It is said that life begins at forty and, all being well, you will be in the prime of your life. But skin changes fast during this decade and good skincare can make a real difference both now and for the future.
What's happening to your skin
This is the stage where all the processes governing your skin - both face and body - start to slow down. But while you wouldn't expect to have the peachiness of youth at forty-something, you can still have lovely skin.
This is where women with oily skin come into their own: for the rest, the natural reduction in sebum (oil) production brings drier skin and the potential of lines. The skin is drier than the Sahara at the best of times so women have to work really hard on this one. But they still manage to keep it relatively smooth with plant oils, without resorting to injections of facial fillers or freezers.
Generally, at this stage, women don't experience a loss of subcutaneous fat - unless it's in your genes - but you may notice less plump lips. Cell turnover is slowing down too, so the top layer of dead skin cells (stratum corneum, or horny layer) tends to become thicker and less bright.
The big change is likely to be the breakdown of collagen, with a loss of elasticity. Bluntly, your skin is likely to become slacker, particularly around the jawline. Your body skin may show signs of drooping, too, with a threat of the dreaded flabby upper arms.
Menopausal changes typically start around 44, often bringing stress, poor sleep (due to night sweats) and spotty outbreaks in some women. Declining levels of estrogen, which keeps skin moist, supple and soft, contribute to skin dryness and lack of suppleness. Hair also tends to become drier and more brittle: the growth generally slows, though in some this self-corrects after your final period. Eyes may become drier too.
Sun damage in the form of brown spots and patches may appear now, though less so if you've been vigilant with your suncare.
TLC for your face and body
The key products to be suggested for your face are a creamy cleanser, gentle facial scrub, non-drying skin toner, day moisturizer, night cream and oil or serum, face mask, plus a multi-purpose balm for lips, cuticles and the rest! For the body, a body scrub, rich body cream, hand and foot creams, plus a dry skin brush. Moisturize - just as much as you can! Face, neck and cleavage (very important!) in the morning and top to toe at night or after bathing. Make it part of your routine and you will be amazed by the results... good creams sink in fast.
Look for products that promise believably youthful skin benefits. Some of the favorite ingredients are plant-based because these bring so many benefits to aging skin, particularly antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Women love avocado oil, rosehip seed, borage seed and passionflower seed oils, as well as the magical argan oil. There is evidence that botanicals can be just as effective as high-tech 'anti-aging' synthetic compounds, sometimes more so.
Plant oils also make the best base for body moisturizers because they are so quickly absorbed into the upper epidermis. If a body cream contains mineral oil, it feels tacky after applying, although the skin beneath still feels dry.
To help the stratum corneum on the surface of skin release its thick coating of dead skin cells, gently exfoliate at least once a day with a soft face cloth. Use a more intensive treatment once a week or so. But do choose a type with smooth, round beads - often labeled 'spherical' - that buff and don't scratch, unlike crushed shells, pumice, salt or sugar grains, which are angular. (Natural brands tend to use jojoba beads, high-tech ones polyethylene.)
Facial exfoliation shouldn't stop at the chin: gently buffing neck and upper chest helps keep aging skin softer and smoother. For the body, some women switch to a grittier formulation, with slightly larger polishing particles, such as ground pumice, sugar or salt. One of celebrities’ top body beauty secrets was to mix a handful of fine sea salt with a handful of olive oil to use in the shower. It really leaves the skin gleaming (just be careful not to slip on a wet surface). Dry skin body brushing can help even out the bumpiest-looking skin, and also combat cellulite by giving blood and lymph a boost.
Bath oils are another wonderful way to literally soak up the goodness of these moisturizing marvels. A dessertspoonful of almond, apricot or peach kernel oil softens even the most parched skin and is especially useful during winter months. And don't forget your hands - the more hand cream, the better. If nails are flaking, apply oils direct to your nails and also take them as a supplement.
Do give your feet some TLC as well - try to visit a qualified chiropodist every six months, quarterly if you have foot problems. Well-kept feet not only look good in their own right, the comfort factor will show in your face.
Moisten dry eyes with a spray such as Clarymist, which doesn't disturb make-up (spray at 20cm) and has been clinically proven to help treat dry eye syndrome. To help reduce eye puffiness, you should fill a basin with cold water, plus ice cubes if they're handy, and splash your eyes ten or so times, then pat dry with a soft towel. You can see the puffiness diminish within minutes.
