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Skip the Scams: New Skin Care Products to Try

Solutions and serums packed with all the hottest ingredients


spinner image A woman's hand with a question mark shaped by lotion above it
Photo collage: AARP; (Source: GettyImages (3))

Women 50-plus may be the most experienced consumers of skin care. Each season new products still entice us to buy products that smooth, plump and erase all evidence of time, sun exposure and lack of attention. Social media may tout them as the latest Holy Grail solutions, but don’t believe everything you see on TikTok. Some new skin care products are worth it, but others are definitely not. I’m not a dermatologist, but I am a beauty editor with over 40 years’ experience. Here’s my honest 2024 guide to level up your routine in time for spring:

spinner image Olay Regenerist Hyaluronic + Peptide 24 Hydrating Gel
Olay Regenerist Hyaluronic + Peptide 24 Hydrating Gel
Courtesy: Olay

1. Trust the peptides push

You’ve heard about this ingredient before, but now it’s a skincare rock star. Peptides are amino acids that form the building blocks of proteins, which include collagen and elastin — the underlying support system of skin. Creams and serums with peptides help firm that scaffolding for a bouncier smoother texture. Some peptides known as neuropeptides can reduce forehead creases and frown lines and can be found in products like BeautyStat Peptide Wrinkle Relaxing Moisturizer ($72, beautystat.com) and Peter Thomas Roth Peptide Skinjection Amplified Wrinkle-Fix Refillable Serum ($65, sephora). But be realistic. Don’t expect the kind of tautness Botox injections and fillers produce. Peptides are usually tolerated well by those with sensitive or redness-prone skin and are an alternative to retinol. Look for peptide moisturizers like the Olay Regenerist Hyaluronic + Peptide 24 Hydrating Gel ($40, ulta.com) and Ole Henriksen Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Moisturizer ($37, amazon.com) that include hydrating and soothing ingredients. You want extra moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin and squalane in the formula too.

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spinner image Pixi Beauty Overnight Retinol Oil; LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer
(Left to right) Pixi Beauty Overnight Retinol Oil; LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer
Courtesy: Pixi; LilyAna Naturals

2. Try pampering retinol formulas

Retinol is legendary for reversing the signs of sun damage and minimizing wrinkles. It accelerates cell turnover (which decreases as we age) to slough off dull dead cells on the skin’s surface. It has a rep for causing dryness, redness and irritation that for many mature women cancels out the benefits. Folks on social media rave about the “retinol sandwich” by applying retinol over and under moisturizer to minimize the negatives. This can help dilute the drying effect of applying retinol on bare skin, but it also lessens the results. New formulas are designed to do the same thing more effectively by buffering retinol with hydrating ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid and sunflower seed oil, combining it with the more gentle plant version of retinol known as bakuchiol, peptides or ceramides and/or lowering the dosage of retinol. All aim to enable retinol-treated skin to look plumped, dewy and radiant. Good examples include the LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer ($30, lilyananaturals.com) with skin quenching hyaluronic acid, sunflower seed oil, shea butter and aloe; the Tru Alchemy Retinol Reset ($65, amazon.com), a blend of retinol, bakuchiol, squalane and hyaluronic acid; the Pixi Beauty Overnight Retinol Oil ($17, amazon.com), with peptides and ceramides and the Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol ($38, sephora.com), with low-dose 0.5% retinyl sunflowerates (a derivative of retinol) and sunflower seed fatty acids.

spinner image Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil
Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil
Courtesy: Neutrogena

3. Switch to souped-up cleansers with oil

Remember wanting oil-free everything, from foundation to moisturizer? Well, oil is back big time for women 50-plus, especially in the cleanser category, where its ability to gently dissolve makeup and sunscreen while soothing and hydrating make it an excellent choice for aging skin. This is especially true if you’re a daily makeup wearer with an evening double-cleanse routine or you have very dry skin and want an a.m./p.m. cleanser that won’t leave your face feeling tight and sensitive. However, the new oils are far from the bottle of olive oil sitting in your pantry. They’re elevated formulas that benefit from technological advances. For example, the CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser ($14, target.com), designed for dry to very dry skin, is infused with the humectant hyaluronic acid and the emollient squalane (and has the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance), the EltaMD Oil-in-Gel Cleanser ($35, lovelyskin.com) with meadowfoam seed oil turns into a silky oil on contact with water and the Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil ($11, walgreens.com) offers a gentle silky cleanse but can break down stubborn makeup when necessary. Get over the fear; oil cleansers are efficient at product residue removal and can help prevent clogged pores, skin irritation and breakouts (even in mature skin) and won’t mess up your makeup or pillowcases.

spinner image Dr !Driss The Depuffer: Roll On Serum; Olay Super Serum; Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
(Left to right) Dr !Driss The Depuffer: Roll On Serum; Olay Super Serum; Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
Courtesy: Dr. Idriss; Olay; Mad Hippie

