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The Skinny on Skin Care

Prevention

Dermatologist at Shawnee Mission Health

Somewhere in their 30s or 40s, many women panic about aging and set out on a mission to get rid of their wrinkles. I see patients of all ages who are seeking to make sense of an aggressively marketed beauty industry and find the approach that is right for them.


The truth is that regardless of our efforts to moisturize, drink a lot of water, exercise, wear sunscreen and apply makeup, we all have “bad skin days.” Why? Because as we age, no matter what we do or what our level of sun exposure, changes in hormones are the leading cause of changes in our skin.


My best advice is simple: Celebrate the age you are. Focus on healthy habits and avoid what I call “injection madness.” 


Despite that good advice, though, beginning in your 20s, and with each decade thereafter, some standard changes take place. No matter what your age, and even if you’re not obsessing about your face, there are a few easy steps you can take to help skin stay smooth, firm and glowing. 


In Your 20s

  • Estrogen is at its peak, giving most women their best-ever complexion.
  • Monthly shifts in hormone levels can lead to more oil production, larger pores and breakouts.
  • Delicate skin around the eyes can show lines and wrinkles before the rest of the face.

What to Do

  • Apply acne masks two to three times per week for occasional breakouts.
  • Use spot treatments on problem areas as needed.
  • Establish a habit of wearing light eye cream, morning and night.
  • Remember that what you do in your 20s will reflect how you look later in life. Establish healthy habits now; good nutrition, proper hydration, strengthening your core for good posture and refraining from smoking. 

In Your 30s

  • Expect lower levels of collagen and elastin, which affect your skin’s tightness and suppleness.
  • Cell turnover slows, making it harder for your skin to bounce back from inflammation.
  • You may experience dryness and acne.
  • Lines of expression become more prominent.

What to Do

  • Ramp up your anti-aging skin regimen, especially at night.
  • Use products containing retinol, a vitamin A derivative that increases collagen.
  • Establish a five-minute makeup routine to keep looking fresh all day.


In Your 40s

  • Your skin will likely feel drier, but there is a difference in “moisture-dry” and “oil-dry.”
  • Moisture-dry refers to skin that is dehydrated, i.e., lacking water.
  • Oil-dry skin results from decreasing estrogen; the skin isn’t producing enough natural oil to allow that dewy, supple look.
  • Forehead wrinkles, crow’s feet and deepening of the smile lines will start to appear.

What to Do

  • Moisture-dry skin needs moisture from the inside, so focus on water intake. Use products rich in hyaluronic acid, known for its water-retaining properties.
  • Oil-dry skin needs to be moisturized topically, usually becoming necessary as you reach menopause, so use an oil-based moisturizer. 
  • Avoid excessive weight gain or weight loss to stabilize skin texture.

In Your 50s

  • Menopause affects nearly every woman in her 50s. The steady decrease in estrogen causes a rapid decrease in collagen production.
  • Issues with dental health and changes in bone density can affect the aging of the lower face.
  • Skin becomes thinner and more translucent, appearing discolored.
  • Skin loosens and can sag around the mouth, chin and neck.
  • Dark spots are more prominent.
  • Skin will look and feel drier.

What to Do

  • Replace harsher products with mild, unscented products. 
  • Exfoliate weekly to promote cell regeneration.
  • Use products with alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) or retinoids.

In general, don’t fall for promises of eternal youth. There IS a place in the health industry for carefully selected cosmetic procedures. Seek to have that discussion with your doctor. Be aware of the proportion and placement of your injections. Remember that efforts to smooth the face at rest may alter the coordination of facial movements in animation. So make sure that what you’re asking for is safe, sustainable and correct for your facial architecture, not only in repose, but in animation.


There is beauty and authenticity in a face that is unique, proportional and can show emotion. Be happy in your own skin. A happy, animated face is its own form of beauty.


To find a Shawnee Mission Health dermatologist, visit ShawneeMission.org or call the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777.