Aging is natural and universal—in fact, it’s a privilege—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t nurture and care for your complexion throughout the process. It’s not about preventing skin aging altogether (because, let’s be clear, that is physically impossible), but rather about feeling confident in your own skin at every stage in your life.
Everyone’s skin is unique, of course, but the general trajectory often goes like this: In our 20s, life is good—skin care is mostly preventative. When we hit our 30s, the first signs of aging (AKA fine lines) often start to show up. In our 40s, our skin tone might start to become dull and uneven. By the time we’re in our 50s, our skin loses much of its intrinsic hydration, leading to dryness and loss of firmness, which can accentuate deeper wrinkles.
Fortunately, there are plenty of products to help address each and every skin concern that may pop up. To put some of them to the test, three women in different decades of life switched up their beauty routines for two weeks, adding in some popular products from Sephora’s insanely comprehensive skincare offerings. Here’s what happened.
30+: First Signs of Aging
Around our 30s is typically when initial signs of skin aging make themselves known—namely, fine lines creeping in on the forehead and around the mouth (known as smile or laugh lines).
“You’ll see the first signs of skin aging where you move your face the most,” explains Michelle Farber, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. These lines don’t look deep just yet (hence why they’re called “fine”), so using the right topical ingredients will help prevent existing lines from deepening and visibly reduce their appearance. Which ingredient reigns supreme? “Topically, retinols or retinoids can help with [this type of] superficial wrinkling,” Dr. Farber advises.
The tester: Tiffany Battle, a content creator in New York City who’s in her mid-30s, has noticed fine lines beginning to creep up every time she smiles. Coupled with a bit of pre-existing hyperpigmentation, Battle’s goal in testing out a retinol-based product was to target fine lines and sun damage. “I want my skin to remain hydrated, moisturized, and to keep a healthy glow,” she says. “My hope is that the retinol cream will help reduce existing hyperpigmentation and my lines.”
The product: Battle added Drunk Elephant’s ultra-popular A-Passioni Retinol Cream into her skincare regimen—but, because of a prior experience, she was initially weary of the primary ingredient. “Retinols I’ve used in the past can be kind of drying and irritating,” she says. In order to stave off any potential reaction, she incorporated the product into her routine gradually to start.
The experience: After just two weeks, she says she’s seen some results—sans irritation—and plans to keep the product in her regular regimen. “My skin looks really even and healthy—it looks like I’ve been drinking eight glasses of water a day,” Battle says. “I definitely want to see how my skin acclimates to it after a few months, but I already like the results I’m seeing.”
These positive results, and the lack of any harsh side effects, is thanks to the product’s advanced formula. It combines one percent pure vegan retinol (with the intent of promoting skin-cell turnover and even out skin texture) with a triple-peptide blend geared toward visibly firming skin, and soothing vitamin F. The formula delivers the fine line-fading power of retinol while simultaneously hydrating the skin, in order to help prevent potential irritation or dryness.
40+: Dullness and Dark Spots
As we approach our 40s, cumulative years of sun damage can manifest as dark spots, or hyperpigmentation, on the skin.
“Cumulative sun damage can also cause degradation of collagen, wrinkling, and pigment changes,” says Dr. Farber. What all of this often boils down to is general skin dullness, which Dr. Farber describes as: “Skin typically does not appear glowy or bright, and often has a flatter look.” For curious minds, the technical term for a generally dull-toned complexion is “sallow.”
The tester + the product: Vanessa Greca, 43, is familiar with all of the above issues—which is why she hoped Vinoperfect Brightening Moisturizer with Niacinamide would help visibly brighten and even out her skin tone. This oil-free gel moisturizer tackles dark spots, visibly evens tone, and gives skin a glow thanks to brightening ingredients including viniferine—a proprietary ingredient harvested from grapevine sap that may help fade the appearance of existing dark spots (and potentially help prevent new ones from forming).
The experience: After two weeks of layering the product on, Greca was pleasantly surprised. “So far, I love it [and] I really see some improvement,” she says of the product. “My skin tone is getting more even [and] my skin texture is much better.”
Another unexpected perk: Greca says the cream also helped minimize the look of her pores. “Usually on my chin area is where I notice that I have more open pores,” she says, “and [now] I see them appearing a little smaller and smoother.”
50+: Dryness and Wrinkles
While our skin is naturally wired to hydrate itself from the inside out, this intrinsic ability declines in effectiveness as we age. Moreover, “It also loses the ability to retain moisture as certain physiologic changes occur,” says Dr. Farber. Pair this natural decline with decades of accumulated exposure to environmental aggressors and the loss of collagen that makes our face look springy and full, and by the time we hit our 50s, dryness and wrinkles often become the primary skin concern.
The tester + the products: “I’m not getting any younger, so it’s just the way it is,” concedes Janise Burrafato, whose biggest skin concerns include dryness, loss of firmness, and wrinkles. With the aim of hydrating her skin, promoting elasticity in how it looks, and helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, Burrafato swapped two new products into her daily regimen—Algenist GENIUS Liquid Collagen and Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream.
More about the products: The Algenist serum is formulated with highly-concentrated vegan collagen to help visibly improve the appearance of wrinkles and skin elasticity. Combined with its patented alguronic acid (harvested from sea algae) and microalgae oil, this jelly-like serum is pretty much the ultimate supportive skin solution.
Fresh’s lightweight yet ultra-nourishing gel-cream contains a laundry list of the most hydrating ingredients you can think of, including a combination of hyaluronic acids (which can absorb up to 1,000 times its weight in water), vitamin E, rosewater, and angelica leaf extract, a botanical that’s known for its moisture-retention properties.
The experience: After applying the Algenist GENIUS Liquid Collagen serum onto freshly cleansed skin, Burrafato layered on Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream every morning. This order—with the thinner consistency serum underneath the moisturizer—allows the heavier-weight cream to essentially lock in all of the beneficial ingredients.
Together, these two products are an ideal combination: The serum targets fine lines and wrinkles, while the face cream provides deep hydration to soothe dryness.
Given all of these skin-soothing and protecting ingredients, it’s no surprise that after just two weeks of use, Burrafato says she is totally hooked on both products. “What I’ve been noticing is that I’m not getting as many dry patches [on my skin] as I normally do,” she says. “I wake up every morning and I feel like I have this baby-soft, dewy glow—I feel like I’m sort of on my way back to my twenties’ skin!”
With their new routines in place, each participant in our skincare-solution search is on her way to skin she loves now, in a year, and for all the years to come. Ready to power up your own routine? Check out Sephora’s exhaustive skincare offering to find the products you need right now, age-related or otherwise.