Developing a skin care routine that suits your skin type and is age-appropriate can be challenging. After all, each decade comes with unique complexion concerns, and what worked for you five years ago might suddenly irritate you to no end.
If you're approaching your 50s — or are already 50 and fabulous — you might be wondering where you should focus your attention and what skin care products you should be using. To help, Shop TODAY consulted 10 top dermatologists to come up with our list of 17 skin care products for glowing, youthful skin in your 50s and beyond.
Keep scrolling to see their advice and picks, or use the links below to jump to a specific category.
What should I consider when building a skin care routine in my 50s?
Our expert dermatologists advise women over 50 to incorporate the following into their skin care routine:
- Sun protection. When it comes to avoiding damage from UV rays and preventing skin cancer, experts say sunscreen is an absolute must. "Sun protection in your 50s can help slow down aging but also decrease the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma," says Dr. Maral Kibarian Skelsey, director of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington and clinical associate professor of dermatology at Georgetown University.
- Non-drying, barrier-strengthening ingredients. "Choose gentle, soap-free cleansers or creamy cleansers with barrier-strengthening and moisturizing ingredients. These types of cleansers are less likely to strip the skin of its natural oils and cause more dryness," Dr. Sejal K. Shah of New York City's SmarterSkin Dermatology tells us.
- Gentle exfoliants. "Cell turnover slows down as we age, so our skin loses the youthful glow and looks dull. Avoid harsh scrubs since mature skin is thinner and less resilient," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jessie Cheung of Chicago's Cheung Aesthetics and Wellness.
- The right eye cream. "Eye cream is important in your 50s, as the skin under the eyes is thinner and more sensitive," dermatologist Dr. David E. Bank says.
- Retinoids and antioxidants. "Retinoids are the gold standard anti-aging treatment product," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu of The Derm Institute. "Use them at least once a day to help with fine lines, collagen boosting, wrinkle prevention and dull skin cell turnover," she adds. And antioxidants like vitamin C can protect skin from free radicals and cumulative damage.
- Heavier moisturizers and creams. "The oil glands in the skin slow down significantly in this decade," Chiu explains. "Replenishing that skin barrier health is important by using a slightly heavier moisturizer than you might have used in your 20s or 30s, when you were worried about breaking out."
Best sunscreens for your 50s
UV rays are one of the leading causes of premature aging and skin cancer, so daily sunscreen application in your 50s and beyond is an easy way to slow down the clock and keep your skin healthy.
EltaMD's SPF 46 takes on both UVA and UVB rays, clears pores with lactic acid, and moisturizes as it protects thanks to sodium hyaluronate.
"It has a nice sheer application, is great for all ages, and it also helps reduce redness with the help of niacinamide," New York City-based dermatologist and founder/medical director of Wall Street Dermatology Dr. Julia Tzu tells Shop TODAY.
A base SPF is a must, but if you're looking for ultimate sun protection and anti-aging benefits, try doubling up and wearing a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Neutrogena's Healthy Skin Enhancer offers broad-spectrum protection and is formulated with retinol to help smooth fine lines as it protects you from the sun.
"It's tinted and has a nice matte finish in addition to anti-aging retinol. Since it has a lower SPF, it's more ideal for wintertime/non-outdoor usage or on top of an SPF," Tzu says.
Best cleansers for your 50s
As you age, your skin naturally gets a bit more sensitive, so it's important to seek out the right cleanser that won't feel abrasive.
Cerave's Hydrating Facial Cleanser contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid to strengthen and hydrate the skin's barrier, and the non-foaming formula is gentle on sensitive skin. In fact, Shop TODAY associate editor Fran Sales, who has combination skin that gets severely dry around the nose and cheeks, can use this daily (sometimes twice a day) and feel thoroughly cleansed but not stripped of moisture.
When you're wearing makeup, sometimes it's helpful to start off with a makeup-removing wipe to thoroughly cleanse your skin. Garnier's micellar water wipes gently banish oil, dirt and makeup without irritating skin and are the perfect first step in any cleansing routine.
