Skincare Acids to Use For Women Over 60

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.

5 bottles of skincare acids to use on midlife skin

Vitamin A

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

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.

Azelaic Acid

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:

Tranexamic Acid

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.

Hyaluronic Acid

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?


  1. What a great post!! I am a firm believer in Skinceuticals. I have tried the MaeLove, but it just didn’t work for me. But, I hate the price of Skinceuticals!!

    1. Interesting. Maybe I should give it another try.

  2. My doctor prescribed that I use baby shampoo eyelid scrubs for my severe brachitis of my eyelids. He suggested just wash my face with it as well. I found this works extremely well on my 78 year old combination skin. At night I just use the Advanced Clinical’s Hyaluronic lotion on my face and neck. I also am blessed with nice skin from my Swedish mother.

    1. Having good skin really does help:)

  3. Jennifer,
    Have you ever tried any products from BeautyCounter ?

  4. Hi Jennifer! Thank you for this post. I am 73 almost 74. I just need something to brighten up my skin tone. I do have some sun spots and a little wrinkling between my eye brows, the corners of the outside of my eyes and around my mouth. My skin is combination of oily and dry. Without getting to much going at one time, what would be the best acid to start off with? I have a light to medium skin tone. I am using Mary Kay products now.

    1. I think Vit C is a great place to start for brightening.

      1. Charlotte says:

        Have you looked at the FIERA skin care line? For those who prefer to avoid the risk of photosensitivity secondary to sunlight, the product line uses an alternative. Also, their VIT C serum is wonderful.

      2. That’s a new one to me, I will look into them

      3. Okay! That’s Great! Then I’ll see what I need as I go along. I have kind of sensitive skin also. Thank you so much! Have a great weekend! LW

  5. Jennifer, so glad to see this! For the AM, I use Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum. It’s very affordable and Timeless is always offering discounts. I follow that with DRMTLGY’s Needleless serum which is chock full of highly rated ingredients (according to Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary ratings) like Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Copper Complex, Tetrapeptides, Ceramides, & more. Then moisturizer & SPF 50 sunscreen. PM routine is the Needless Serum, Tretinoin, Moisturizer. Undereye is Neocutis. Expensive, but I buy it from Dermstore when they periodically offer 25% off + use my rewards dollars.
    My body lotion is Alpha Skin Care Revitalizing Body Lotion with 12% Glycolic AHA and it’s done a great job of reducing crepiness. I buy it through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save to get the extra discount.
    I hope you get the same wonderful results I’ve gotten!

    1. I’ve read some great things about the DRMTLGY brand and been so curious to try it! Your regime sounds fabulous! What strength PR Tretinoin are you using? I am still struggling with flaking so may be over doing it.

      1. Hey Jennifer,
        You may already know to start very slowly with the Tretinoin. I started with a retinol then graduated to .025% Tretinoin once I saw that I tolerated the retinol well. I now use 05% Tretinoin which I buy at a steep discount with GoodRx coupon.
        I think with both the retinol & Tretinoin, I started 1x/wk for one month, then 2x/wk for a month, then every other day for a month, then every day. Currently I give my face a break for a day or 2 each week. On one of those off days I might use DRMTLGY’s Pumpkin Enzyme Mask (regular size comes free with each order). Yes, that company uses great quality products. I saw results pretty quickly even with the retinol. A friend asked me (this was several years ago), “What are you doing, you’re aging backwards!” I get complimented on my skin all the time from women ages 21 & up! I hope this information helped!

      2. It does help, thank you! I think my Rosacea is also a culprit with me tolerating Retin A

      3. As mentioned by scShari, I also use Timeless 20% Vitamin C. Also, their Hyaluronic acid, COQ10 serum, Matrixyl Synthe’ 6 serum and Squalane oil. Affordable and highly rated. The Ordinary Lactic acid and Salicylic acid are good. Very affordable. If one does a double cleanse, The Ordinary Squalane cleanser is good. I also use tretinoin 0.1%.

      4. I do love the Ordinary. It’s hard to beat their proces.

  6. Good morning! I missed this post, but found it today when searching your blog for info on rosacea. Do you find that the 10% AZELAIC ACID helps diminish the tiny bumps from rosacea? I don’t have many, but the I don’t want them to multiply.

