I take my skincare very seriously. More so in the last few years because the signs of aging and sun damage have compounded over 60. I thought I was using a good skin care regime until I started reading everything I could on the subject and learned there was more I could try. Today, I’m sharing some of the best skincare acids for midlife skin that make a difference for me.
Acids may sound scary to put on your face, but they’re real game-changers and are some of the best ingredients you can add to your skincare at midlife. Here is the alphabet soup of acids I now use in my skincare routine over 60. I’ve received several emails asking about my skincare so I’m updating this post with some newer acids I’ve added.
Prescription Retin A or Retinoic Acid. I’ve used Vitamin A on my skin in one form or another for the last 25+ years. Healthline reports that “topical retinoids stimulate collagen production, effectively reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. As we age, our skin cell turnover slows down. Retinoids help speed up that turnover and remove those dead cells. They can also help to improve skin tone by fading age spots.”
It works, and I can’t imagine a complete skincare regime for women over 60 without a retinoid product. They can and do increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so always use a strong sunscreen with a high spf each morning.
Vitamin C is a terrific antioxidant that helps repair free-radical damage, brighten the skin, and fade uneven pigmentation. The L-ascorbic acid form is the most common but often unstable, so it’s formulated with ingredients to keep it from oxidizing. If you have sensitive skin, you can read here about some vitamin C derivatives that may be gentler on your skin
You can spend a fortune on vitamin C serums, but plenty of affordable ones are available. I’ve tried many, and my current favorite is this Glow Factor by MAELOVE and Paula’s Choice. I used this SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic until I discovered that MAELOVE has an almost identical ingredient list at less than a quarter of the price. It’s also so affordable that I use it on my neck, chest, and the back of my hands.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid and Salicylic Acid (BHA)
Water-soluble acids like glycolic acid will exfoliate your skin by breaking down dead skin cells. Oil-soluble acids like salicylic acid will sink deeper into your skin and unclog your pores, so they’re also helpful for acne-prone skin. These are both exfoliants that can help refine skin texture.
I love this Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial AHA + BHA Mask. It’s not for the faint of heart because it burns like the dickens while on, but it’s fantastic at cleaning out my pores. It almost feels like a vacuum got in there and removed all the gunk.
Byrdie talks here about AHA vs. BHA with two board-certified dermatologists and shares an easy-to-follow guide to figure out the differences, plus how to choose the right option for your skin.
Both of these Lactic Acid serums are very gentle and non-drying. I use them to help remove the flakes from my Retin-A. My Biossance is almost empty, so I bought this Kiehl’s and really love it.
My dermatologist introduced me to Azelaic Acid to help calm down my rosacea outbreaks. It’s also reported to help fade dark spots and the erythema you can get from old blemishes or eruptions on the skin. She gave me RX strength 15% Azelaic Acid for when my rosacea is particularly bad, but when I do not have a bad outbreak, I use a 10% over-the-counter version to keep things calmed down.
Here are some I’ve tried:
- I love The Ordinary Azelaic Suspension 10%. At $11.10, I consider it a steal and super easy to add after the Vitamin C.
- This Paulas Choice 10% Azelaic Acid is lovely and a touch more expensive at $39.
I discovered this Acid while looking for a safe, easy, peasy way to lighten the dark spots on the back of my hands. The first one I found was this Naturium Topical Acid 5%, which is the strength recommended as effective at fading dark spots.
Naturium calls Hyaluronic the ultimate hydrator. Hyaluronic Acid’s topical benefits read like a laundry list of skin care goals: Moisturizing, plumping, softening, glow-inducing—the list goes on. These benefits stem from hyaluronic acid’s humectant properties, which help keep skin supple and healthy.
Hyaluronic Acid can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. I’m currently using this MAELOVE B5 Hydrator Gel and love it. The price is right, and it goes on quickly with no scent.
This Naturium Quadruple Hyaluronic -Acid Serum 5% contains very low, low, medium, and high molecular weight pure hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate the skin on multiple levels for maximum skin-plumping moisturization.
Face acids that should not be used together
I am not an expert by any means, but these are the ones I know not to combine-
- AHA and Retinoids are both exfoliants and can be too harsh to layer. I use one in the am and one in the pm.
- Vitamin C and retinoids are best used at different times of the day for the same reason.
- Vitamin C is a big no-no with AHA and BHA because they’re both strong and could irritate your skin.
- Azelaic Acid is safe to be used with all other acids.
- Hyaluronic Acid plays nicely with retinol, vitamin C, and all other acids.
- Tranexamic Acid is also safe to use with other acids.
Instyle magazine has an extensive write-up on skincare ingredients you should and should not mix.
The best skincare acids for wrinkles and over 50 skin
- Tretinoin, also known as Retinoic Acid, is at the top of the list and is the gold standard for reducing wrinkle depth, increasing collagen production, and fading dark spots. Retinols are weaker versions of retinoic Acid and can achieve similar but less effective results. It also causes less peeling and is more easily tolerated by your skin.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids have shown effectiveness at treating photoaging, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, clearing pores, and improving skin elasticity, tone, and hydration. They’re exfoliants that slough off the outer layer of dead skin, revealing fresher new skin. The larger molecules, the gentler they are on your skin because they don’t penetrate as deeply. Here they are listed from largest to smallest molecules:
- glycolic Acid
- lactic Acid
- malic Acid
- mandelic Acid
- Hyaluronic Acid is not your ordinary Acid. It’s a powerful humectant that visibly reduces dryness by bringing moisture to the surface of your skin. It’s a sugar molecule found in our skin that helps bind water to collagen and visibly plumps the skin. I have to admit, I love them all! They’re best layered before your moisturizer and can be added throughout the day.
- Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals in your skin, helps fade brown spots, and brightens your complexion. The best ones are formulated with ingredients to stabilize the highly unstable L-ascorbic Acid. My favorites include Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic (pricey), Glow Maker by MAELOVE, and most recently, Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster.
- Kojic Acid helps with pigmentation because it inhibits and prevents the formation of tyrosine, an amino acid needed to produce melanin.
- Ferulic Acid is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and skin brightener that works exceptionally well when combined with Vit C.
These are the skincare acids for midlife skin that I’m loving right now. What acids have you added to your skincare routine?