Your guide to anti-ageing skincare and why it's never too early to start
Anti-ageing is a long game – an expert explains where you should start
The concept of ‘anti-ageing’ seems a bit absurd because there’s no stopping or fighting it. So think of ‘anti-ageing skincare’ as a way of catering to our skin’s needs at different ages. Of replenishing the nutrients and natural abilities our skin tends to lose as we mature.
“Your skin starts to age as soon as you’re born,” laughs cosmetic dermatologist Dr Niketa Sonavane. We only start to see the changes when we’re in our mid to late 20s.
You would have noticed these changes as you get older. Your skin is oily and acne-prone one day, and *woosh* now it’s combination and prone to flakiness. This could be because of changes in the climate, diet and lifestyle tweaks, even hormones.
How it ages is also down to our genetics, improper skin care, sun damage and environmental factors like air pollution.
The good news is that due to technological advancements, the booming anti-ageing skincare industry has every brand creating its own line of products. The variety is wonderful but can be overwhelming.
We turned to Sonavane for some guidance. She explains the basics of creating your own anti-ageing skincare routine and gives us the low-down of where and when to start.
Anti-ageing skincare ingredients to know about
‘Anti-ageing’ can encompass a lot of things, explains Sonavane. It’s never too early to wear sunscreen, your number one anti-ageing skincare product.
“You can start early by teaching your children to use sun protection when they go out to protect from sun damage,” explains Sonavane.
When you’re in your teens your skin bounces back pretty quickly, no matter the damage. All the apricot scrubs and outdoor sports sans SPF seem to make no difference. It can catch up with you once you’re older. Her philosophy when it comes to ‘anti-ageing’ aligns itself with prevention rather than trying to cure damage once it’s done.
“Always cleanse your skin, do a double cleanse if you’re wearing heavy makeup and sunscreen. You can use micellar water as the first step and back it up with a cleanser.”
Keeping your skin free of pollutants and grime, moisturising and having a good routine will inevitably delay signs of ageing.
Ignore the sound of the broken record, don’t skip sunscreen
Even if you’re indoors, UV rays manage to filter in through your windows. Sunscreen is your greatest weapon against skin damage and signs of ageing. No serum or high-tech facial can do what it can.
Antioxidants are game-changers
In your 20s, Sonavane says, look at incorporating topical antioxidants into your routine. Antioxidants can come in the form of a serum or cream using vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids, resveratrol, even green tea extracts.
Pollution attacks your skin with free radicals that break down your healthy skin cells. Antioxidants can become your first line of defence, boosting the efficacy of sunscreen as well. They neutralise the free radicals and can potentially even brighten, soothe and moisturise the skin.
Exfoliate, within limits
Chemical exfoliation helps get rid of the upper layers of dead skin cells. It’s gentler on your skin than a physical exfoliant that requires scrubbing.
If you’re still sceptical of ‘acids’ on your skin, Sonavane suggests polyhydroxy acids (PHAs). They work similarly to our favourite AHAs and BHAs but are gentler because of their larger molecule size. They can’t penetrate as deep as the others, so are less irritating but still offer the benefit of exfoliation and re-texturising.
Start by exfoliating once a week, taking it up to a maximum of two. Exfoliation can also help your serums and treatments penetrate deeper into your skin as it removes dead cells from the surface.
Retinol, the mothership of anti-ageing
If you’ve ever Googled ‘anti-ageing skincare’ you’ve come across the word retinol and retinoids before. These are topical forms of vitamin A, that’s a go-to for many.
Retinol is one of the most studied and scientifically backed anti-ageing ingredients but comes with the most warning labels. There are many different kinds – retinal, retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate – it can be a bit confusing. For the sake of easy reading, we’ll refer to them as one category using retinol.
High-strength retinol, usually tretinoin, is used for acne treatment and is prescribed by dermatologists with careful guidelines.
Cosmetic retinol (in serums and creams) is something you can start using in your 30s. Retinol is a slow, long game. You’re not going to see changes in a few days, even months perhaps, but if you’re careful with your usage and consistent with it, you’re going to get to your desired results.
You know what they say about the slow and steady tortoise, right?
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“Start using it once a week and see how your skin reacts. Do a patch test (with any active ingredients) behind your ear, not your arm or wrist, as the skin here is similar to your face. Wait for 48 hours to see how it reacts,” says Sonavane.
You’re always going to want to be serious with your SPF when you’re using retinol because it makes your skin photo-sensitive.
Start with a low dose and you can work your way up from once a week to twice or more over the next few months.
Dermat pro tip: A serum would usually go on your skin before a moisturiser for maximum effect. Sonavane, however, says that for people with very dry and sensitive skin, apply it after your moisturiser. You’re still going to get its benefits, the moisturiser will just create a safe buffer to reduce possible irritation.
There’s no such thing as a ‘good burn’
“It’s tingling, so it must be working!” It’s OK, we’ve all sadly done this at some point. Sonavane says that often cosmetic packages don’t indicate such warning – how long you should be feeling any tingling sensation.
You’re not going to get back five years of your life by adding 10 products to your routine. She suggests alternating and switching products around so you don’t overload your skin. “Use an antioxidant one day and go for the retinol the next.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting flawless skin but take every step with caution.
“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen women make when they start feeling irritation is to let it be, believing that it’s working,” says Sonavane. “If something is irritating for more than two or three minutes, you must wash it off with water and moisturise your skin, leave that product out for your routine for at least two days. ”
Read through the ingredients of the products you’re using. “You can end up using an exfoliating toner, on top of that a strong active serum and a retinol cream. It’s too much for your skin.”
You’re just going to end up sensitising your skin, causing it to age even faster with long-term damage that’ll take months to soothe and reverse.
We know, we all want to hold onto our dewy complexion as long as we can. Until Rekha finally reveals her anti-ageing skincare magic, we’re just going to have to go slow till then.
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Styling: Divya Gursahani, HMU: Mausam Gandhi, Model: Teesta Dalvi/ Anima Creative Management