Face time: 5 steps to better skin for women over 40.


While it’s true that skin changes throughout life, one of the most dramatic shifts undoubtedly occurs after 40. Declining oestrogen levels cause skin to become thinner, as collagen - which provides support and structure - diminishes. According to UK dermatologist, Dr Sam Bunting, up to thirty percent of collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause. The added kicker is skin regeneration also slows down as we age and sagging becomes more obvious due to the body producing less elastin.

Harley Street menopause specialist, Shazhadi Harper confirms, “My midlife clients often complain their skin is losing its radiance. Hormone changes mean less blood flows to the epidermis and slower cell turnover means skin appears coarser and becomes dehydrated far more easily (not helped by hot flushes and insomnia), resulting in more pronounced lines and wrinkles. Then there’s the added complication of adult acne which often arises due to hormonal imbalances.”

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is the beauty industry is now awash with supercharged formulations boasting active ingredients. No fillers, perfumes or unnecessary agents, we’re talking hard-hitting products that get noticeable results. Over 40 and want to get on top of your skincare regime? It’s time to bring out the big guns.

1. TopicalVitamin C is an antioxidant and works via a two-pronged approach. It evens out skin tone and helps protect the skin from (any further) sun damage by acting as a UV barrier. L-ascorbic acid, the pure form of vitamin C, has a visible effect on pigmentation/melasma and brightens dull complexions. Be warned, it tingles - sometimes to the point of discomfort - when you first apply. Lower percentages (10% and under) are good for daytime use but at night look for concentrations of 20% and upwards for clinically proven levels that target brown spots. Always apply to clean skin before any other serums or creams. Because vitamin C is highly unstable it’s prone to oxidising when it comes into contact with air (which means it’s no longer active) so look for opaque containers, store in a dark, cool place and replace the lid quickly after each use.

Garden of Wisdom Vitamin C Serum 23%

Vichy Liftactiv

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF2

2. Acids have become skincare staples, not just because there are so many affordable options on the market, but because of their proven ability to resurface the skin. They work as chemical exfoliants, either lifting off the build-up of dead cells to reveal a brighter, smoother complexion or by penetrating into the pores to help clear breakouts.

Salicylic acid, a BHA, is the bomb for oily skin prone to blackheads, breakouts and little bumps under the skin. It can also extremely effective on dry shins and elbows. Can be used daily.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2%

Glycolic acid, an AHA, is good for anti-ageing and resurfacing (2-3 times a week). This stuff works, though dryer skin types may feel a bit ‘dusty’ after the first few applications. Stick with it, you will see results after 10 days or so.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7%

Lactic acid, is gentler than glycolic acid (but still delivers brilliantly) and more hydrating, so best for dry skin.

The Inkey List Lactic Acid

Azelaic acid is a gentle skin resurfacer with anti-inflammatory, anti-redness and anti-microbial properties. Gets good results on rosacea.

Azalaic Acid Suspension 10%

 3. Retinol is the gold standard topical treatment for mature skins and a brilliant all rounder for acne, spots, wrinkles, pigmentation, open pores and rosacea. The active ingredient is vitamin A which, once in the dermis, speeds up skin cell turnover in the top layers of the skin which works to boost collagen, break up pigmentation, improve skin tone and decrease fine lines. Be aware though, retinoid can cause shedding, dryness and irritation and should only be used at night as it increases skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Beginners should start twice a week, increasing gradually to every other night. Best used alone on clean skin, although you can moisturise half an hour after application if you experience irritation. Think of retinol as a marathon, not a sprint - you need to build up a tolerance and results can take a while - but it’s well worth the effort.

Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

4. SPF is vital, but you know that already. You also know that you should be wearing it every day even when cloudy, because without a daily skin regimen that includes SPF 30 or higher on all sun-exposed skin, no other anti-aging products matter. Most people are put off sunscreen as traditionally they blocked bores and caused breakouts at the same time leaving a white, mask-like residue. Rest assured, formulations have moved on massively and these days go way beyond simply screening UVA. Look for the addition of hyaluronic acid and oil-free formulas that prime skin, as well as tinted bases that reflect light and enhance radiance.

Elta MD UV Daily SPF 40

Dr Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen

SkinCeuticals Ultra Facial Defence SPF50 

5. Nutrition is key to healthy skin and helps to build natural antioxidant defenses from within. As always - this applies to any age - variety is crucial. Think lots of vegetables, fruits and legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils) plus zinc and selenium (pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts), plenty of healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocados), antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E) and polyphenols in the form of colourful foods (sweet potato, red pepper, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, apples), omega 3 to keep skin cell membranes supple (walnuts, salmon, mackerel, sardines, chia seeds, flax) and, of course, lots and lots of water.

Want to talk about how nutrition and lifestyle can help you? Book in for a free 15 minute call by emailing me at hello@emma.bardwell.com (private one-to-one consultations in Dulwich, Fulham and Harley Street or via Zoom).