From the time we're born, our skin (and our entire bodies, really) starts to age. This is an indisputable fact that drives this wild experience of being human. For those of us blessed with the opportunity to taste the sweet and sour realities of age beyond our 20s, that steady coming of age starts to show up on our faces a bit more aggressively than it did in years prior. From uneven texture to lack of radiance and maybe even a few deep lines that linger long after we're done emoting, the physical manifestations of aging are unrelenting and mostly boil down to a gradual loss of tightness in our skin.
"Fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, laxity, hollowness, and general loss of elasticity within the skin are all signs of less-than-tight skin," says skin expert and celebrity facialist Melanie Grant. "Once we hit our 30s, we tend to lose collagen at a rate of roughly 1% per year." This news might be a little alarming, but don't fret! We asked Grant, the guru our girl Victoria Beckham trusts to keep her famous mug fresh as a daisy, for her top tips for keeping our skin tight and lifted as we dance into our 30s, 40s, and beyond.
What Causes the Skin to Lose Tightness, and How Do We Treat it?
Aside from collagen loss, Grant says there are other naturally occurring compounds in the skin that also start to slow down once we hit our 30s and beyond. "Functional elastin also declines, and the production of hyaluronic acid slows down, too," she told us. "Fine lines and wrinkles are much more likely to start appearing after this age and will continue to increase over time. Vices such as too much sun, smoking, and stress will really start to show."
Grant says her philosophy for maintaining tightness in the skin comes down to a prevention-first mindset. "There is no one-size-fits-all approach to skincare, as each and every complexion is different. I like to stick to an approach that is focused on prevention and then correction," she explains. "The key is to promote collagen synthesis. I would recommend starting with a vitamin C serum, a retinol, and of course sunscreen to protect the collagen that you already have."
And just like every other aspect of beauty, Grant says that healthy, tight skin starts on the inside. "Inner beauty is just as important as topical skincare, so take care of yourself from the inside out. This means maintaining a healthy diet, eating fresh and wholesome produce and a wide variety of healthy foods, drinking lots of water, regular sleeping patterns, minimal stress, and no smoking."
If you're so inclined to seek in-office treatments to tighten the skin, Grant says that there are options there as well. "Treatment modalities that utilize technology such as radiofrequency and ultrasound are great for firming and tightening. I also love light therapy and laser for firming and toning." But ultimately, Grant believes that you can take your skin health into your own hands at home with great results, as long as you commit to consistency with your regimen. "By the time you reach your late 40s and early 50s, your investment in your skin will start to pay off."
Ahead, check out the curated skincare routine Grant prescribed just for us, and see if you're doing all you can to preserve your skin's healthiest, most youthful appearance.
Step 1: Gentle Cleanser
When it comes to gentle cleansers, this French drugstore mainstay is always at the top of the list. It's dermatologist-tested, noncomedogenic, and free of irritants like soap, oil, and fragrance that can cause adverse reactions.
Foaming face washes don't have to be ultra-drying. Case in point: this gentle CeraVe cleanser. It leaves your face squeaky clean but also restores it with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide.
If foam isn't your jam, then a cream cleanser like this one from Dr. Roebuck's is sure to please. It's super gentle with oat leaf, green tea, calendula, and arnica for a soothing and complete cleanse.
Step 2: Antioxidant Serum
"Vitamin C is the gold standard for firming and brightening," says Grant. "It induces collagen and provides antioxidant protection." She calls out this popular formula by IS Clinical, which created an antioxidant shield using olive leaf extract and vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid.
Speaking of popular vitamin C serum formulas, this on from SkinCeuticals is probably the most celebrated in the entire category right now. Editors and celebrities alike are downright obsessed.
This affordable option is proof that you don't have to spend big bucks for effective skincare. With upward of 12,000 reviews on Amazon, the vast majority of which give it five stars, this serum also contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin E.
Step 3: Eye Cream
Grant also says that eye cream is a must and not just at night. She recommends prioritizing quality here and being diligent about daily (and nightly!) application. Dermatologists love this gentle one by PCA skin, which employs orange stem cells and collagen peptides to smooth fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration.
Not only does this lightweight cream visibly brighten and de-puff the under-eye for a youthful glow, but it also layers beautifully under makeup. Plus, it's an ultra-clean formula.
Looking to add yet another layer of antioxidant protection to your regimen? This vitamin C eye serum with soothing chia seed and tremella mushroom extracts fits the bill.
