Changes in a woman’s skin as she ages can be bothersome. Fine lines and wrinkles start to appear, while firmness and natural glow diminish, and adult acne may emerge. Fortunately, there are effective weapons available to fight these signs of aging, thanks to innovative skincare products.

“Genetics largely determine how we age,” says Dr. Sonya Abdulla, a Toronto-based dermatologist at Dermatology on Bloor. “There isn’t anything we can do about them, but we can address the effects they have on skin, such as wrinkles, increased pore size, acne, and a lack of luminosity.”

She suggests using a skincare regime with two key components — prevention and correction. Preventative products include broad-spectrum sunscreen and moisturizers to keep aging skin, which tends to be drier, well hydrated.

Corrective products can help undo some of the damage that comes with the natural aging process, as well as external stressors, such as UV rays, pollution, stress, and poor diet and sleep habits. These can result in freckling and brown spots, dull-looking skin, and an acceleration of fine lines and wrinkles.

In the 1970s, while doing studies on acne, Philadelphia-based dermatologist Dr. Albert Kligman discovered that topical retinoids (formulated with derivatives of vitamin A) helped improve the appearance of skin. Through the decades, research has proven that retinoids minimize lines, ease inflammation, decrease the production of sebum (good for combating acne), and smooth the skin.

Addressing the needs of aging skin on multiple levels

“Retinols and retinoids act as chemical exfoliants that gently speed up the natural process of shedding skin cells,” Dr. Abdulla explains. “They work on the stratum corneum — the uppermost layers of the skin — but also at the deeper dermis level. They stimulate collagen, an important component in skin cell structure, which becomes sluggish with age.”

She recommends that her patients adopt skincare routines that focus on prevention in the morning and correction at night. It’s important to start the day by applying sunscreen or products with antioxidant ingredients (like vitamin C).

Before bedtime, once the face has been cleaned thoroughly and patted dry, a pea-sized amount of a topical retinoid can be applied. Over-the-counter preparations with lower concentrations of vitamin A, or other types of exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy or salicylic acids, are suitable for sensitive skin types, while prescription-strength retinol formulations work well on normal skin.

“Vitamin A-based formulations are the heavy hitters of skincare,” says Dr. Abdulla. “They improve the look of skin on many fronts.”