I don't remember when I first found out I was a Fitzpatrick Type II. According to the Fitzpatrick Scale, developed in 1975 by a Harvard dermatologist to classify skin types, I'm a fair person who shouldn't have ever tried to tan. (Damn you, bronzed 1980s!) Maybe that's why, in my later 40s, I'm spotty, a little saggy in the cheeks and seeing lines creep in.
Much of this is caused by the environment, mainly ultraviolet rays; it's called extrinsic aging. Other factors are smoking (not in my case), lack of sleep, a poor diet and repeated expressions (guilty!). Intrinsic aging, which happens naturally as skin cell turnover slows down, doesn't help. But I've learned it's never too late to press rewind (I even tried Botox!). Find your own skin fixes here.
I want line-free skin
Sun protection is key, says New York City dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, MD. Use a broad-spectrum block that stops line-causing UVA rays. Then fight back with retinoids, which fill fine lines by boosting collagen, and an antioxidant-rich moisturizer.
Anti-aging moisturizer with sunscreen. Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion AM moisturizer SPF 30 ($78; peterthomasroth.com) offers sun protection, plus a time-release formula that lets you incorporate line-busting retinol into your daytime routine.
Retinol serum. Retinoids can irritate, so start out by applying just a pea-size dab to your entire face three nights a week, then increase frequency. One that's not harsh on skin: La Roche- Posay Redermic R treatment ($56; laroche-posay.us).
Heavy-duty night cream. Skin loses antioxidants (which fight the damage that leads to lines) during the day, so you should aim to replenish them at night. Enter Estée Lauder Advanced Time Zone Night Creme ($70; esteelauder.com), with rhodochrosite extract.
The office option: Injectable botulinum toxins are really the gold standard, but you may also consider Fraxel Restore, a minimally invasive laser that evens fine lines and texture.
I want hydrated and supple skin
Because oil production and cell turnover slow down with age, skin gets drier and duller. To help moisturizers penetrate, exfoliate regularly, advises New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. Follow with mega hydrators, morning and night.
Exfoliating cleanser. Olay Regenerist Advanced Anti-Aging Regenerating cream cleanser ($22; at mass retailers) contains gentle exfoliators (beads and salicylic acid) in a creamy base that's mild enough to use every day.
A.M. moisturizer. Your daily sunscreen can also work as your morning moisture boost: L'Oréal Paris Ideal Moisture Day lotion SPF 25 ($7; lorealparisusa.com) has glycerin and dimethicone to help lock in hydration.
P.M. moisturizer. SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque ($54; skinceuticals.com) is packed with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid. After wearing the mask for 15 minutes, massage in the remainder. Voilà, rich night cream!
The office option: If you're really dry, ask your dermatologist about new prescription creams containing ceramides or hyaluronic acid, says Dr. Fusco.
I want clear skin
Blame hormonal changes for breakouts in your 30s and 40s (as you go on and off birth control pills, have babies or segue into perimenopause). Use products for mature skin, and no squeezing zits: "As we get older, the marks take longer to clear," says Dr. Day.
Gentle exfoliating wash. Noxzema Clean Blemish Control Daily scrub ($5; at mass retailers), with salicylic acid, was specially formulated for adult skin to gently exfoliate without overdrying.
Oil-free moisturizer. Look for soothers, like calendula extract, found in Nuance Salma Hayek Ageless Clarity Acne Treatment moisturizer ($17; cvs.com), along with salicylic acid.
Spot treatment. Neutrogena All-In-1 Acne Control Facial treatment ($11; at mass retailers) uses soy to fade marks from past breakouts and vitamin A and salicylic acid to fight new zits.
The office option: "Medications that help include topical and oral antibiotics and retinoids, oral contraceptives and a drug called spironolactone," says Dr. Hale, who also uses peels containing salicylic acid, lasers (Isolaz or Smoothbeam) or photodynamic therapy to help clear skin.
I want even skin tone
Freckles and age spots happen in direct proportion to cumulative sun exposure, explains Dr. Fusco. Look for products with vitamin C, kojic acid or licorice root. And once you've gone to the trouble of lightening spots, preserve the results with good sunscreen habits.
Brightening cleanser. Garnier The Radiance Renewer Cleansing Gelée ($7; at mass retailers) contains citrus extracts (aka vitamin C) for brightening, as well as hydroxy acids for exfoliating.
Sunscreen plus moisturizer. Any SPF 30 or above sunscreen will help prevent new spots, but one with botanical extracts, like L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening Shield SPF 40 ($58; loccitane.com), also lightens existing ones.
Spot fader. Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector ($50 for 1 oz.; clinique.com) could save a trip to the dermatologist. It uses vitamin C, plant extracts and yeast extract to clear spots.
The office option: "The single best treatment for isolated sun spots is the Q-switched Ruby laser," says Dr. Hale. "One treatment usually gets rid of them." It will set you back $400 to $800.