    1. Yes, it does seem to help a lot! That’s exactly what I use it for

  7. Great post, Jennifer! I don’t know how I missed this – oh, yeah, I had extensive dental work that day! I think I’ll try the Maelove Hydrator. I have used Paula’s Choice products for over a decade. Good stuff! Thank you for your research. I’m a few years older than you and my skin is a priority during the current situation. Trying lots of new products.

  8. OK…I’m going to give Glow Factor a shot. I’ve been a Skinceuticals gal for years and yes, their products are expensive. Wish me luck! 🙂

  9. Victoria Korol says:

    I gotta say this is your best post yet on skincare! Thank you for doing the research and sharing it. I will definitely put the info to good use!

  10. Jan Ruppert says:

    Great post, thank you Jennifer. I’ve copied it in my “notes” for quick referral because lord knows I can’t remember all this good information and advice! One question: does the Maelove vit C serum need to be refrigerated to keep it from oxidizing? I’m currently using Timeless C+E ferulic but dislike having to make the trip to my refrigerator immediately after rinsing my face in the morning then back to the bathroom for moisturizing. Thanks for your blog, I read it every day.

    1. I don’t refrigerate mine but admit I use it pretty fast because I put it all over my face, neck, chest, and backs of my hands.

    2. Jan, Timeless does have a glass jar that should help. 🤞🏻 I have a small bottle with a pipette that I pump about 1/2 full. Use that daily until it’s empty and then fill again from the refrigerated bottle.

  11. Thank you for this helpful information. I appreciate you including your brands of choice. There are so many out there; it’s good to have recommendations. Although I tend to try out different things, my favorite sunscreen is Elta which my dermatologist recommended. It comes in both clear and tinted and sells at an affordable price.

  12. Jennifer, have you found anything that helps crepey skin on hand and arms? I’ve tried lotion with AHA and natural exfoliants, which haven’t helped. Next I’m trying collagen powder in my tea and lotion with hyaluronic acid. It would be nice to find something that works before the summer!

    1. I have just started using collagen powder too and will report back. The best thing I have found is the AHA moisturizers and know that consistency is key! Twice if not more a day.

  13. Ginger Whelan says:

    This is a whole new world to me, although I am certainly interested. In what order do you use/apply these products? Do you use them once a day, twice a day or less frequently? It seems like a lot to keep track of…..

    1. I don’t use every product every day. You start with the thinnest, wateriest product first and allow a few moments to soak in before moving on.

  14. Great well-researched post, Jennifer. I appreciate the excellent information.

  15. This is such a helpful post, Jennifer. I have used prescribed metronidazole cream for many years for my rosacea and would love to replace it with something that is less toxic to the liver, so I welcome your suggestions. I wonder if you could share what sunscreen you are using that has 45 spf. I am having difficulty finding one that does not exacerbate my rosacea. Thanks

  16. Excellent article Jennifer! (Added it to my Pinterest Board.). With that said; like ‘Bea’ below, I consider myself genetically blessed re my skin, however admit this past year (now aged 74) began a regime of ‘dry brushing’ (at least once a week prior to showering) which has proven to be beneficial in exfoliating the entire body and with hope it is also supporting /boosting my immune system as per claim. -Brenda-

    1. Hi Brenda,
      I agree about the dry brushing but I’m being very careful on my legs because it can exacerbate veins and my mom had a lot of varicose vines on her legs. Have a great day

  17. Paulette Levy says:

    After my sunscreen I prize my C serum and Hyaluronic acid. That duo does it for me topped off with Vichy products -creams. I was a huge fan of Murad products for skincare and may return at some point.

    1. I used Murad for many years. It’s a great line. Sunscreen is almost at the top of my list. I have a sunscreen sound up coming soon.

  18. I too would check with a dermatologist about using strong products and the order in which to use them. Probably one of the most important ones is a good sunscreen and they can recommend the best ones to use.

    1. Dermatologist are a great resource but I find many sell very expensive products that can easily be duplicated at the beauty counter for much less.

