Healthy Spaces

How to care for ageing skin

Use appropriate products and avoid the sun to look young, doctors say

The key environmental factor that accelerates skin ageing is excessive sun exposure. Those who have a lot of cumulative sun exposure tend to look older than those who do not.
The key environmental factor that accelerates skin ageing is excessive sun exposure. Those who have a lot of cumulative sun exposure tend to look older than those who do not.PHOTO: REUTERS

Any anti-ageing product designed for women above 60 can also be used by women above 40.

Dr Tan Kian Teo, a dermatologist at Skin Physicians at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said: "It is definitely not too early to start using anti-ageing products at the age of 40.

"How our skin ages depends on many factors, such as skin type and the amount of sun exposure."

There is "no distinction" as to what is suitable for women aged 40 to 59 and those above 60, he said.

It is more important to choose a product based on the skin or hair type, and the aim of the product.

  • Options for men

  • Men tend to show signs of ageing earlier than womendo. This is because a man's skin is often thicker and more oily, said dermatologist Tan Kian Teo from Skin Physicians at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. However, he said, pigmentation issues are less common. Men, like women, will suffer from drier skin as they age, as well as wrinkles and sags, he said. Although many anti-ageing skincare products are targeted at women,men can use them too. ''Most men
    also want to look younger, though they are less likely to admit it,'' he said. Still, most men are not used to spending a lot of time caring for their skin, and could prefer to use a moisturiser with everything necessary in it, he said. Many men also think that using skincare products is not a masculine thing, he said. ''It is easier for a man
    to use a product that is deemed more masculine. That is where packaging and marketingcomeinto play.'' To suit the preferences of most men, products for men tend to contain less fragrance. Also, most products are formulated to be
    less rich because men's skin is more oily. Minoxidil lotion is a treatment option for male pattern hair loss, said Dr Tan. Oral finasteride is also an effective option formen, he added.

In general, older skin would require a product that is more moisturising as skin becomes dry with age, he added. And it is a myth that expensive skincare products work best, said Dr Chuah Sai Yee, an associate consultant with the National Skin Centre. "Most active ingredients found in anti-ageing creams are similar, irrespective of brands."

Here is a look at how to treat ageing skin and hair conditions in women aged 40 and up.

Drier skin, wrinkles and irregular pigmentation

The most visible signs of skin ageing are wrinkles, sagging skin and irregular pigmentation. Large pigmented spots, also known as age spots, liver spots or lentigos, may appear in sun-exposed areas when one is in her mid-40s or 50s.

As one grows older, the sebaceous glands will produce less oil. This can make it harder to keep the skin moist. After a woman hits 60 years old, her skin will become less elastic, more fragile and more prone to injury. Dryness may be more pronounced, leading to itchiness and rash.


Anti-ageing products. Dr Tan recommends using a serum containing anti-ageing ingredients, followed by a moisturiser.

Do note that most anti-ageing creams simply hydrate skin and temporarily plump the skin to make it look better, said Dr Chuah.


These ingredients, which have been proven to be effective.

•Vitamin C, which can be found in many over-the-counter products. It is an antioxidant that combats the signs of ageing by mopping up free radicals that damage the skin cells, said Dr Tan. These free radicals are produced by the body, and are also created by environmental factors like UV exposure and smoking. Vitamin C tends to destabilise very quickly, so buy only from a reputable company, said Dr Chuah.

•Tretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A. It remodels the skin at a cellular level by normalising skin cells, causing them to turn over more rapidly, which also prevents pores from becoming clogged, said Dr Tan. It also helps to boost collagen in the skin, leading to an improvement in skin texture and lighter pigmentation, he added.

•Retinol, also a derivative of vitamin A, works in similar ways, but is less effective, said Dr Tan. It can be useful in people who cannot tolerate tretinoin, which can irritate the skin, he said.

Sun damage

The key environmental factor that accelerates skin ageing is excessive sun exposure, said Dr Tan.

You can see this by comparing the areas of your body that are regularly exposed to the sun with areas that are not, Dr Chuah pointed out.


Sunscreen. Also, wear appropriate sun protective gear, such as sunglasses and hats.

Dr Chuah recommends a sunscreen with an SPF 30 rating, which blocks 97 per cent of UVB rays. "Sunscreens with higher SPF ratings block slightly more UVB rays, but none offers 100 per cent protection," she said.


Suspicious skin lesions, if you are aged 60 and above. Cumulative sun exposure has been directly linked to skin cancer, including basal cell cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, said Dr Chuah.

Hair loss

Female-pattern hair loss is the top cause of hair loss in women. It gets more common with age, though it can start as early as the teenage years, said Dr Tan.

With ageing, nearly everyone will experience some hair loss. The thick, coarse hair of a young adult eventually becomes thin, fine and light-coloured. Some women will also experience female-pattern hair loss, where the thinning occurs prematurely. The most common pattern is the thinning of hair over the top of the head.


Topical minoxidil, which is the most common prescribed treatment. "There are off-the-counter anti-balding lotions and shampoos but the problem with many of these is that there is little or no evidence for their efficacy," explained Dr Tan.


Increased width of the hair parting. This is an early sign of hair loss, said Dr Tan.

Get help as it is always more effective to start treatment early if you have female-pattern hair loss, Dr Tan said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'How to care for ageing skin'. Subscribe