When Should You Start Using Anti-Aging Products? We Asked Experts

For many who want to delay signs of getting older, reaching for “anti-aging” products feels like something they don’t need to do until they’re already seeing things like fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots, and skin laxity. The reality, though, is that anti-aging products are meant to help ward those things off, and it’s much easier to take preventative steps versus going into “reverse it” mode. So when’s the right time to start using anti-aging products? We consulted a handful of skincare pros to get the answer.

What Are Anti-Aging Products?

Before diving into when you should use anti-aging products, let’s first cover what they are. As you’ve probably surmised by simply poking around beauty shopping aisles, the product category is pretty expansive.

“Anti-aging products are a blanket term to describe any product that helps improve the appearance of, reverse, and prevent any of the signs of aging,” explains Dr. Jeanette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist and the assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt Sinai School of Medicine.

These signs are pretty vast, as well, and include everything from fine lines and wrinkles to skin tone, texture, and firmness. In a nutshell, any product that replenishes moisture, improves elasticity, brightens skin, improves fine lines and wrinkles, and aids in evening out skin tone qualify as “anti-aging.”

Erica Marie Gatt, a Los Angeles-based esthetician, adds that another distinction is that anti-aging products typically incorporate active ingredients meant to target a specific aging skin concern. For example, retinoids target skin firmness and wrinkles, niacinamide helps with dark spots, and glycolic acid helps refine skin texture.

Products that don’t qualify as anti-aging include acne treatments, basic moisturizers, most cleansers, and products formulated to address skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema.

When Should You Use Anti-Aging Products?

Skin experts say it’s never too soon to begin an anti-aging skincare regimen, especially if you want to maintain a beautiful and healthy complexion well into your golden years. In fact, you can and should start using these products as early as your 20s. After all, the goal is to prevent signs of aging, and taking steps to reverse signs is often much more difficult—and much more expensive—compared to prevention.

“Once you start seeing signs of aging, the damage is done,” notes Courtney Moseley, a physician assistant known as The Plastic PA. “Unfortunately, we cannot stop the hands of time, but by starting earlier, we can definitely slow them.”

In other words, it’s not that anti-aging products will completely prevent you from looking a day over 18. Our skin naturally evolves over time, but taking measures to protect and nourish our skin can result in a healthier appearance in the long run. Here are some non-negotiable products to include in your regimen.

Sun Protection 

The sun is easily the biggest culprit when it comes to skin aging, so incorporating an SPF into your regimen from youth is essential. More importantly, it helps prevent skin cancer from developing. “Sunscreen makes the biggest difference, and applying an SPF 30 or higher daily will do wonders for aging prevention,” Moseley says.


Retinoids are a class of anti-aging products that include over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinoic acid. These generate collagen production and promote skin cell turnover, and can make a huge difference in the appearance of your skin. Dr. Graf recommends adding a retinoid to your regimen in your 20s, which is just before our collagen supply starts to reduce. You can begin with a milder strength and increase it as you get older. Always listen to your skin, as retinoids can be irritating.


Over time, our skin’s cell turnover rate slows down. This leads to the accumulation of dead skin cells on our skin’s surface, which can lead to dullness. Incorporating exfoliating ingredients into our regimen in your 20s, such as alpha hydroxy acids, can help shed those dead skin cells for a brighter complexion. They can also help minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles and uneven skin tone. Again, you can start with a mild formula and use it less frequently, then increase as you get older.


Sunscreen is your best defense against dark spots. However, if you notice them cropping up then incorporate niacinamide into your regimen to help minimize their appearance. Also known as vitamin B3, this ingredient can help lighten discoloration and even boost moisture levels.

Heavy Emollients 

Our skin produces less moisture as we age, which can lead to dryness, an exacerbation of fine lines/wrinkles, and dullness. Incorporate hydrating humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, and top them with emollient-rich moisturizers—such as plant oils and butters, beeswax, petroleum, and mineral oil—to lock in hydration. In addition to improving your skin’s appearance, Dr. Gaf says that “a healthy skin moisture barrier is crucial to overall skin health.”

And remember, it’s never too late to begin an anti-aging routine. While beginning early will help prevent and slow premature signs of aging, you can still minimize future damage at any age.

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