Skin sensitivity is often an issue now, so look for products with fewer ingredients and be selective. Even the chemical components of natural essential oils, such as citral and linalool, can trigger allergies. If anything makes your skin itch or tingle uncomfortably, stop using and check the label for a potential culprit. If your sensitivities become severe, ask your doctor to refer you for skin sensitivity patch testing.
If thread veins and broken blood vessels are a problem, see a dermatologist or specialist vein clinic. The only effective method of removal that some women have found is sclerotherapy - injecting tiny amounts of saline to seal off the leaking capillaries. If you're prone to redness, avoid extremes of temperature such as saunas, hot steam baths, or freezing plunge pools.
Stress affects collagen production (which also impacts on your bones, in terms of osteoporosis) as does lack of cell-repairing sleep, so find ways to relax, such as yoga, meditation or prayer - and balance these with exercise you enjoy, which can be as simple as a walk in the fresh air.
With these, keeping your make-up on can be a challenge. Here are some tips from women (and a man!) who know.
*Opt for tinted moisturizer or a very light foundation. It is recommended to use Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation or MAC Face and Body water-based foundation on its own, or mixed in with your moisturizer in your palm.
*To get foundation looking natural, it is suggested to put a dab in your palm, mixing it with your finger tips, then pressing on to your face. Massage it in to create a veil of foundation that blends into your moisturizer and skin. This way, if you do have a hot flush, your base won't go streaky.
*It is suggested to put a light dusting of featherweight powder to set foundation or tinted moisturizer, so if you have a hot flush, you can just let your face dry and your make-up is still there. Take your base and a pressed powder compact in your bag for a quick freshen-up. Stila Sheer Color Face Powder is a great option, or Clinique Gentle Light Pressed Powder.
*For more hold, add blusher after powder. Some of beauty expert’s favorite gel blusher is Stila Convertible Color (try lilium or peony) and, for a powder formulation, Nars Powder Blush.
*Experts suggests using a waterproof mascara, such as L'Oreal Architect Waterproof Mascara, which simply does not move. Hot sweats don't seem to touch lips, so invest in your favorite, most flattering lipstick, gloss and matching lipliner. Always have facial blotters - paper tissues will do - plus a small atomiser filled with spring water and a drop each of essential oils of juniper, clary sage and geranium. Shake well and spray on your face and neck to cool you down. (Do not use on rosacea.) Some skin tonics also come in a spray or spritzer version - look for those rich in aloe vera for on-the-spot cooling and refreshment.
*Some women’s favorite foundation in their forties is Estee Lauder's Futurist Age-Resisting Make-up. They love the radiant, dewy finish it gives; it comes in two formula, for dry or normal/ combi skin. Some use the shade Blonde 13. They also rate the Dermablend range of extra-strength concealers, originally developed to cover birthmarks and scarring. These are especially useful on areas of changing pigmentation.
*Make-up artist Bobbi Brown has a silky Shimmer Blush that looks fresh and natural but really lasts. Some women also like Nars The Multiple stick for cheeks and eyes: the naughtily named Orgasm shade gives skin a fabulous glow.
*For eyelids, some like pale beige and biscuit tones (Bobbi Brown has a great palette), plus a thin trace of gel eyeliner (MAC or Bobbi Brown). Apply the thin line close to your lashes with a thin, stiff brush.
*To help give definition and a flattering contour under the cheekbones, some women use Laura Mercier Mineral Powder in Warm Bronze, applied gently with a large blusher brush.
*It is advised to use a lipliner pencil to create a crisp outline which looks youthful, but it must be in a natural color - a dark line round paler lips is very aging.
Some women’s weekend 'no make-up' kit is edited down to these few favorites:
*Stila Convertible Color cream blusher in Petunia to give cheeks a healthy glow
*Bourjois Beige Rose 08 stroked across eyelids for subtle definition
*Lancome Definicils Mascara in Black to lift and frame eyes (some women have been using this for twenty years as it is simply the best).
*Dr Lipp Original Nipple Balm For Lips or Liz Earle Superbalm to smooth and shine lips
*Phyto-estrogens help balance hormones and protect the skin against premature aging. Ladies Choice contains small quantities of nine plant estrogens, plus a heart protective compound.
*Antioxidants including SOD (supraoxidedismutase) help protect the skin against free radical damage.
*Make sure of getting your beauty oils by taking a product with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
*Calcium and magnesium supplements are crucial from now on, as bone degeneration may already be occurring.