Prevent Skin Damage Before It Starts

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
2 min read

To maintain healthy skin and reduce the risk of further damage at midlife, Tina Alster, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University, recommends the following regimen:

  • Use a cream cleanser. Select one that's not overly drying or harsh. Many people who had oily skin earlier in life use products that are too drying, which sends a signal to the skin to produce more oil and creates a vicious cycle of dryness and oiliness. Getting the skin clean without overdrying keeps it stable and reduces the risk of irritation.
  • Follow with a moisturizer containing sunblock during the day. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily use of a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Look for a "broad spectrum" product that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Makeup or foundations containing sunscreen often are not applied thickly or evenly enough to provide adequate protection.
  • At night, apply an anti-aging product. Active ingredients to look for in over-the-counter or prescription products include glycolic, ascorbic,or retinoic acid (known as retinol in OTC products). Alster recommends using one or two of these products on an alternate night basis to help skin turnover more regularly.

"The best thing you can do if you want to prevent further aging is to wear sunscreen," says Alster. "The sun destroys elastic tissues, enhances replication of bad cells, and causes skin cancer."

If you want to reverse the signs of aging, Alster says over-the-counter products can only get you so far, and that goes for facial as well as anti-cellulite products.

"Cellulite creams don't work," says Alster. "The bottom line is that if it was that easy, we would all be slapping them on all over our bodies."

Anti-aging prescription creams containing antioxidants or peeling agents, such as glycolic and retinoic acid, will achieve better results but may increase sun sensitivity. The most dramatic improvement of already damaged skin will require laser treatments or other cosmetic treatments available from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

Alster says people tend to spend a lot of money on expensive over-the-counter products that make wild anti-aging claims and then fail to deliver. She says that money would often be better spent seeing a dermatologist for a professional evaluation of what products and treatments are most appropriate for your skin type and goals.