Skin doctors have access to everything that’s out there—from expensive boutique products to the latest prescription potions and anti-aging treatments.
With this vast array of tempting anti-aging skin care options, what do dermatologists choose? We asked an elite group of over-40 female dermatologists for their go-to items, best tips, and insider tricks for looking gorgeous. Here, exclusively, are their favorite anti-aging skin care tips.
Kinder Cleansers :
“Over-40 skin tends to be drier,” says Doris J. Day, MD, 43, which is why she recommends a gentle cleanser that will remove dirt and makeup without stripping away natural oils. Day uses the Good Skin Soft Skin Creamy Cleanser—which she helped create—because it contains natural extracts, like aloe and chamomile, that help skin retain moisture for anti-aging. Many dermatologists love Dove Beauty Bar, which is less acidic (hence less drying) than most other soaps.
For a more thorough wash at night, Diane Berson, MD, 48, uses the battery-powered Clarisonic cleansing brush. “It feels like I’m really getting clean,” she says. Debra Jaliman, MD, 51, another Clarisonic fan, notes, “It’s less irritating than using a washcloth or harsh exfoliators, and it may remove more debris from pores than manual cleansing”—a perfect combo for over-40 faces.
Moisturizers with More:
For aging skin, silicone is “one of the best things ever added to cosmetics and creams,” says Heidi Waldorf, MD, 42. “Products go on silky, stay smooth, and seal in moisture”—an ideal anti-aging skin care tip for complexions that are parched or crepey. She dabs Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum under her eyes before applying makeup. “With its high concentration of silicone, it acts like a primer, filling in little creases.” Look for dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxaneon labels.
Most dermatologists consider antioxidants in moisturizers essential because they neutralize free radicals—molecules from the sun and pollution that damage (and age) skin; look for vitamins C and E, green and white tea, and/or idebenone, a powerful man-made antioxidant. Waldorf uses Prevage MD with 1% idebenone, and several docs consider Topix Replenix CF Cream a must for its high content of antioxidant green tea. More faves with both antioxidants and silicone include Kinerase Cream and Rodan + Fields Anti-Age PM Cream.
Multitasking Serums :
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is a hit because it has “powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals and ferulic acid, which helps protect skin from sun damage,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, 48. Tina Alster, MD, 47, uses it for anti-aging to even blotchiness and reverse photoaging. It’s often layered under a UVA-blocking sunscreen like dermatologist favorite La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Creme.
Vitamin A in a Bottle:
“Every woman who can should start using a retinoid in her 40s—if not before,” says Dr. Waldorf of these over-the-counter versions of the prescription cream Retin-A. Says Dr. Fusco: “It’s medically proven that retinoids are the strongest thing you can use to slow the aging process—they diminish fine lines, increase cell turnover to give a youthful glow, and lighten brown spots.”
Most of our dermatologists use prescription strengths that are less irritating than classic Retin-A, including Tazorac 0.1% cream, Avage 0.1% cream, Retin A Micro, and Renova 0.02%; a few with very sensitive skin prefer less-potent OTC options like retinaldehyde and retinol in products such as Eau Thermale Avene Retrinal 0.1% Cream and RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum.
Omega-3 supplements are these doctors’ faves because they’re “good for your immune system, help defend against cell damage, and assist in repair,” says Dr. Day, who takes them daily. Fusco regularly adds a packet of Emergen C Super Energy Booster—”a tasty powder loaded with 1,000 mg of vitamin C plus lots of vitamins”—to her water, especially during cold and flu season, to keep her skin well-hydrated. And Jeannette Graf, MD, 49, loves Nature’s Plus Dyno-Mins Multi-Mineral tablets, which have a wide blend of fortified minerals. “We use minerals for everything—cell signaling, buffering acids, energy transfer. I can’t get enough.”
Many dermatologists believe in a serious bedtime treatment regimen. The reason nighttime is the right time? “Repair occurs best when skin isn’t stressed by free radicals produced by the sun and metabolism—during sleep, your body can undo some damage,” says Mary Lupo, MD, 52, who uses Neocutis Bio-restorative Skin Cream and retinoids before bed. Many of the derms also use a vitamin C serum—they like Remede Super C Serum, La Roche-Posay Active C, and Obagi Professional-C—to brighten dark spots. If you use both a cream and a serum, put the serum on first, allow it to sink in, and then slather on the cream.
All Over Skin Softeners :
As we get older, the cell renewal process slows down, causing rough patches on skin. To help smooth away the little bumps that can appear on the back of arms (keratosis pilaris), Audrey Kunin, MD, 47, likes her Dermadoctor KP Duty because it contains glycolic acid to exfoliate and urea to moisturize. Fusco’s current all-around favorite is Suave Skin Therapy Vitamin E moisturizer “because it is nongreasy, smells great, and is a great buy.” This anti-aging skin care product also contains exfoliating vitamin A (retinyl palmitate).
Super Exfoliators :
Some do them once a week, some every other week, and others once a month. Whatever the frequency, the women we spoke with rely on at-home peels to, as Dr. Berson puts it, “give skin a nice glow” (her pick: the enzyme-laced Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Facial Peel). Translation: These anti-aging skin care products improve texture, color, and evenness of skin. Mary Spellman, MD, 45, likes Dr. Dennis Gross MD Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel because its saturated pads are easy to use.
