Special Reports
A special report is content that is edited and produced by the special reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report but do not have editorial control.

An essential guide to skincare through life’s ages and stages

While everyone’s skin is unique, general rules apply to caring for it that change as we grow older

Dry or oily, smooth or wrinkled, clear or carbuncled; everyone’s skin is different and requires a different approach to its care. However, there are enough common factors associated with age to make it worth your while knowing what to look out for – and how it might inform your skincare routine.

For many, the teenage years are when we start to really pay attention to our fizzogs. “It’s when we see hormonal changes and it is very important that we are very gentle on the skin at this stage,” says Valerie Gleeson, a skincare expert with L’Occitane.

While many youngsters skate through unblemished, for others it’s when spots appear. Too often the go-to products for teens are very astringent, Gleeson cautions. “Their natural reaction is to want to strip away oil but what the skin does in that situation is compensate by producing more,” she explains.

At this stage a very gentle cleanser is important. “Unfortunately a lot of the products on the market have acids that are not really suitable – and not designed for – that age group,” says Gleeson. “At this stage it is still very much baby skin and very delicate. All you are doing by drying it out is asking the skin to go into overdrive and damaging the moisture barrier.”


By our 20s our skincare routine tends to change. “It’s when we tend to start our careers and move to cities, and at this point SPF (sun protection factor) becomes so important,” explains Gleeson. And although people are now familiar with the damage sun can cause to skin, they may be less aware of the damage done by pollution. “Pollution damage is the second biggest cause of skin ageing after the sun,” she adds.

Gleeson recommends gentle cleansers and moisturisers with SPF to keep the skin hydrated, introducing gentle exfoliation products as we approach the end of our 20s to help with cell renewal.

“By our late 20s our cell turnover is starting to slow and by our 30s we start to see the arrival of fine lines, particularly if we haven’t been using SPF. Of course, everyone is different but in the main I’d like to start introducing some anti-ageing products to the routine by this stage,” she says.

L’Occitane’s plant-based anti-ageing ingredient is called ‘immortelle’, which aims to mimic the benefits of retinol without the drawbacks. Retinol is a formulation of vitamin A often used in anti-ageing products which, if overused, can lead to issues such as the thinning of the skin or irritation.

In our 40s the collagen and elastic fibres begin to break down in our skin, causing it to lose elasticity and firmness. At this point some people will start to introduce a serum, a skincare product made from tiny molecules of really concentrated ingredients designed to penetrate the skin and nourish it.

In our 50s women are dealing with the impact of menopause on their skin. The falling off in oestrogen can result in loss of volume

“You’ll see the difference two or three weeks later when the skin cells underneath come to the surface, because the serum will nourish them and build them up,” explains Gleeson.

In our 50s women are dealing with the impact of menopause on their skin. The falling off in oestrogen can result in loss of volume. “It’s when women come to us because of a hollowness in their cheeks,” says Gleeson.

As we enter our seventies and over, our skin becomes thinner, making it even more important to be gentle. “From your 30s to your 60s it’s all about getting skin to work harder. When you’re older, it’s about feeding it to maintain texture,” says Niamh Hogan of Holos, a maker of plant-based skincare, who recommends feeding your skin lipids and oils such as shea butter.

She believes too many skincare products available over the counter now contain active ingredients that a decade ago would only come on the back of professional advice – “and people can overuse them”, she cautions.

Holos’s best-seller, Love Your Skin antiaging facial oil, is made from organic argan oil, which is high in oleic acid. It’s particularly kind to skin prone to rosacea, a reddening that can affect people of all ages and can also be triggered by events such as menopause.

Be careful with your skincare routine during pregnancy too, Hogan advises. “I’d stay away from retinols, for example,” she says. “My advice is not to start anything new in pregnancy and just keep things simple. There is no evidence to show that any skincare ingredients are harmful during pregnancy but we always err on the side of caution.”

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times