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Groundbreaking ingredients, innovative technology and a fresh, positive perspective on how women feel about ageing make this the perfect time to update your skincare know-how. By Caroline Brien

The skincare industry is booming. Market research company Mintel reports that last year we spent £1.07bn on skincare in the UK – up a whopping 17% since 2009. Anti-ageing makes up a majority of that spend, boosted by a change in the way women perceive, and skincare companies address, ageing.

Mature stars such as Charlotte Rampling, Tilda Swinton and Jessica Lange are increasingly being chosen as the faces of major cosmetics and skincare campaigns. Even simple skincare language is changing, as buzz phrases such as ‘positive ageing’ and ‘age management’ reflect that women of older ages are being celebrated, with a shift towards embracing the skin at it’s best rather than trying to reverse the natural ageing process. This shift is being boosted by the current trend for wellness and looking healthy rather than younger.

We asked leading industry experts for a refresher on the science of skin ageing and their top tips for keeping the complexion looking in peak health.

Back to basics

“As we age, energy levels decline in the cells,” explains Dr Nicholas Perricone, worldrenowned dermatologist and anti-ageing skincare authority. “In fact, cells eventually lose their ability to repair themselves altogether. Collagen supply is vital to the skin’s elasticity, keeping it toned, supple, strong and flexible.”

While we can’t avoid the ageing process itself, there are many other factors that contribute to how the skin looks as it gets older – many of them avoidable. “There are many lifestyle factors that contribute to extrinsic skin ageing that will actually accelerate the process, making us look years older than our chronologic age,” says Dr Perricone. “Extrinsic ageing is environmental, while intrinsic ageing is genetic, and is accelerated or decelerated by inflammation caused by smoking, stress, hormonal changes, excess exposure to UV light, a weakened immune system, environmental stressors and a diet rich in high glycemic carbs. Together, both types of ageing cause the collagen and elastin that keep our skin resilient to slowly break down. Unfortunately, as we age, the skin’s ability to replace these essential materials diminishes and more gaps and irregularities develop in the collagen mesh, which can lead to wrinkles.” As well as lines and wrinkles, Dr Perricone adds broken capillaries, liver spots, sagging, lack of radiance, thinner skin and puffiness to the list of results that can be attributed to poor diet and excess UV exposure.

Fresh steps

Talking customers through their current regime is the first place to start when offering skincare advice, identifying any gaps and suggesting potential product upgrades. “My recommendation for a good daily routine would be to cleanse effectively, incorporate an antioxidant serum, use sunscreen daily and – if your customer is over the age of 30 – consider using a product containing some form of vitamin A at night, which will help to improve the turnover of dead skin cells,” recommends Dr Sabrina Shah-Desai, leading plastic surgeon and specialist in aesthetic anti-ageing at her Harley Street clinic. “Cleansing is the most important first step and I would recommend using a non-irritating, sulphate-free formulation that effectively removes make-up and cleans pores but is still gentle. This important step prevents bacteria breeding and encourages the active ingredients in products used subsequently to penetrate the skin more deeply, and therefore work more effectively. Recommend use of a mineral-based sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 every day, no matter the weather – it’s easier to prevent and protect the skin than to treat sun damage years later!”

Outside in

As is now well established, it’s not just what you put onto your skin, but a complete lifestyle approach that is going to ensure the complexion looks fresh and healthy. “Your diet and internal health is reflected in your skin, so customers should consume lots of water, fresh vegetables and fruit, along with essential fibre and good fats,” advises Dr Shah-Desai. “Water helps to flush away toxins and boost skin luminosity, while aerobic activity will increase the oxygen levels and boost skin radiance too.” Rest and relaxation also play a crucial role. “Modern living is excessively demanding and often leads to compromise on the one skin essential – sleep,” she says. “Mobile devices and tablets interrupt biological sleep patterns and do not enable the body to spend enough time in sleep and repair mode. Constantly checking emails, texts and messages, along with the pressure of social media engagement, mean that today’s world requires you to be on the ball and engaged 24/7. This can lead to raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause inflammation and problematic skin.”

New kids on the block

The vast number of new skincare trends and products may be bewildering to the customer, but ensures that the retail market is constantly buzzing. Certain themes are having more impact than others; for example, Korean beauty – or K-beauty – is providing huge inspiration for Western brands with its clever technology and quirky ideas; think sheet masks by brands including Indeed Labs Hydraluron (RRP £19.99) that deeply infuse the skin with moisture and treatment ingredients. “Innovation is the main driver for our interest in Korean skincare,” enthuses Alexia Inge, co-founder of online retailer Cult Beauty. “This, and the fact it all looks so fresh and new to our cynical Western eyes. Beauty had become so serious and the Koreans have made it fun again. South Korean beauty sales rose over 50% in 2015 as customers all over the world went wild for K-beauty, and this is showing no sign of slowing.”

