If you've ever seen one of those wrinkle time-lapse videos then you know how scary it can be to watch a face age.  Even more scaring is waking up one morning, taking a glance in the mirror and seeing what looks like "instant ageing";  lines and wrinkles that seem to appear overnight.  The inconvenient truth is that eventually every face will show wrinkles and signs of ageing.

Now as scary as that sounds, it doesn’t need to be: by knowing what to expect you can take steps to reduce or delay the impact of facial ageing, including wrinkles and folds.

While many treatments you can do on your own, even on a limited budget, some do require somewhat costly professional care. When this is the case, remember that the earlier you start the better.  Equally important is that you don't try to cut corners by getting medical treatments in non-medical facilities. Instead, always seek out the care and advice of a certified medical practitioner, specialized in anti-ageing, before embarking on any professional treatments.

To help you safely get started on your anti-ageing journey we found the following timeline of how your face ages and what you can do, both on your own and with the help of your doctor, every step of the way.

As you head from the teens into young adulthood, your face shows it with a more "womanly" look.  You lost the baby fat and while the changes are subtle, overall you begin to look less like a girl and more like a woman.

But that new womanly appeal also triggers the start of facial ageing. This is the decade when the very early signs of what we call “dynamic wrinkles” start to appear: lines and creases related to movement.  And the first place they appear is the forehead.  In addition, if you spent a lot of time in the sun in your childhood, you may notice the appearance of "crow's feet": those tiny expression lines around the eyes.

Young women also need to be on the lookout for melasma: a brown discoloration that appears across the cheeks. This condition is typically due to a combination of sun exposure, pregnancy and hormones (including anti-conception pills), plus exposure to certain antibiotics during childhood.

Home care: To keep your youthful glow avoid the sun and be scrupulous about wearing a good sun block when you are outside. What you do in your 20’s will reflect how you will look in your 40’s, 50’s and after and wearing a good sun protecting cream is essential. Sunscreen also helps to reduce the risk of melasma or, at least, keep it better under control.

Start using moisturizers regularly, but choose light products: gel-based and oil free, particularly if you are still suffering from acne breakouts you experienced as a teen.  This is also the time to begin using retinol-based skin care products. You should use them twice a week beginning in your 20’s.

Medical care: If you find yourself still having to deal with some acne leftovers from teenage years, there are professional treatments that can help quickly. A combination of lasers and other light devices offer a new kind of treatment that clears the skin.  There are also chemical peeling products which offer less radical but steady relief and of course there is specific medication available.

Acne scars can be treated, again, with lasers and light devices.  Disk Needle Mesotherapy is also successful in treating acne scars while injections with Restylane® Vital or Restylane® Vital Light show to be very efficient. 

In the second half of your twenties we advise you to start regular and light medical treatments, such as Restylane® Vital Light injections, mesotherapy with hyaluronic acid and vitamin cocktails, superficial chemical peelings and even some drops of Botox or Dysport.  These will prove to be an excellent investment in the future development of your skin.

If melasma is a problem, laser treatments or specific chemical peelings are the most effective action to take. 

While you still retain much of your youthful look, this is the decade when you may start noticing that your skin looks tired and less radiant.  You will also begin to notice real crow's feet around your eyes and previous sun damage may exacerbate the start of small brown spots (pigmentation). You may also begin to see dilated blood vessels (vascular lesions), particularly on the sides of your nose.

You should also be prepared to face the appearance of frown lines between your eyebrows (vertical) and on your forehead (horizontal) as well as shadows forming in the triangular area between your nose and the corners of your mouth (nasolabial folds) and smile lines on the both sides of your mouth and even on your cheeks.

Home care: Increase the use of retinol-based products to three or four times a week, and if you're still using oil-free moisturizers and foundations, get rid of them.  This is the decade you need to get serious about using moisturizers, so choose one that is light but does have some oil, because your skin needs that and be sure to continue using daily a good and effective sunscreen.

Medical care: If brown spots are your problem, nip them in the bud with a chemical peel combined with specific medical lighting creams which your doctor will prescribe.

The only treatment for visible blood vessels on the face (or elsewhere) is with lasers or other light based devices.  There are no alternative effective treatments for the time being.

