Care Anywhere Video Visit

Have a video visit in minutes using your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Continue to Care Anywhere Video Visit

Good Skin Health in Your 30s, 40s, 50s and Beyond

UW Health dermatologist Dr. Apple Bodemer shares ways to keep your skin healthy as you age
Skin care practices change as we move from our 30s to our 40s, into our 50s and beyond. Some skin aging that occurs is tied to genetics, but a larger part of it is under our control, says Apple A. Bodemer, MD, UW Health Dermatologist.

“In general, we can talk about 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond but good skin care is something that starts early on and the things we do from a young age impact how quickly aging is going to catch up with us.” Things like tanning or sun exposure definitely accelerate the aging process. Shielding yourself from the sun by covering your skin with clothing or sunscreen will go a long way to minimizing the aging we see throughout our life cycle.

Diet is also important to good lifelong skin health, says Bodemer. Avoid processed foods and foods with a lot of sugar. Opt for a more plant-based diet that minimizes glycemic index or glycemic load. The anti-inflammatory approach to eating is a good one to consider.

What we do early in life to protect our skin from damage will serve us well in later years. But it is never too late to start practicing healthy skin habits.



Skin Care in Our 30s

The 30s is where we start to see changes in our skin. UV radiation exposure begins to lead to lowered collagen production and decreased elasticity. The epidermis - top layers of the skin - starts to get thinner, mainly due to UV radiation. We also see a decrease in natural moisturizing factor, which is made of proteins and acids that help make moisture in the skin giving it a supple appearance. You may start seeing the effects of sun damage in the form of dark spots and non-melanoma skin cancers.

Your Best Defense

The first and best defense is protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful UV radiation, stresses Bodemer. Covering exposed skin with clothing or wearing sunscreen every day—even on cloudy days—is important, she says, since UV rays go through clouds. “The sun you get from the car to the store and from the store back to your car and back and forth to work—these little bits of exposure add up.”

Skin hydration is important in the 30s. Use a moisturizer that is unscented, dye free, non-hypoallergenic and non-comeodogenic. Chemicals used to create scents in some moisturizers can irritate the skin, says Bodemer. “Less is more when it comes to that kind of thing.”

Mild cleansers are especially effective if you have acne, rosacea or another sensitive skin condition, which become more common in the 30s and beyond. With every skin condition it is always important to use moisturizing according to skin type, so you should experiment to find the right one for you.

Oral hydration is another way to promote the appearance of healthy skin, says Bodemer. While there are no studies that prove that oral hydration improves skin health, Bodemer says she sees the positive effects it has on the skin’s appearance. “I strongly believe in oral hydration – so drinking enough non-caffeinated beverages plays a big role in how your skin looks.”

Skin Care in Our 40s

Skin starts to become blotchier in the 40s as signs of sun damage become more prominent. The skin’s natural oil production also continues to decrease into the 40s as dry skin becomes more of an issue. Another common complaint of people in their 40s and older are facial pores getting larger.

Your Best Defense

Continuing to protect the skin from sun exposure and maintaining a heathy diet is as important in the 40s as ever before. This is also the time to consider adding retinoids to your skin regimen, says Bodemer. “You can add these in your 30s and you will have added benefit from starting earlier, but the 40s is when people start seeing things like unevenness and little bumps underneath the skin.”

Using a retinoid twice daily in the morning and at night is a good practice. Retinoids include retinol which is a mild exfoliator, so using retinols to gently exfoliate the surface of the skin will remove skin bumps. Retinol also helps prevent inflammation which can make skin look older. It shrinks pores as well as evens out skin tone, and reduces superficial fine lines and wrinkles that become more prevalent as we age. Retinoids can dry out and irritate skin making it look older, so be sure to use one that has a good moisturizer.

Procedures are another option, which can be effective but expensive, says Bodemer. She suggests before making a decision, set aside the magnifying mirror and take two steps back. “If your concern is still bothering you and it’s bothering you to the point where you are willing to invest money into doing something about it than go talk to someone.”


Medical/spa treatments like Botox, wrinkle filler, laser/light resurfacing, chemical peels and dermabrasions are expensive and depending on what you go with some can have significant down time. And you need to keep doing them to keep seeing the results, says Bodemer. Botox is a popular choice. What it does is paralyzes muscles to minimize wrinkles. But you need to do it every three to four months initially. If you’ve been getting Botox regularly the effects can last up to six months or more.

Skin Care in Our 50s and Beyond

Hormonal changes begin to increase in your 50s, and these changes have effects on the skin. Oil gland production continues to decrease as we enter our 50s and this becomes more evident in the time during and after menopause. Dry skin can become sensitive. The skin’s elasticity continues to decrease, leading to expression lines – smile and frown lines around the mouth and eyes – becoming more prominent. Uneven skin color and those brown spots that started to appear in the 30s and 40s become more evident in our 50s. Raised brown spots, called seborrheic keratoses, may also start to appear.

Your Best Defense

Protecting skin from the sun’s UV rays as always is the most important defense, but ongoing skin moisturizing continues to be an important part of maintaining healthy skin in your 50s. Creams and oil cleansers can be great tools for combating dryness by hydrating the skin. Retinoids are still your friend in your 50s. Find the right one for you and apply it at night and in the morning. This will help reduce fine lines and even out complexion. Arbutin and Kogic acid creams can be helpful in evening out skin tones. Arbutin comes from blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, bearberries and other berries. Kogic acid comes from a Japanese mushroom. Vitamin C can also help with evening skin tone. The downside is that it is not photo stable meaning that if you do have a vitamin C cream it needs to be in a dark container because it will break down with exposure to light.

Procedures like Botox discussed earlier in the 40s are also considerations in your 50s and beyond, but be sure to do your research to see which one if any are right for you.


Follow UW Health


Twitter icon UW Health on Twitter

Twitter icon UW Health on Facebook

Date Published: 08/10/2016

News tag(s):  skin carehealthy bodiesdermatologywellness

News RSS Feed