Here's When You Should Really Start Using Anti-Agers

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Alas, there's one more: aging skin. The reality is that even the most fancy-pants lotions, potions, and elixirs in the world can't stop time. (Though with triple-digit price tags, it really seems like they should).
But, allow us to take off our Debbie Downer hat and reveal the good news: The right products can make a major difference in the health and appearance of your skin as the years progress. The trick is learning how (and most importantly, when) to use them to your benefit.
And, so, in an effort to demystify this cosmetics conundrum once and for all, we got answers straight from the experts. From eye creams to brighteners, top derms told us when to start integrating anti-aging products into our skin-care routine for optimum age-delaying benefits. Click through for the full scoop.
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Eye Cream
Applying eye cream is one step you can take now that'll result in serious payoff in the years to come. "You want a cream that's specific to eyes because eyelid skin is the thinnest on your face," says Dr. Michael Shapiro of Vanguard Dermatology. This in mind, using an eye cream is particularly imperative — collagen (our body's natural structural protein) naturally declines with age, but keeping the area saturated with moisture serves as a booster that slows down the process, he says. Notice we said "slows," not stops. Realistic expectations are the first step toward a healthy attitude on aging.

In terms of when to start actively applying eye cream, according to Dr. Ariel Ostad, it's never too early. "Especially if you’re genetically prone to discoloration around the eyes, the earlier, the better," he says. "If you're a parent, train your kids. Get them in a routine when they’re teenagers." Excuse us while we restock our eye cream supply...right this minute.
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Serum
Serums might be the most mystifying products of them all. In general, they're jam-packed with powerful ingredients in highly concentrated doses intended to penetrate deeply into the skin. So, that means when it comes to anti-aging, serums can be seriously effective.

"I see serum as just another form of moisturizer," says Dr. Ostad, adding that these traditionally lightweight formulas are ideal for oily skin. Though Dr. Ostad attests that hydrating serums are fine to use as early on as you'd like (they have little to no side effects), he's wary of introducing more heavy-duty versions at an early age.

Dr. Shapiro, too, sees serums as unnecessary for those in their 20s. "But, for women in their 30s, serums used in the evening, coupled with a good sunscreen regimen in the morning, are a reasonable thing to start using," he says. Noted.
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Retinol
"Second to sunscreen, retinols probably have the most scientific data to support their biologic efficacy," says Dr. Shapiro. "They truly are anti-aging. They're quite effective at smoothing out little bumps and contour irregularities, and they definitely help with wrinkling."

But, as beneficial as these results may be, Dr. Shapiro cautions against the side effects associated with retinol products. "They're not that easy to use, because they're drying and also somewhat photosensitizing, so they'll make you more apt to burn. In the summer months, be vigilant."

All things considered, Dr. Ostad advises integrating retinol products into your routine in your early 30s upon noticing fine lines. "I don't suggest using retinol in your 20s, because the collagen isn’t breaking yet," he says.
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Brightener
When it comes to brightener, gauging the right time for usage is less about age and more about noticeable discoloration, freckling, and sun damage — all of which, by and large, won't even become an issue with proper, preventative use of SPF. "Sunscreen is the most effective and cheapest, dollar for dollar, cosmetic product on the market," says Dr. Shaprio. "But, it also depends on genetics, so, unfortunately, there are some things that you can't really outpace."

If sun damage catches up to you at any age, Dr. Shapiro advises applying a brightener or spot corrector — and recommends moisturizers infused with a lightening agent since highly concentrated products are only appropriate for short periods of use. "Use [heavy-duty formulas with ingredients like hydroquinone] only when you see significant freckling. If it's more mild, reach for lower strength," he says. Of course, consult your derm to determine what brightening product will jive best with you.
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Lifting Cream
Dr. Ostad gave it to us straight, saying, "I honestly think there’s no such thing as a lifting cream." But, fear not: There's hope for would-be turkey necks yet. According to Dr. Ostad, "As long as you’re moisturizing, your collagen, and, in turn, your skin, will stay firm." Phew!

Dr. Shapiro takes a similar stance, saying, "When you're talking about sagging skin, by the time you feel like you're in need of it, no amount of cream is really going to impact it significantly." That means it's all about prevention. "If you look at your family and they're showing signs, you may want to start [applying firming cream] early. There's less solid scientific evidence, but if you buy into it, it's best to start early, even in your 20s." Guess we've got an assignment for our next family get-together.
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Peels
To the skin-care novice, peels of both the in-office and at-home variety may seem slightly foreboding. But, luckily, there's some time to mentally prepare. "In terms of anti-aging, peels aren't really necessary unless you're seeing visible signs of aging, particularly sun damage. Most of the time, patients [who get a peel in-office] are 40 years old and beyond." And, when it comes to at-home products, Dr. Ostad recommends use around age 30 or above.

Such treatments are anti-aging in their own right, but also allow other products to really do their thing, according to Dr. Shapiro. "Peels remove a dead layer of skin, which allows other agents to be more effective [by penetrating the skin more deeply]. If you're using a retinol, a peel every three weeks will make that work more effectively." Women in their 20s and 30s can also get in on the skin-enhancing action in the form of more mild peels.
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