While it may seem a bit early to consider serious anti-ageing treatments, still this is the decade to go after those frown lines and wrinkles with muscle relaxers like Dysport or Botox and combat the appearing nasolabial folds with a dermal filler like Perlane™, Restylane® or Restylane® Vital.

And you can always give your face an overall boost of youth with micro dermabrasion, chemical peels and mesotherapy. Restylane® Vital or Restylane® Vital Light can at the same time help you to get rid of small imperfections and keep that youthful glow a few years longer.

We also advise, as from your mid-thirties, to consider a first Thermage® treatment.  Thermage® is the only non-invasive procedure available that uses radiofrequency which sends heat deep into the skin, down to the subcutaneous level, where it reactivates the elasticity of your collagen, promoting skin tightening and growth of new collagen.  (More information on this website under: Medical Treatments/Thermage).

The argument for having these treatments this soon is that first of all, you need very little to get a very good result and secondly there is increasing evidence that if you start at this age you can actually stop things from getting worse. And in the long run you will need much, much less to maintain a youthful appearance.

The best way to optimize results and ensure safety, at any age, is to seek treatment with a certified medical practitioner, specialized and experienced in anti-ageing treatments.

As you enter your 40’s, lines begin to appear around the upper lip and if you smoke, they will come faster and deeper. Be prepared to see also more wrinkles in your forehead and crow's feet around your eyes, plus a deepening of the smile lines and the nasolabial folds.

Home care: Moisturizers need to be richer and thicker and if you haven't already started: use a good night cream.  The reason is that when we sleep our body goes through a natural rejuvenation process. We're also not exposed to all the dirt and pollution that assaults our skin during the day. So, products used at night tend to get into the skin a little bit better and offer better results.

This is also the decade when you may benefit most from using an antioxidant skin care product. And keep using retinol-based creams, increasing the frequency to four or five times a week.

Avoid the sun as much as possible and even then use always a strong sun protecting cream.  Don’t smoke or, at least, try to reduce smoking or to give it up completely.

Medical Care: To treat lines on the upper lip, experts say the synergistic effects of Botox/Dysport and Restylane® injections can work miracles, leaving at least a decade of ageing skin behind. So can chemical peels and fractional laser treatments, which can literally take years off your appearance around the lips and eyes.  And the specific Thermage® Eyes treatment (area around the eyes + eyelids) will provide at this stage exceptionally good results.

If you've minimized sun exposure and used sunscreen, you can expect to glide into your 50’s and 60’s with your skin looking pretty good. If not, you will likely be facing the cumulative effects of sun damage and ageing, which include not only a deepening of lines and wrinkles, but also a massive breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, the support structures that hold up your skin.

This usually results in a drooping of the face and your skin getting loose. Moreover, as you age, you lose some of the fat beneath your skin, which also contributes to a loss of structure, as well as making your skin thinner and more translucent. This can cause blood vessels just below the surface to look more prominent and your skin to look discolored.

In addition pigmentation spots that went untreated in the past will become more prominent now, while new ones continue to appear. Moreover, a drop in estrogen that occurs during the 50’s will cause skin to look and feel drier, making lines and wrinkles look deeper and more prominent.

During your 50’s also the effects of gravity really kick in, so in addition to treating lines, wrinkles and folds, you also need to focus on treatments that tighten the skin.

Home care: Increase the use of rich moisturizers and if you've been a soap-and-water lady: stop immediately and start using a gentle non-drying cleanser on your face and neck. And continue to use retinol-based products five to six times per week.

Medical care: If you haven't tried Botox, wrinkle filling injections or fractional laser treatments in the past, experts say that this is your last chance to start. It is also the ultimate time to consider skin-tightening treatments like Thermage: the non-surgical way of lifting the skin.  Thermage® shows excellent results when used on the face, around the eyes and on the eyelids, but also on hands, arms, belly, buttocks and thighs and above the knees.

In fact experts say that if this is something you've been considering, once you hit the age of 50 sooner is better than later.  If you haven't done any skin-tightening treatment by the time you are 60, then most probably it will be too late. You will not get the desired effect and the only other option will be a facelift.

And while that is an option, it does require major surgery, including the use of anesthesia.  Besides, these are costly procedures that come with weeks of downtime. And you can only have one or two lifts in a lifetime. So it is best to hold it off as long as you can, using other, non-surgical options to buy more time.

We are all living longer, so the earlier we start professional care, the younger we will look as the years go by.

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