4. Choose serums that multitask

Women are collecting serums the way they used to collect lipsticks. Concentrated and designed to be applied under moisturizer, serums deliver targeted ingredients deeper into the skin for more impressive results. Some brighten, others plump up lines, reduce sensitivity or fade pigmentation. But this love of serums often means we’re stuck with a confusing row of medicinal-looking little bottles on our bathroom shelf. There’s a simpler solution: serums that fix more than one issue at a time. Do-all formulas include the Dr !Driss The Depuffer: Roll On Serum ($38, dridriss.com), a squeeze tube with an attached facial roller that’s packed with arnica to reduce swelling and centella asiatica to reduce redness and irritation as you smooth over cheeks, jaw and eye area; the Olay Super Serum ($35, cvs.com), an ambitious formula that includes niacinamide to ease inflammation, vitamin C, peptides and antioxidants vitamin E and alpha hydroxy acid; Paula’s Choice Omega + Complex Serum ($44, paulaschoice.com) with shea butter, ceramides, hyaluronic acid and omegas 3, 6 and 9 for building supple cushioned skin and protecting the outer barrier layer and the Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($18, ulta.com), a brightener with the extra antioxidant ferulic acid and a generous dose of hyaluronic to fill out lines. Clean out the clutter!

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spinner image Dove Body Love Moisture Boost Body Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid + Moringa Oil; Vaseline Radiant X Deep Nourishment Hand Butter
(Left to right) Dove Body Love Moisture Boost Body Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid + Moringa Oil; Vaseline Radiant X Deep Nourishment Hand Butter
Courtesy: Dove; Vaseline

5. Treat your body to products that mimic face care

If you’ve been slathering on any old lotion that’s on sale, it’s time for an update. Body positivity has extended its reach to body care on the beauty side, as more women 50-plus want the freedom to bare their décolletage, legs and arms with confidence – especially for evenings out and warmer weather. New body care products use face care ingredients to improve mature neck-down skin that’s dry, dull, textured and crepey. They range from everyday cleansers like the Dove Body Love Moisture Boost Body Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid + Moringa Oil ($8, target.com) to serums like the Maelys Cosmetics Re-Shine Illuminating Body Serum ($69, ulta.com), with plant extracts formulated to reduce the appearance of brown spots on chest and neck; the b.Fresh As Good As New Skin Renewal Body Serum ($14, walmart.com), with hyaluronic acid and lactic acid to gently exfoliate flaky skin and the miraculously non-greasy Vaseline Radiant X Deep Nourishment Hand Butter ($6, walgreens.com) to rejuvenate backs of hands with shea butter, coconut oil, vitamin C and peptides.

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spinner image St. Ives Juicy Watermelon Lip Scrub
St. Ives Juicy Watermelon Lip Scrub
Courtesy: St. Ives

6. Leap into advanced lip care

Most women have a lip balm and lipstick routine, and that’s it. But the lip bar has been raised with new products for day and night designed to freshen aging kissers by restoring volume, hydrating dry texture and plumping up lip lines – all for a healthier look. Overnight lip masks like the Burt’s Bees Overnight Intensive Lip Treatment in Passion Fruit & Chamomile ($10, amazon.com), with ceramides and plant oils, and Lawless Forget The Filler Overnight Lip Plumping Mask in Juicy Watermelon ($22, kohls.com), with super smoothing shea butter, hyaluronic acid and ceramides are a more intensive form of rehab than ordinary lip balm and do their best plumping work while you snooze. Soothing lip scrubs like the St. Ives Juicy Watermelon Lip Scrub ($5, target.com) and the Nivea 2-in-1 Lip Balm & Scrub with Aloe Vera ($5, cvs.com) are very affordable and a major trend to try. Designed for delicate, vulnerable lip skin (so don’t use your face scrub!), they buff away flaky skin to make applying and wearing every lip makeup texture from matte to gloss easier and more flattering.

7. Skin care scams to skip

Let’s get serious. When a body cream claims to erase cellulite and tighten your tush, a night cream says its topical collagen will firm your saggy cheeks overnight or a face serum costs $700, do you laugh out loud – or hope it hasn’t sold out? Hopefully it’s the former because women 50 and over do not suffer beauty industry fools gladly.

Many skin care products have levels of benefits from immediate improvement to long-term changes that take weeks and often months to show serious cumulative results. Stretch marks and cellulite are normal, and no $500 cream is going to reverse them. Sure, they may make your thigh or tummy skin feel smoother but dermatological procedures like lasers or radio frequency are more likely to improve dimpled and puckered skin. Topical collagen is trendy, and it may moisturize, but it isn’t going to rebuild the underlying collagen and elastin that’s weakened with age — vitamin C, retinol and peptides are more likely to help there. And finally, know that eye creams and serums are effective, but the depuffing and discoloration fixes are temporary and last about 8 to 10 hours. Beware of clever marketing scams in high-priced skin care that claim vague proprietary ingredients or “pro” results. Women 50-plus are perceptive, not pushovers.

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