Step 4: Sunscreen
Lastly, Grant says that it's crucial to incorporate SPF. "Sun exposure is a surefire way to sagging skin," she says. Surprised? We didn't think so! "I hear so many people question why they need to wear an SPF daily when they are in the office all day, or when it’s slightly cloudy outside. It’s really a nonnegotiable—rain, hail or shine," so goes on. Grant says a great workaround for maintaining simplicity in your regimen while still fitting in all the essentials is to find a multitasking moisturizer with built-in broadspectrum SPF. We love this one by Supergoop!.
Those with oily, acne-prone skin types will appreciate this oil-free option for everyday sun protection. It's a physical sunscreen that uses zinc oxide to block harmful rays from damaging the skin and dries to a soft matte finish.
"With sunscreen, it is really important to choose a formula that you will love and that will work with your skin," Grant explains. This oil-free option from EltaMD is beloved for a number of reasons, chief among them being that it's completely invisible and doesn't leave a white cast on those with darker complexions.
Step 1: Double-Cleanse
Grant suggests a double-cleanse at night—a two-step process that calls for an oil-based cleanser first, followed by a water-based one—for the most thorough pre-bed cleanup. We're head over heels for this new one from Mara, which not only melts away makeup and other impurities but also gently exfoliates the skin using an effective combination of plant enzymes.
We're convinced this oil-based balm could loosen the stickiest, most clingy substances from your skin. (Although we hope it never comes to that!) It's seriously one of our favorite makeup removers of all time because it gets everything off without leaving any residue.
If you're apprehensive about using cleansing oils, following up with this thorough cleanser will put your mind at ease. It's got AHAs and fruit enzymes in it that gently cleanse away oil and anything left behind by step one of your double-cleanse.
Acne, fine lines, and dark spots are no match for this gentle daily exfoliating wash. It employs earth-conscious jojoba beads that softly remove dead skin cells before melting down to deliver a burst of hydration to the skin.
Step 2: Retinol
After that thorough cleanse, Grant says to follow up with a retinol serum to increase cell turnover and induce collagen, "This will refine and retexturize the skin," she says. Her favorite retinol is by UK skincare brand, Medik8.
If you're new to retinol, it's always best to start slow, and only use it two to three nights per week to start. Especially with a potent formula like this one by Sunday Riley, which contains a stabilized retinoid blend and botanical retinol-alternative extracts, you'll want to be sure to ease your skin into this level of exfoliation.
According to a cool 8000 Amazon reviewers, this cheap retinol cream delivers the same results as its more expensive counterparts.
Step 3: Eye Treatment
Natural vitamin E, daffodil bulb, and buckwheat wax are what make this all-natural formula a dryness-nixing, fine line–smoothing, puffiness-diminishing powerhouse. It also works overtime as an equally effective treatment for the delicate skin around your lips.
This lovely eye cream is thick and luxurious to the touch and does wonders for the delicate skin around the eyes. Its hero ingredient, avocado oil, is rich in amino acid proteins; vitamins A, D, and E; and potassium.
This is the anti-aging eye treatment to end all anti-aging eye treatments. The bottle houses a mix of peptides and antioxidants to diminish and prevent signs of aging, like lines and sagging. In the words of senior market editor Nicole Eshaghpour: Trust me—buy this.
Step 4: Nourishing Night Cream
Grant loves a nighttime routine capped off with a nourishing moisturizer. She recommends reaching for one with peptides, which bind moisture to the skin. We can vouch for this luxe blend from Drunk Elephant.
This fragrance-free, intensive night cream is formulated with an amino-peptide complex that helps to visibly soften to look of fine lines and wrinkles over time. For the low price tag and easy access at your favorite drugstore, this is a solid accessible option that won't leave you sacrificing results.
First, let's just address the elephant in the room: This stuff is ridiculously expensive. We know. (Deep sigh.) But any conversation about holy-grail nighttime moisturizers would be utterly incomplete without mentioning Augustinus Bader's The Rich Cream. Aside from the endless endorsements from its die-hard fandom made up of celebrities, skin experts, and discerning beauty editors, the technology housed in this advanced formula actually eclipses others on the market. It uses stem-cell technology to stimulate the stem cells already present in your skin, essentially activating them to repair and renew your dermis. When it comes to nourishing, reparative creams that actually alter your skin without any harsh active ingredients, this one simply can't be beat. We recommend getting your feet wet with the mini version before splurging on the full size.
This article was published at an earlier date and has been updated.