($36, dermstore.com) or CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen SPF 30 ($18, cvs.com) — is good base layer for day wear. Count on creams with botanicals and emollients like colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, aloe and soy — such as IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Sensitive Skin Moisturizer ($50, ulta.com), First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($34, dermstore.com), or Aveeno Positively Radiant Overnight Hydrating Facial Moisturizer ($14, target.com) — to soothe and replenish at night or any time distressed skin needs a time out. Skip the retinol, AHAs and BHAs. You need TLC to get your radiance boost.
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PHOTO BY: Target (3)
8. Choose makeup that enhances skin
Sometimes you need to “fake it till you make it,” as the saying goes. That's the idea behind BB and CC creams, designed to tint and blur imperfections. But let's be honest, most drugstore-tinted moisturizers are limited in shade range and are too drying for us. Three affordable brands — L'Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation with SPF 50 with 30 shades ($12, target.com), NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow! Radiant Foundation with 45 shades ($10, target.com), and Milani Screen Queen Foundation with 45 shades ($12, target.com) — have an expanded palette of lightweight face makeups that looks authentic and, well, skinlike. Though all three are labeled foundation, they perform more like tinted serums and easily build for extra coverage where and when needed without looking obvious.
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PHOTO BY: Peathegee Inc/Getty Images
9. Stay active
While staying fit, energetic, healthy and free of stress is the main reason we work out at age 50 and beyond, fitting into our clothes is a close second. But there's a third reason, too: Exercise gives us better skin. That after-gym glow is something that's very real thanks to improved circulation as the increased blood flow brings oxygen, nutrients and minerals to your skin. It even helps you shed eye-area puffiness. In addition, regular exercise helps buffer the effects of stress. When stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, we tend to have trouble sleeping (and that's essential to healthy-looking skin) and binge eat (often sugar or salty foods, which are skin disasters). Want better skin? Get up off your derriere and move!
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PHOTO BY: Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
10. Keep your makeup and masks clean
If your fancy leopard face mask and blender sponge are grimy, your skin will look that way, too. Makeup tools, makeup itself and our new favorite accessory — fabric face masks — are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria. To keep skin looking fresh, wash masks in the machine or by hand — preferably in hot water with detergent — and throw in the dryer or air dry in the sun. Keep several handy to wear in rotation. Clean makeup sponges, brushes and sponge-tip applicators at least once a week minimum. No need for special products — any facial cleanser or shampoo does the job. Makeup wipes are excellent for cleaning the inside of makeup bags and for wiping down eyelash curlers and lipsticks. Use alcohol and a cotton swap to clean the inside of makeup pencil sharpeners (even those built-in to the pencil tip). And for the most hygienic approach, ditch the makeup bag and keep your products and brushes in zip-top plastic bags like the pros do.
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PHOTO BY: haoliang/E+/Getty Images
11. Change your habits for good
Commit to getting your skin in shape. This means absolutely no: smoking, “tanning” or days in the sun (even on vacation) without a high SPF sunscreen, or getting into a binge-eating sugar, salt, fried or processed foods and diet soda rut. For improved skin, stick to a balanced, colorful diet that includes skin-loving fresh fruits and dark leafy greens; healthy fats like nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds and avocado; eggs, salmon and olive oil (a lack of them can cause skin to look dry); and plenty of water. In addition to exercise, manage stress with meditation, yoga, deep breathing and personal downtime, and by not responding to every online video chat and not checking your Instagram and Facebook feed every 10 minutes. Your complexion will thank you.