"Micellar water is a good way to remove makeup without drying out the skin," Skelsey says. "Skin in its 50s becomes more sensitive, but these wipes can remove waterproof makeup without aggravating it."
Many exfoliators can feel a bit harsh on your skin in your 50s, but regular exfoliation is the key to glowing skin, so finding a gentle product to help you remove dead skin cells is pretty important — and CeraVe, known for its gentle but effective formulas, again doesn't disappoint.
This cleanser partners salicylic acid with three ceramides and hyaluronic acid, so it moisturizes and polishes skin as it cleanses. It also doesn't contain any harsh microbeads, so it's gentle enough to use several times a week — as Sales can also attest to (this is her favorite exfoliating cleanser).
As you get older, the name of the cleansing game is "gentle, gentle, gentle." This creamy Vanicream cleanser lacks irritating ingredients like dyes, fragrance and formaldehyde, and it won't clog your pores thanks to its non-comedogenic formula.
"It's great for all skin types, especially sensitive ones, and gets rid of oil, dirt and makeup without drying out your skin. Sometimes, simple is better!" says Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Best eye creams for your 50s
This is the decade where you should roll up your sleeves and get to work on finding the perfect eye cream for your needs.
Cetaphil's eye serum uses a HydroSensitiv Complex, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins B5 and E to hydrate and soothe sensitive skin. The formula also works to reduce those pesky dark circles and puffiness we all dread so much.
Preventing and treating the early signs of aging isn't all that eye cream can do. This multitasking product category can also reduce puffiness if you had a sleepless night.
Skelsey swears by this one with caffeine and Matrixyl 3000, a peptide that takes on fine lines and wrinkles with ease. The lightweight cream also works as a nice base for your eye makeup.
This soothing eye cream is made with thermal spring water, which reduces redness, tightness and irritation with ease. Vitamin E and other antioxidants hydrate and protect skin, while dextran sulfate helps combat puffiness.
"The gentle, rich formulation is perfect for the delicate skin around the eyes and helps maturing skin retain moisture and reduces fine lines," Tzu says.
Best retinols and serums for your 50s
This vitamin C serum serves as a triple threat by hydrating, evening skin tone and protecting complexions from oxidative damage.
"Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an antioxidant that can both brighten skin and boost collagen," says Dr. Robert Anolik, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
With the help of an amino-peptide complex, this popular product travels through 10 layers of skin to offer plenty of moisture. The gel formula works to regenerate surface cells and plump up lackluster complexions.
"If your skin is sensitive, serums with peptide technology have collagen stimulating effects that can tighten and smooth the skin," says Chiu.
Who said makeup couldn't be good for your skin? This primer-serum hybrid preps skin for foundation and adds a healthy glow. You can also wear it alone for a nice complexion boost.
"The primer/serum combo nourishes skin with the antioxidant vitamin E and promotes collagen production with peptides," Anolik says.
"Topical vitamin A (retinol) is a must," Skelsey says. "It stimulates collagen production, reduces irregular pigmentation and fine lines and increases cell turnover."
Honest Beauty’s retinol serum also incorporates hyaluronic acid into the mix to plump up dry skin. The multitasking product also evens out skin tone and moisturizes with the help of squalane.
Best nighttime moisturizers for your 50s
RoC's retinol night cream helps reverse visible signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles and helps increase collagen production, which in turn reveals more youthful skin.
In fact, Shop TODAY vouches for this cream so much that we have an exclusive code you can use on RoC's website — use TODAY20 at checkout for 20% off sitewide, anytime.
"As someone ages, they have less production of natural oils, and moisturizers prevent and treat dry skin and can improve skin texture," says Dr. Sourab Choudhury, a board-certified dermatologist and a co-founder of The Dermatology Specialists.
Oftentimes, we think this only applies to facial skin, but your body needs some attention, too. This body cream, formerly called "Lipikar Balm AP+M," offers 48-hour hydration thanks to its star ingredients: niacinamide, shea butter and glycerin.
In your 50s, creams will provide a lot more hydration than lotions or gels.