Increasingly targeted treatments that focus on particular issues have impacted on the antiageing skincare market too, with women now able to focus on their specific areas of concern. ChinUp Mask (RRP from £29.95), for example, is designed to tackle a saggy neck and double chin. As it ages, skin can become looser; this innovative treatment product combines a naturally-made face mask with a slimming band to lift, firm and contour the appearance of the jawline, and reduce the chin. Each application takes just 30 minutes and the results can last for several days. ChinUp Mask taps into a demand among 68% of consumers that rate a saggy neck as a top concern, and is affordable and completely non-invasive.

With statistics now showing that three million people worldwide die from polluted air every year, its detrimental effects cannot be ignored, and skincare companies and health organisations are taking measures to protect us. Pollution has huge implications for skin ageing including increased pigmentation and inflammation. At the in-cosmetics trade show, companies were showcasing anti-pollution actives and oral supplements to detox or protect the skin and were highlighted as one of four key trends in skincare. Look out for the new, innovative REN Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist (RRP £24), a light spray that can be used regularly to top up protection.

The embracing of wellbeing has crossed over into skincare ingredients too, as ‘superfoods’ such as coconut oil and probiotics are introduced for their positive skincare benefits. Sales of coconut oil, used as everything from hair mask to moisturiser, have rocketed, while probiotics (or good bacteria), such as those in the Aurelia range (RRP from £38), help to calm inflammation. On the flipside, collagen is making its way out of skincare and into drinks. Ranges including Gold Collagen (RRP from £35.99) come as once-a-day shots that boost natural collagen production, helping to keep skin supple and firm.

AGEING BY NUMBERS

A regular in-store review of your skincare offering will help customers ensure they are using the right products not only for their skin type, but also for their age.

“When we are young, we need fewer products because our natural cellular repair mechanisms are functioning at optimal levels,” explains Dr Perricone. “As we age, the need escalates and we have to compensate by increasing our use of topical and nutritional antioxidants to combat signs of ageing.” Read on for our expert guidelines on the essential products to use and key ingredients to recommend at every age.

20s   “Thanks to a plentiful supply of youth hormones such as oestrogen, women in their 20s should enjoy radiant, luminous skin and shiny hair,” says Dr Perricone. “Skin breakouts can still occur, so be sure to keep skin clean and use oil-free products.” He also recommends products containing topical antioxidants, such as vitamin C esther, as they encourage natural tightening, lifting and toning while increasing radiance and decreasing puffiness, enlarged pores, discoloration and fine lines. The new Perricone MD Pre:Empt line (RRP from £35) includes a special antioxidant complex to tackle first signs of ageing.

30s   Glycolic acid is a great ingredient to use when signs of skin ageing become apparent, advises Dr Jane Leonard, GP and cosmetic doctor at London’s Grace Belgravia: “It keeps the shedding of dead skin cells uniform, as that process will have begun to slow down, making the skin look dull and lack softness. It’s also excellent for tackling pigmentation and smoothing out fine lines.” Nip+Fab Glycolic Cleansing Fix (RRP £7.95) is a good choice.

40s    “This is the time when you want to focus on preventing the acceleration of ageing,” says Dr Leonard. “In your 40s there’s an anatomical change as the face starts to lose volume and the skin starts to sag. Look for firming treatments to help keep the skin plump.” Lines and wrinkles can become particularly prominent too. Murad Eye Lift Firming Treatment (RRP £45) is a 10-minute, two-step treatment inspired by the procedures Dr Murad offers in his dermatology office. Minute spheres act as fillers to plump and lift the area for an instant smooth, even finish, while preventing further damage.

50+   “As oestrogen levels drop, which affects skin, hair and nails, keeping the skin supple and hydrated with moisturiser is key,” explains Dr Leonard. “Serums can be pricey but are a good investment, as they deliver high concentrations of treatment ingredients that will help keep skin looking firm, bright and plump. Layer moisturiser on top to hydrate and act as a barrier to prevent moisture loss.” Try the powerful duo of Origins Plantscription Anti-Ageing Power Serum (RRP from £50) and Powerful Lifting Cream (RRP £52).

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