Establishing a proper skincare routine can be daunting at any age, but once you reach 40, the pressure to use the right products can feel all the more intense. On top of taking care of your skin's overall health, specific concerns like increasing pigmentation and burgeoning wrinkles are suddenly on your radar.
To learn more about best skincare practices post-40, we tapped one of our go-to dermatologists, Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAA, of MFC Dermatology for some much-needed advice. From what products to use to which active ingredients to look for, we asked her all of our most pressing skincare questions, starting with the most important: Is it too late to start using anti-aging skincare products if I'm already in my 40s?
"If you haven't been consistent with anti-aging products in your 30s, it's time to embrace a routine in your 40s," advises Herrmann. Don't panic if you're well into your 40s and haven't so much as purchased a single anti-aging product—we've got you covered. Keep scrolling for a step-by-step, dermatologist-approved skincare routine, complete with top shelf–worthy product recommendations.
Here, a top dermatologist explains everything you need to know about skincare in your 40s, including an $80 "cream-meets-serum" miracle product for remarkably younger-looking skin.
The Best Active Ingredients
Herrmann recommends adding growth factors to your skincare regimen "because they help stimulate collagen and elastin synthesis leading to tighter, healthier skin."
DNA Repair Enzymes
These active ingredients "address damage at the molecular level and help reverse the aging process by fixing DNA damage directly," says Herrmann. "As we age, DNA damage accumulates, and our skin's natural DNA repair enzymes begin to decline in our 30s (not a good combination!)," she explains. "As DNA damage accumulates, cells begin to work less well and can even 'go bad,' resulting in pre-skin cancers and skin cancers."
These potent chemicals "help encourage healthy skin turnover and increased collagen production (think fewer fine lines and firmer skin)."
It binds water and keeps the skin well hydrated but not greasy or overly oily," says Herrmann. "As we hit our 40s, our skin thins, and hydration decreases. Repeat applications of hyaluronic acid can help combat these changes."
Vitamin C/Kojic Acid/Soy/Azelaic Acid/Licorice
These "ingredients can help brighten unwanted brown spots," explains Herrmann. "Given the degree of your pigmentation and your skin type, it's best to have a board-certified dermatologist help determine the best combination for you."
The Holy-Grail Product for Younger-Looking Skin
Of all the products currently on the market containing the active ingredients listed above, Herrmann recommends one above all others. "DNA Eye Balm is Dr. Moy's newest product, which combats aging of the under-eye (which is where we tend to see the first signs of aging).
"It's unique in that it combines two breakthrough ingredients for the very first time: DNA repair enzymes and plant-based growth factor—along with peptides, hyaluronic acid, chamomile and cucumber extract," explains Herrmann. "It's the perfect combination of cream-meets-serum and improves texture and appearance dramatically."
The #1 Mistake to Avoid
According to Herrmann, not adhering to a routine is the number one skincare you mistake can make. "Consistency is important because it takes time for products to work and benefits build," she explains. "But keep it simple! If you choose too many products, it's easy to lose interest and fall back to old habits."
Below, she walks us through a basic skincare routine, complete with product recommendations for each step.
The Routine Step 1: Cleanse
Kick-start your skincare routine with a cleanser specifically designed for your skin type. Here are a few dermatologist-approved products for every skin type, as told to MyDomaine by Herrmann:
"For those with acne-prone skin, try a cleanser like DNA Renewal Foaming Gel Cleanser. It has a combination of glycolic, alpha-hydroxy, and lactic acids, which can help gently exfoliate and unplug pores.
"For those with irritated and sensitive skin, Elta MD Foaming Facial Cleanser is my go-to. A combination of anti-inflammatory enzymes and amino acids work together to gently cleanse and reduce redness.
"For those with dry skin, a cleanser containing glycerin like La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Soap-Free Cleanser is a good choice. Glycerin is a humectant that holds water, leaving the skin feeling smooth and hydrated.
"For those with drier skin, washing off makeup and pollution at night is adequate; a gentle splash of water in the morning is fine. Too much cleansing can strip the skin of natural oils and create irritation or paradoxical over-oil production.
"For those with more oily skin or acne, cleansing both morning and night is important. I do like using a Clarisonic brush because it's gentle and helps cleanse the skin more evenly."
Step 2: Moisturize
"After cleansing, I typically don't recommend toners," she says. "Many contain alcohol or other astringents that are too harsh for the skin and disrupt pH balance.
Instead, reach for a hydrating treatment. "In the morning, I usually recommend a moisturizer (again based on your skin type)," says Herrmann. "My favorite is DNA Intensive Renewal, which is more than a moisturizer because it contains marine botanical DNA-repairing enzymes."
"Science has taught us that damage to the skin's DNA from UV, pollution, and other oxidative processes leads to premature aging and eventually pre-skin cancers and skin cancers," explains Herrmann. "When applied to the skin, DNA repair enzymes go in and actually fix the damaged DNA, reversing the aging process."
Step 3: Sun Protection
Following a moisturizer, always apply sunscreen. The best ones have an SPF of at least 30 and are broad spectrum, according to Herrmann. "It's important to remember that if you're using a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 and a makeup with an SPF of 15, your effective SPF is 15, not 30. No cumulative benefits here!" she explains. "DNA Sheer Defense SPF 50+ is made with DNA-repairing enzymes, so it's actually repairing the past and protecting the future of your skin—a two-in-one."
Step 4: Nightly Treatments
"At night, I typically recommend reparative or corrective serums and sometimes a retinoid," says Herrmann. "For overall improved collagen synthesis and increased skin health, I like DNA Regeneration Serum containing plant-based growth factors."
Be sure to pay extra-close attention to areas that tend to show signs of aging more quickly than others. "It's important to use serums on your lower eyelids and neck because these are your most delicate areas and tend to show aging first," says Herrmann. "For pigment problems, I recommend SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. The antioxidants in this serum help brighten the complexion without being overly irritating."
If you have acne-prone skin, Herrmann typically recommends a retinol or prescription-strength retinoid. "These products increase skin cell turnover and help unplug pores while encouraging the production of newer, healthy skin below."
Up next: the most common skincare mistake women make, hands down.