"Look for ingredients that support the skin barrier as well as growth factors or peptides to help with collagen synthesis, cell repair and hydration," Shah says. "Don’t forget to moisturize in the morning and at night."
This cream contains strengthening ceramides, anti-aging centella asiatica and sunflower seed oil for a boost of antioxidants. Luckily, the lightweight formula is suitable for dry, combination and sensitive skin.
This pick is a splurge, but we think it's a worthy one.
Perfect for both day and night, this cream combines probiotics, collagen-boosting peptides and moisturizing squalene to balance and repair dehydrated, aging skin.
Several users highlight how lightweight it is despite being very moisturizing, and one verified Amazon reviewer adds, "I have tried many brands of skin care in my 70-plus years, high end and low end, but this, in my opinion, is the best! No greasy residue, fully absorbed into your skin and does what it says it will do. I’ve been using it for about four years now and I don’t intend to quit."
Questions about skin care for your 50s, answered by experts
Is it too late to start a skin care routine or use retinol in my 50s?
Anolik and fellow dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick tell us no on both counts.
"The benefits will still occur," Anolik says, adding, "So much sun damage is cumulative, so whenever you start, you’re halting deterioration and actually starting to improve quality with the right ingredients, like retinol."
Garshick agrees that starting in your 50s makes a big difference: "As we age, we lose moisture and our skin becomes dry, so even just by boosting hydration and moisture of the skin ... can help the skin appear healthier and more youthful," she says.
What's the best way to make my skin glow if I'm over 50?
Garshick says hydration and exfoliation are key.
"As we age, skin cell turnover slows down so there is often a buildup of dead skin cells, which contributes to dullness on the surface. Exfoliating one to two times per week can help to get rid of the dead skin cells and leave the skin looking more radiant." Garshick also reiterates the importance of regular hydration to keep skin plump and youthful-looking.
Anolik recommends occasionally using peels in conjunction with retinol.
"Retinol will minimize development of hyperpigmentation; a peel like glycolic acid may help exfoliate hyperpigmentation that’s already developed," he explains.
But both Anolik and Garshick say none of the above will have much positive impact if you neglect using sunscreen: "The sun is the biggest culprit of aging skin and hyperpigmentation," Anolik adds.
How can I increase my collagen after 50?
Anolik advises to consult with a dermatologist: "Generally, this will involve some forms of laser resurfacing," he says.
But in terms of things you can do at home, Garshick echoes the use of a retinol: "[It] can help to boost collagen production, as well as improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," she explains.
Other ingredients Garshick recommends looking at when building a skin care routine in your 50s include peptides, growth factors and antioxidants like vitamin C.
Meet our experts
- Dr. Robert Anolik, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic dermatology and laser skin surgery. He is also a dermatology professor at NYU School of Medicine, as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Anolik is based in New York City.
- Dr. David E. Bank, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery. He is based in Westchester, New York.
- Dr. Jessie Cheung, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Chicago's Cheung Aesthetics and Wellness, which also has a practice in New York City.
- Dr. Annie Chiu, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist who works at The Derm Institute in Manhattan Beach, California. She also works on skin cancer screening and community awareness.
- Dr. Sourab Choudhury, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist and a co-founder of The Dermatology Specialists in NYC.
- Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist who serves patients in both New York and New Jersey. She is also an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell's New York Presbyterian Medical Center.
- Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, MD, MBS, a board-certified dermatologist based in Chicago and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. She specializes in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology with a focus on acne and pigmentary disorders.
- Dr. Sejal K. Shah, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at New York City's SmarterSkin Dermatology. Her focus is on cosmetic dermatology and lasers, hair loss and ethnic skin.
- Dr. Maral Kibarian Skelsey, MD, is director of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington, which is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She is also clinical associate professor of dermatology at Georgetown University.
- Dr. Julia Tzu, MD, FAAD, is a New York City-based dermatologist and the founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology. The triple board-certified doctor specializes in skin cancer and reconstructive skin surgery, laser surgery, and cosmetic dermatology.