Timelines: your skin at 20, 30, 40

Let your skin lie a little when it comes to revealing your age. By understanding the changes it goes through over the decades, you are better equipped to keep others guessing, writes Emma Bangay...

Visible ageing is determined by two factors: ‘Intrinsic’ ageing, which is the natural, genetically programmed ageing process, and ‘Extrinsic’ ageing, which is all the external causes like UV exposure, smoking, pollution, lack of sleep, a poor diet and stress.

Although we can’t stop the clock, we can slow down visible volume of its ticking. The key is to get in early and keep up the maintenance from there.

Aside from reassessing diet if your skin appears pallid, dull and dehydrated, upping water intake and reducing stress where we can, skincare plays a huge part in keeping skin youthful and supple.

In your 20s

Skin is still plump and cell turnaround is high in your 20s, but it’s only a matter of time until this slows. So cleansing and regular exfoliation is key to ‘train’ skin renewal to remain cyclic.

Return any lost moisture with gentle oils and creams. Your skin still enjoys a strong moisture retention mechanism; so don’t overdo moisture with heavy formulas, which can lead to a propensity to clogging, and oiliness that may still be lingering from your teens.

Get into a gentle cleansing and moisturising routine, both of which can be perfectly prescribed for you in pharmacy.

Daily application of sunscreen is also hugely important – and the only anti-ageing trick according to many experts – as is introducing an eye cream in your 20s. The eyelids can be called into action 10,000 times a day to express emotions and blink, and this constant movement results in the weakening of the eye area tissues.

In your 30s

Hopefully by now, the sun protection you introduced last decade will have resulted in a clear complexion and colouring. But around the corner lurks some aggressive environmental damage, so don’t get lax now.

Bring on the active ingredients by way of antioxidants and collagen and elastin builders; advanced antioxidants, retinol, and AHAs and BHAs will help maintain a regular rate of cell turnover that is slowing in this decade.

It’s also common for vessel walls to be weakened by our 30s due to tiredness, hypertension and ageing in general. The vessel walls become fragile and a water-and-protein fluid leaks from the vascular bed, resulting in interstitial fluid accumulation (known as oedema or bags under the eyes).

Hormones can also affect the skin via pregnancy or pre-menopause, which leads to dry, thinning skin and a loss of elasticity.

Treat these with products containing phyto-estrogens to naturally improve elasticity, inhibit degeneration of collagen and deliver essential moisture to plump and reduce sagging.

In your 40s

The ageing process not only affects the skin on your face, but also the underlying skin tissues, supportive facial muscles and bones of the face. This shift can modify facial volume, so the face appears more drawn; lines appear deeper and skin, looser.

The upper part of the face gets thinner, cheeks lose their fullness and the pull of gravity makes the lower half of the face drawn, changing the whole shape of the face.

Skin is also oestrogen dependent and the reduction of these levels prior to menopause can hasten sagging and visibly dehydration.

Oh and remember all those days you forgot the SPF? Yep, they will haunt you now too.

Thankfully, there are certain ingredients in skincare that can reverse sun damage, such as retinols and other derivatives, vitamin c, and glycolic, lactic acids.

Be sure to be fully versed on what you are using on your skin if you go for more active skincare in order for you to reap the rewards. Keep your water intake up as well and introducing supplements – if you haven’t already – can boost bone density and the general health of skin, teeth, nails and hair.