Every month, Dr. Alster applies the Lancome Resurface Peel, which she helped create. And Lupo likes Philosophy Microdelivery Peel because it combines “refinishing microbeads activated by vitamin C, like a doctor’s peel,” infusing skin with a deep dose of vitamin C while it’s being exfoliated. It significantly helps to degunk her pores, which, she says, “started looking bigger with age.”
Fake Tan Faves :
It makes sense that women who see the ravages of skin cancer would choose a faux glow. Berson loves Jergens Natural Glow Face Daily Moisturizer because “it doesn’t clog my pores.” And Alster applies L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes every week or two “to keep my legs from looking too pasty.”
Nearly every one of our dermatologists believes in and uses Botox. It works by relaxing the muscles it’s injected into so overlying skin can’t wrinkle for several months. “A little Botox on my crow’s-feet goes a long, long way to lessening fine lines. I think it’s God’s gift to frown lines as well,” says Katie Rodan, MD, 51, who’s been using it for 12 years.
Skin Plumper :
Of all the wrinkle filler options, Kunin prefers Cosmoderm to plump old acne scars: “I like the smooth, soft texture within my skin rather than others that feel hard and somewhat unnatural.” Because Cosmoderm is made of human collagen, there’s less risk of allergic reactions to it than to animal-derived collagen. Because it lasts for 3 to 6 months, if irritation should occur, the problem will soon correct itself.
Two to three times a year, Dr. Alster gets Restylane to fill in her smile lines; it’s made of hyaluronic acid, an ingredient naturally found in skin that, when injected, draws water to the area, plumping it up. And Dr. Day loves the results she gets from Sculptra, an injectable form of poly-L-lactic acid. “It’s a standout because it’s not so much a ‘filler’ as a volumizer. This anti-aging skin care procedure gives back volume to the temples, cheeks, and lower face in a very natural and lasting way,” she says. (Many of the doctors advised against using permanent filler agents such as Artecoll and silicone because there’s a higher risk of bumps forming.)
All-Natural Healers :
The cure to a bad complexion may come from the fridge. “For tired-looking skin, I make a pot of green tea—two tea bags to 8 cups of water. I let it sit for 20 minutes and then add 1/4 cup dark organic honey,” says Dr. Day. “After it’s cooled, I add thin cucumber slices and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight. When needed, I place the slices over my eyes and face for 3 to 5 minutes, then rinse with cool water and moisturize.”
Adult Acne Fighters :
When Dr. Fusco breaks out, she uses benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria and dry up acne quickly. Not Dr. Kunin: When she has a blemish, she reaches for a dab of Azelex, a prescription anti-aging skin care cream with 20% azelaic acid, because it’s “less drying and irritating than adolescent acne meds like benzoyl peroxide.”
Laser and Light Treatments :
Redness, roughness, and enlarged capillaries don’t stand a chance against these powerful lights, at least according to our dermatologists. Dr. Day is “religious” about a once-weekly session of GentleWaves LED light therapy, a pain-free, 45-second-long treatment in which the face is blasted with a specific wavelength of light that stimulates collagen production and works to gradually balance skin tone, according to company studies.
“I use it to improve my skin color and texture. I find that it gives a healthy glow to the face,” she says. Every month or two, Dr. Berson gets intense pulsed light (IPL), a laser treatment that targets excess melanin in the skin. “It evens out the pigment and keeps my skin feeling and looking smoother,” she says. And Dr. Rodan gets a series of five IPL treatments every 3 to 4 weeks for broken capillaries and to alleviate redness on her nose, cheeks, and chin—part of the sun damage she got “baking my face in Southern California when growing up.”
Products They Really Love
1. Jergens Natural Glow Face Daily Moisturizer ($7) gives you sun-kissed skin but is so lightweight it won’t clog pores
2. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($2) is an excellent multitasker: It removes makeup and soothes parched skin
3. Dove Beauty Bar’s extragentle formula babies sensitive skin ($3 for 2 bars)
1. Lancome Resurface Peel ($145) softens signs of sun damage and wrinkling
2. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($122) is an antioxidant-rich serum that shields skin from sun and smog
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Creme ($46) packs the powerful UVA blocker Mexoryl
Easy ways to defy the aging process
These top dermatologists share the everyday strategies that keep them looking young. Here are their top anti-aging skin care tips and tricks:
Eat and drink to feed the skin :
Cheryl Burgess, MD, 49, eats yams for the “natural estrogen that helps keep my skin firm.” On the beverage front, it’s all about green tea because, as Debra Jaliman, MD, 51, notes, it’s high in antioxidants.
Fine-tune daily care :
“I have a smorgasbord of skin care products because I have what I call ‘changeable skin,’ ” says Laurie Polis, MD, 50. “Sometimes I have blemishes, other times I have discolorations, and in winter after skiing I’m dry and chapped.”
Exercise often :
Francesca Fusco, MD, 48, does Pilates, weights, and stretching five times a week. “My circulation is stimulated. I feel great. I truly notice that when I don’t exercise, my skin doesn’t look as good,” she says.