What are ‘Normal’ Wrinkles at 40? Dermatologists Weigh In

Although we all know that skin changes as we age, it’s not always an easy thing to accept—especially as those changes become more pronounced. “Signs of skin aging that first show in someone’s 30s, like fine lines around the eyes, increased pigmentation, poorer texture, and deeper smile lines all become more pronounced in the 40s,” dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann tells us.

“Once you enter your 40s, your estrogen levels are in decline, making you more prone to classic hormonal acne,” adds dermatologist Rachel Nazarian. “Many people notice a distribution of pimples closer to the jawline and neck. Although it can be incredibly frustrating, prescription treatments work great and can help control flares.” Additionally, adopting the right skincare routine will help to address these skin concerns. To find out what that looks like, we tapped Herrmann and Nazarian for their expertise and insight.


  • Dr. Rachel Nazarian, M.D., F.A.A.D., is a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
  • Dr. Jennifer Herrmann is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon based in Beverly Hills.

Keep reading for the best skincare routine for your 40s, plus dermatologist-approved product recommendations.

Ingredients to Use In Your 40s

“The best topical ingredients for this age aim to repair DNA damage, increase collagen production, fade unwanted pigmentation, and thicken skin,” Nazarian tells us. See a full breakdown, below.

DNA Repair Enzymes

Opt for products with DNA repair enzymes, which “improve skin’s health and help decrease the chance of early pre-cancerous spots from emerging,” Herrmann says.

Retinoid or Retinol

If you haven’t already started on retinol, it’s never too late, says Nazarian. “Get your dermatologist on board so you can quickly identify the strongest yet most tolerable one for your skin type,” she advises. “My recommendation is to have most people start a retinol cream nightly to help stimulate collagen production—if they haven’t already—which will combat the skin aging process that can cause fine lines and slight sagging to occur.” “These help increase collagen synthesis, which improves skin elasticity and decreases fine lines,” adds Herrmann.

High-Quality Vitamin C

“Stabilized versions of vitamin C, like that in SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, can help fade dark spots,” Herrmann says. A few other ingredients to incorporate to fade dark spots are black licorice, bearberry, arbutin, niacinamide, and hydroquinone. “Pigmentation can result from both sun and hormonal influences, and depending on your skin type, different combinations of these ingredients may be more or less appropriate for your skin.”


If you have extra-sensitive or rosacea-prone skin, opt for gentler ingredients like azelaic acid and kojic acid, recommends Hermann.

Epidermal Growth Factor

Epidermal growth factors help thicken skin and boost collagen production. “Formulations like DNA Renewal Regeneration Serum are light and less irritating to skin than many retinoids, and it uses a plant-based EGF derived from barley,” explains Herrmann.

Oral Acne Treatments

The struggle of adult acne is real, and it can continue into your 40s. “Topicals that may have been helpful in your teens and 20s often fail in this decade, so dermatologist-prescribed oral medications that can decrease testosterone are often more helpful,” Herrmann says.


“Skin dryness also affects this decade more than the 20s and 30s due to shifts in estrogen, and having a good moisturizer is very important,” Nazarian tells us. “Simple products that are fragrance-free and formulated for sensitive skin tend to be my go-to’s, like Cetaphil and CeraVe. Hyaluronic acid is another skin hydrator that binds water and keeps skin looking dewy and young,” adds Hermann.


“Using one that is broad-spectrum and contains an SPF of at least 30 is key every day,” emphasizes Hermann. Make sure not to forget your neck, chest, and the backs of your hands.

Morning Skincare Routine for Your 40s

“The primary focus in this decade though is anti-aging and repair,” says Nazarian. Her perfect A.M. skincare regimen begins with a gentle hydrating cleanser, followed by an antioxidant serum (to neutralize free-radical damage), then a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid and ceramides (to pull in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier), and finally a tinted SPF (which blocks visible light).

Step 1: Cleanser

Avoid the urge to use harsh scrubs or drying acne products and opt for a gentle cleanser. “Use cool water and a gentle cleanser like Neutrogena Gentle Facial cleanser or EltaMD foaming cleanser, which will help remove nighttime products without stripping your skin of its natural oils,” Herrmann says.

Step 2: Reparative Agent/ Antioxidant Serum

Apply a reparative agent like DNA Intensive Renewal Moisturizer, which has DNA repair enzymes to fight DNA damage all day.

Step 3: Moisturizer

When it comes to moisturizer, apply based on your skin type. “Those with acne-prone skin will still need an oil-free option, while those that are feeling the effects of decreased estrogen and have drier skin will need something heavier,” Herrmann says.

Step 4: Sunscreen

“Apply a broad-spectrum SPF like EltaMD UV or elements to help protect against UV damage,” Herrmann says. Elta is a good choice because it’s sheer, has tinted options, and is good for all skin types, even sensitive.

Nighttime Skincare Routine for Your 40s

According to Nazarian, the ideal P.M. skincare regimen would start with a gentle hydrating cleanser, then a deeply hydrating moisturizer, and a retinoid/peptide/AHA.

Step 1: Cleanser

Always start with a cleanse to remove makeup, oils, and pollution. “If your skin is acne-prone or dull, often an option with salicylic acid or AHA acids can help gently exfoliate without creating excess irritation, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleanser or Caviar and Cashmere’s Clarifying Cleanser,” Herrmann says.


Avoid over-exfoliating, which can cause increased irritation, dryness, and amplification of signs of aging, says Herrmann. Also, avoid scrubbing or rubbing the thin skin of the eye area which can exacerbate dark under-eye circles.

Step 2: Retinoid or Retinol

To your clean skin, apply a retinoid like Renova, or a growth factor serum like DNA Regeneration Serum to target collagen and elastin synthesis. “For those with more sensitive skin, I often recommend a retinoid twice weekly and a growth factor for the remaining evenings,” Herrmann tells us. “Retinols can be found in many over-the-counter products,” says Nazarian.

Step 3: Brightening Agent

If needed, you can apply a brightening agent for pigmentation. “All vitamin C is not created equal,” Herrmann notes. Because it’s an inherently unstable molecule that breaks down in the air, it’s important to purchase a high-quality, stabilized variety.”

Step 4: Moisturizer

As you would in the morning, apply a moisturizer specific to your skin type. Wait a few minutes between product application to allow for absorption. Nazarian is a fan of products that combine ingredients, such as SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($135) with retinoid, AHA, and peptides.

In-Office Treatments

Those in their 40s shouldn’t rule out in-office treatments to support their skincare routines since they can complement what’s done at home. “Crow’s feet and forehead lines can be softened with Botox, and pigmentation, dullness, and texture problems can be removed with lasers,” says Hermann. “Plus, the judicious use of fillers like Restylane can help restore tissue loss and smooth folds that have emerged with aging, and radio-frequency heat devices can help tighten skin.”

The Bottom Line

Don’t feel like you have few options when it comes to knowing how to prevent aging in your 40s. By creating a skincare routine for this time frame, the changes you notice can be diminished with every passing day. “Doing small, but consistent treatments in this decade set you up for much more natural-looking skin and minimize the need for more invasive, ‘obvious’ procedures in the 50s and 60s,” Herrmann says.

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