About a decade ago, millennials — with not one deep wrinkle among them — started to show up at dermatologist offices for Botox and embrace the anti-aging potions that were marketed to their mothers. These women, mostly in their early 20s, wanted to be proactive about aging.
“We didn’t have a name for what they were doing, but now we call it prejuvenation,” says Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California. “The idea is that as soon as you start to notice signs of aging, like fine lines or pigmentation issues, you begin treatment.”
Fast-forward to today, and those eager patients seem to be on a unique aging trajectory. “They’re entering their late 30s now, but they aren’t experiencing the typical frown lines and crow’s-feet that we expect,” says Dr. Shamban. Turns out, taking these proactive steps and jumpstarting an anti-aging skin-care routine early on can have a dramatic effect on how your skin looks decades down the line.
“Millennials were the first generation to look at cosmetic procedures as a form of grooming,” says Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York and the author of The Pro-Aging Playbook (Buy It, $20, amazon.com). But the trend of being proactive about anti-aging skin care is expanding to other generations. In fact, no matter your age, it’s never too late to change your skin-health timeline. (Related: 5 Legit Ways to Slow Down Your Body’s Aging Process)
Here’s how to start embracing an anti-aging skin-care routine before you start to see those wrinkles and crows’ feet.
Stay Consistent with Anti-Aging Skin Care
You know that if you exercise regularly, you’ll see results. And you know that one crazy-long workout session every so often isn’t as effective as shorter workouts on most days over the long term. Same goes for your skin. “Keeping skin youthful requires maintenance. I recommend an ongoing combination of topical skin care, Botox, and laser treatments,” says Dr. Frank. (See: The Difference Between Chemical Peels and Laser Treatments)
Apply anti-aging skin care products daily (read on for specifics), then aim for neurotoxin injections (such as Botox) two to three times a year and lasers or collagen-stimulating devices once a year or as needed. The effort you put into this anti-aging skin-care routine will pay off. “Your appearance still looks natural, and you can avoid procedures that require significant downtime, like a face-lift,” says Dr. Frank.
Use These Anti-Aging Skin-Care Ingredients
It should come as no surprise that sunscreen is No. 1 for an anti-aging skin-care routine. “If you’re going out and not protecting your skin, it doesn’t matter if you have great skin-care products or undergo procedures — the sun will reverse all the work you’re doing,” says Sabrina Fabi, M.D., a dermatologist in San Diego. UV light is a carcinogen, and it also creates nasty reactive oxygen species in the skin. “These bounce around, poking holes in collagen as they search for electrons to neutralize themselves,” says Shape Brain Trust member Michelle Henry, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. The weaker collagen begins to collapse, causing wrinkles.
While sunscreen helps block those collagen-poking free radicals, “antioxidants like vitamin C neutralize the ones that get through,” says Dr. Henry. Pair an antioxidant serum like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (Buy It, $170, amazon.com) with an SPF that has antioxidants, like Dr. Loretta Urban Antioxidant Sunscreen SPF 40 (Buy It, $50, dermstore.com) every morning. (Related: The Skin-Care Benefits of Vitamin C)
The third must-have for your anti-aging skin-care routine: retinol. “It not only stimulates collagen formation to make your skin’s dermis layer thicker but also promotes cell turnover, which helps skin shed excess pigment caused by sun damage and inflammation,” says Dr. Henry. Try Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform (Buy It, $88, sephora.com); apply a pea-size amount to clean, dry skin a few nights a week, then build up to nightly use. “This allows your skin to slowly acclimate to any initial peeling and redness that retinol can cause,” says Dr. Fabi.
Consider Anti-Aging Minitreatments
“The previous generation of doctors focused on aggressive technologies — they waited until patients were of a certain age and then did a major peel, laser, or surgery,” says Dr. Frank. “Now, we avoid that by incorporating gentle treatments like resurfacing lasers, neuromodulators like Botox, and skin-tightening radio frequency into your routine.”
If you’re getting serious about your skin in your 50s, 60s, or 70s, then these less invasive treatments will still work, but you may need more sessions to get the results you want. (Related: These Botox Alternatives Are *Almost* As Good As the Real Thing)
“I like to tackle sun damage first,” says Dr. Frank. He uses a nonablative resurfacing fractional laser like Fraxel (about $1,500 per treatment) or a gentler version called Clear + Brilliant (about $700 per treatment). Both zap damage so skin sheds excess pigmentation, says Dr. Henry. Patients may need three or more sessions to get back to their healthiest skin.
Also on the docket for anti-aging skin-care treatments: injectables, which have proved to be one of the most effective ways to prejuvenate. One landmark study published by the journal Dermatologic Surgery found that patients who were consistently treated with Botox over a nine-year period felt they looked an average of seven years younger compared with those who didn’t. The neurotoxin relaxes your muscles, smoothing wrinkles and improving the skin’s texture. (Related: A Complete Guide to Filler Injections)
“The best time to start injections is when you see moderate lines form between your brows, around your eyes in the form of crow’s-feet, and on your forehead when you’re moving your face,” says Dr. Fabi. “Then those lines will never get a chance to get deeper and stick around when your face is at rest.” When you’re injecting at this early stage, you’ll likely need only “baby” Botox. “This refers to an injection that’s about 50 percent of a typical dose; it relaxes your muscles enough to give them a subtle lift but still allows your face to move freely for a natural look,” says Dr. Shamban. Cost: about $500 for each area of the face.
Another noninvasive favorite of dermatologists is the combination of radio frequency and microneedling (like the InMode Morpheus8, from $800). “Over time, your collagen gets stretched out, causing a saggier, looser look. Heating the collagen with radio frequency helps shrink it,” says Dr. Henry. Microneedling then stimulates a wound-healing effect to boost collagen production, reducing pore size and increasing firmness. Aim for one session per year or every other year.
Reminder: Go Slow
Think of your dermatologist as your prejuvenation trainer. “We can discuss what your priorities are, personalize a skin-care regimen, and work our way up to treatments,” says Dr. Henry. Going slowly with your anti-aging skin-care routine is essential; you don’t want to wake up looking like a different version of yourself with tons of downtime. Adds Dr. Fabi, “remember, the goal of prejuvenation is to maintain a youthful appearance as you age.”