The Anti-Ageing Grooming Mistakes You’re Making (And What To Do Instead)
There is something both comforting and insulting about the words inscribed on the jar, the curt silver script doing little to soften the blow. “Anti-ageing” is a purposefully vague term, and yet it remains the unspoken force that quietly governs every skincare routine after the age of 30. At 40, I am intelligent enough to see what’s going on here – preying on an insecurity is a surefire way to sell a product – but I willingly take the bait.
Softer synonyms have surfaced over the years. The most suitable, slow ageing, implies a kinder, more subdued strategy. Rather than wrestle with a fictional rewind button or fall headfirst into an abyss of denial, it seems wiser to make small adjustments to your existing routine and lifestyle. Age, after all, isn’t something that needs to be fixed or cured so much as managed.
With that in mind, we felt it wise to take a closer look at the age-conscious choices we make with our 40+ grooming routines, and question whether we’re overcompensating or, worse yet, accelerating the inevitable by overlooking the fundamentals.
Never skip SPF
Ah, the folly of youth. For years you bathed in the sun with wild abandon and had no bills to pay. Little did you know that the cellular damage caused by UVA rays was invisible, the trauma lurking beneath the surface of the skin like some repressed childhood memory. And then, with no warning, the casualties decided to make themselves known – sunspots and all – on an idle Wednesday on the cusp of your fourth decade… Sorry, where was I?
In any case, sun exposure is by far the most efficient way to accelerate ageing and, paradoxically, we can’t escape it. This is why men of a certain age need to let go of the idea of sunscreen as a protective, seasonal product and start thinking of it as a daily, anti-ageing measure – even on overcast days in winter. All that money spent on age-defying moisturisers is wasted if an SPF isn’t part of your daily routine.
UVA rays are efficient at breaking down collagen and elastin, dismantling the scaffolding underneath your skin and fast-tracking the appearance of sagging and wrinkles. You can also attribute pigmentation and broken blood vessels to sun exposure, both of which, I can attest, are difficult, costly and painful to shift, even with medical interventions such as Intense Pulsed Light treatment.
SPF should be the final step of your standard grooming routine, but if the idea of putting suncream over your moisturiser has your skin feeling oily just thinking about it, simply opt for a moisturiser with a sunscreen that’s “built in”, such as Clinique’s Broad Spectrum SPF21 moisturiser or Anthony’s SPF30 Day Cream.
Don’t neglect your hands
Limiting your grooming regimen to your face is a rookie error. Wrinkled hands will swiftly undermine the most artfully botoxed foreheads, a cosmetic non sequitur of epic proportions. After all, what use is a face like Mr Timothée Chalamet’s if it is paired with the mitts of Mr Burns?
As the years progress, the fat on the back of the hand starts to thin out and the degradation of elastin – much like the elastin in our faces – ends up making the skin thinner and weaker. Couple that with incessant washing (hi, Covid-19), cleaning products, barbell lifting, DIY and sun exposure and it’s no surprise that hands are prone to accelerated ageing. It pays to treat them with the same diligence that you reserve for your face.
Hands need to be moisturised on a daily basis to make up for the lipids that are stripped with regular washing. To that end, it’s worth ditching harsh soaps and replacing them with something gentler – if you wouldn’t use it on your face, don’t use it on your hands. Aesop’s Resurrection Hand Wash has become a cult product on the back of its eye-pleasing packaging but equally important are the ingredients, which won’t disrupt skin pH. Last but by no means least, protect your hands with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to keep age spots at bay.
Resist tactical hairstyles
It is the middle stages of hair loss that are the hardest to manage, let alone accept. According to stats from the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, follicular betrayal strikes 40 per cent of men by the time they reach 35, and a fair few will attempt to “style it out”. It’s a tactic that ends up drawing more attention to the very thing that wants concealing. “As a man who went through the various stages of thinning – and eventually through the balding stage – I know from experience that all those thickening products and shampoos are futile if the breeze catches you at the wrong angle,” says Mr Darren Fowler, creative director of London salon Fowler35.
While there’s a lot to be said for beating genetics to the punch and shaving off whatever’s left, as Mr Justin Quirk has already pointed out in his guide to embracing baldness, few of us will be ready to take the leap until it’s absolutely necessary. To keep your scalp in prime condition and to prevent any additional loss, look to products such as Sisley’s Revitalising Fortifying Serum, which should be used every two days for a month, and then twice a week for two months for maintenance.
For men who have the time and the money to spend, there is also FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction), otherwise known as a hair transplant. It’s a procedure that involves the removal of individual hairs from a donor area (such as the back of the head) only to transplant them in patches that are less dense. From there, it’s a natural uptake and sparse areas fill out naturally over the following months. It is a painstaking process performed by surgeons such as Dr Christopher D’Souza, but one that yields plausible, long-lasting results in a relatively short period of time.
Prices from £4,000, thedsouzaclinic.com
Don’t just rely on topical creams
The relentless revision of age-defying technology means there’s a new “breakthrough” ingredient on the market almost every year (bakuchiol, a retinol alternative said to reduce fine lines and hyperpigmentation, is the current_ mot du jour_). And while today’s topical creams can make a tangible difference, their effects are restricted to the superficial layers of the skin. To make a long-term difference, we need to get under the bonnet, as it were, and supply cells with the right ingredients. This is where a new generation of skin boosters, namely injectable moisturisers, come in.
Unlike botox or fillers, these treatments don’t change the shape, volume or musculature of the face in any way. For the most part, they’re made of hyaluronic acid, a molecule that occurs naturally in the skin and is unlikely to cause any kind of adverse reaction. “The hyaluronic acid contained in boosters has a watery or light gel form that’s quite unlike fillers,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr David Jack. “It also has a high molecular weight which makes it good at capturing water molecules [and thereby hydrating the skin],” he adds. Cosmetically, this amounts to plumper, healthier-looking skin as well as fewer fine lines caused by dehydration.
Don’t forgo a nighttime routine
Your skin works the hardest when you’re asleep, and therein lies an opportunity to reap major dividends from an appropriate skincare regimen. Not only does skin metabolism peak during the night, but when the body is allowed to rest, the brain triggers the release of growth hormones that prioritise the body’s healing processes, including skin-cell regeneration and the production of collagen. In other words, this means that any products you’re using at night will have more of an effect.
Without your skin having to defend itself against UV, pollution or environmental aggressors, it can take full advantage of antioxidant-based formulas that offset the damage incurred during the day. Invest in the products specifically targeted for the midnight hours, such as Dr. Barbara Sturm’s antioxidant-infused Night Serum or Dr Sebagh’s Supreme Night Secret, which contains a “chronobiological cell stimulant” to speed up the skin’s natural processes and thereby reveal a brighter-looking you by sunrise.
Illustrations by Mr Frank Moth