Hormones often have the last word on how your skin behaves, regardless of your life stage. But that’s not to say their effects can’t be minimised. Liz Dwyer looks at what fluctuations dominate in your forties, and how best to safeguard your skin from hormonal havoc.
We typically shed up to a million skin cells an hour, but as our hormones start tempering off, by the time we reach 40, the turnover can decrease by half.
“The result is a complexion that looks more dull and lacklustre, which regardless of wrinkle count, can be the most ageing factorof them all,” says leading skin specialist Dr Howard Murad.
How to handle it
Fruit, lactic and glycolic acids will become your new best friend, as these gentle acids literally disintegrate the mesh of dead cells that sit on the surface of the face (think of it like the greasy film that builds up on a car windscreen), which if left to linger, makes the complexion look duller, prevents plump new skin cells rising to the surface, and also inhibits ingredients from your skincare getting down into the dermis, where it’s needed most.
You can use them in small concentrations on a daily basis in face washes or in pre-soaked pads, or you can buy a mild at-home Glycolic Peel Kit (with 5-10% acid) in a pharmacy or book into a skin clinic for a more potent in-clinic peel (20-30%). Try Cane + Austin Retexturizing Treatment Pads €60, for a pharmaceutical-grade glycolic acid that you simply sweep across clean skin as and when needed or for a potent, two-step resurfacing treatment. We also rate StriVectinLABS 5-Minute Weekly Glycolic Peel, €75.
Dr Murad is also a big believer 2 that in your forties, “internal skincare takes on just as big a role as skincare products. Topical creams can only aid the 20 per cent of your skin on the surface; internal systems take care of the other 80 per cent.” So he recommends a daily supplement regimen including a complex of amino acids, glucosamine, vitamin B6, antioxidants including 3 grape seed extract, and vitamins A, C, D and E, and a diet rich in healthy fats, like omega 3s found in salmon and nuts, to help nourish skin from the inside. Try Imedeen Time Perfection supplements, €49.99.
Discolouration and age spots – why now?
Remember all those lost afternoons spent getting sunburnt as a teen? And no doubt you lost count of how many spots, cuts and minor burns your face has endured over the years. Well, all that inflammation and accumulated UV damage has been taking its toll deep down in the lower layers of skin for decades. It manifests as deep-rooted patches of pigmentation, which typically start making their way to the skin’s surface and tarnish the complexion in your forties.
How to handle it
Hydroquinone is a prescription-only topical solution, which is still the gold standard offered by dermatologists to banish age spots. It actively works to break down the pigment clusters deep down in the dermal layers, but has many irritating side effects, including redness, flaking and dryness, and pigment patches can reoccur a few months post-use. Clinique’s Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, €56, and SkinCeuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector, €100, both have held their own in efficacy tests against hydroquinone and use much milder plant-derived actives, which don’t aggravate skin yet still call time on the melanin party in the epidermis.
For a more hard-hitting approach, photodynamic therapy, available in most specialised skin clinics, can really clean up mottled skin. Short bursts of IPL or non-ablative lasers are used in combination with a topical drug to literally pulverise clusters of pigments, smashing them into millions of nanoscopic smithereens that are easily flushed out by the blood stream. A course of at least six treatments is usually necessary for long-term results and prices start from €150 per session.