  19. For years, I felt it was necessary to develop a beautiful sun tan to compliment my summer wardrobe. If that meant sun bathing, then so be it!
    Fast forward several decades and I am dealing with not only sun damage but just the natural aging that happens to our skin. I am a late comer to the benefits of the variety of serums available today that definitely help correct this damage.
    You schooled me today on several products and procedures that I was not aware of. I welcome all this information and I now utilize several products daily but will be sourcing additional help.
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey and the products that you’ve found to be so beneficial.

    1. I’m so glad this was interesting for you. Count me among the legions of ladies who beat the heck out of their skin while younger. Thank goodness there are good products.

  20. What a great post. I have an arsenal that I switch out and really appreciate the info on what you cannot use together. I use Vit C, retinol, hyaluronic acid, glycolic, bakuchiol, lactic acid, and choose what is needed, not all at once. I must look into the azelaic acid to see if that helps with the rosacea before the prescriptions are needed. I always thought that it was so strange that the Ordinary products were not sold here, yet made here but can order online. Some derms recommend a simplified routine with only 1 serum and moisturizer and sunscreen, while others allow a more extensive routine, so even all of them don’t agree 100%. Really enjoyed this, thanks Jennifer.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I hope to share more of my regime if you ladies are interested. It’s funny, bakuchiol just came on my radar and I’m looking for a good one. Which do you like?

      1. The one I am using right now is the Inkey list one. Not expensive, but not a very big tube either.

      2. Jennifer, Paula’s Choice has a bakuchiol product.

  21. I had no idea that people use all of these products! Luckily I inherited great skin from my mother and at 78 use nothing on my face except daily sunscreen that is in a tinted moisturizer. I do have a mild case of rosacea, so I must apply a dermatologist prescribed ointment to certain spots on my face every night (after cleaning with Cetaphil ). Then I apply a lovely night cream. That’s it. Having said that, I understand why some people use products to improve their skin. My only caution would be to consult a dermatologist at all times. I have a feeling that many products on the market are not regulated.

    1. Lucky you!! I may have inherited great skin but I destroyed it during my youth and am dealing with the damage now

      1. Jennifer, have you tried skin cycling? I’m not on tik too but it’s all over that from a dermatologist from New York. It seems to simplify what to use when which I like.

        What foundation do you use? Would you do an update on makeup?

      2. I’ve heard of it snd I think I do a version of it naturally. Yes I’ll update my makeup soon.

    2. I used to use Cetaphil to wash my face , but discovered it was making my rosacea worse. I use Cereve hydrating facial wash now and you can really feel the difference . Give it a try and see what you think. I’ll never use anything else.

  22. Thanks for breaking this info down for us so thoroughly, Jennifer. It’s funny, I hadn’t thought of my skin as particularly sensitive, but find I can only use an over the counter moisturizer with retinol once a week or so before it cries uncle. Not an acid, but cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen spray via a dermatologist) zaps sun spots anywhere on the body/face/hands even though it means looking scabby for a couple of weeks, but then they’re gone and don’t come back.

    1. I have to get things burned off occasionally but I always depigment when I do and have a permanent white spot so we try to use that judiciously on my sensitive skin.

      1. Oh gee, I’m sorry to hear that happens to you. Everyone’s skin sure is different.

  23. Marie Anderson says:

    I also use a mask with acids in it. I leave it on when I have extra time, such as when I am processing hair color. I also use it in my hands, very effective. I am a regular user of Vitamin C and retinoid. I use the stronger acids overnight. My daily routine includes sunscreen, SPF of 30. Thank you for this great blog.

    1. I’ve moved up to a SPF of nothing less than 45 and find my skin needs it

  24. Thank you for saying which don’t do well together, that’s helpful, but are some more effective when used before or after another product? I could make this more complicated than it needs to be, so would you please describe the regimen you use? Are they all daily? I have prescription for atrolin (tretinoid) and finacia (azaleac acid), which I use randomly. I own some of the others but have no clue how best to use them! Thank you in advance for your help!

    1. I use mine when needed which sounds dumb, I know. I let the condition of my skin be my guide. If I’m having a rosacea breakout, the axel six axis goes in first and I skip my C and Retinol. I use my retinol in the evening and I put it on last. It seems intense enough to go through everything:)
      In the am, C goes on right after I wash because I want it closest to my skin.
      Then the conventional wisdom is to start with thinnest serums first then move on to heavier lotions.

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