Skin care - what do you really need as you age?

Fiona Clark

Confused about what you need in you skincare regime? Dr Johanna Ward has the answers.


With so many brands and so much conflicting advice on what you ‘must have’ in a skin care regime it’s not surprising people are confused about what they should be doing to keep their skin in good health.

Fortunately Dr Johanna Ward, a self-confessed skin care ‘geek’, GP, cosmetic doctor and founder of the skin care brand ZENii, is here to help.

She has two main messages when it comes to skin care:

  1. keep it simple
  2. nourish your skin from the inside as well as outside.

“So many people are confused. You almost need a science degree to read a label and it is very noisy market. So, I just wanted to simplify things and it made sense to look at things from inside out because your skin doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s influence by diet, sleep, your stress levels, your hormone health”, she says.

“I think it’s lovely that there are so many conversations now about our hormones and menopause …  but for me the most important things is establishing a good, simple skin care regime.”


Dry and Sensitive skin

Many women find their skin becomes drier and more sensitive as they approach menopause.  Dr Ward Says there are a variety of things going on here.

“Our hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone are starting to decline and these hormones are chemical signallers for just about everything in our bodies from our heart, brain, bones and our skin. So, a lot of women find their skin changes. Some can get acne again and others can become drier and dehydrated because the oestrogen affects not only our collagen and elastin production [which helps keep our skin firmer] but also our production of something very important called hyaluronic acid. This is our skin’s natural hydrator. When we lose it we lose we lose the ability to keep the skin well hydrated.”

This, she says, is the reason why hyaluronic acid is such a buzz word in the skin care industry, because it’s “such a powerful way of getting hydration back into the skin.”

We also see changes in the barrier function of the skin which is protected by a fatty or lipid layer. If this is compromised it can make the skin drier and more sensitive.

“This is when it’s important to know when to pull back on your skin care”, Dr Ward says, as some of the ingredients we may normally use like glycolic acid may irritate and swap them out from something more soothing, like ceramides.

dr johanna ward skin care tips harley street emporium

Her skin care steps

Step 1. Cleanse AM and PM

“My approach is simple – good consistent, skin care. Cleanse and tone – this is the hallmark of good skin care. People often ask ‘why do I have to do it in the morning, what am I cleaning off’ but what we’re doing is removing the cellular debris … and pollution particles from the skin. So cleansing the skin morning and night – double cleanse at might to get rid of make up. You’re reminding the skin to function properly.”

So what cleanser do you choose?

If you skin is sensitive you may not tolerate a glycolic acid well, she says. Instead a poly-hydroxy acid cleanser may be better and it’s hydrating and much gentler on the skin.

She advises against scrubs with exfoliating particles as these can damage the skin barrier and make it drier and more sensitive.

If you have outbreaks you may be better off with a salicylic acid cleanser, she suggests. Salicylic acid helps unclog pores and help control oil production.

Step 2. Antioxidants

These are things like vitamin A, C, E, ferulic acid and what they do is reduce free-radical damage or inflammation in our cells.

“We know that inflammation ages our skin so what you want to do is flood the skin twice a day with antioxidants because they reduce the inflammation. … we are surrounded by pollution and UV radiation, so whatever we can do to prevent damage is best. I often say to my patients its much better to maintain that try to reclaim, so starting a good skin care regime early will always be better.”

Step 2. Hydration

This is where the hyaluronic acid comes in as well as ceramides – these are fatty acids that naturally occur in the skin care are vital for maintaining skin barrier function.


What about pigmentation?

Vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are great for pigmentation but when you add in niacimamide, or vitamin B3, it’s even better.

“Niacinamide is a great ingredient. It’s great for reducing redness, dryness, dehydration, pigmentation and preventing inflammation. We have it in our Antioxidant Power Serum. There are other things as well like kojic acid and vitamin A which are very good too for pigmentation,” she says.

In severe cases your physician can prescribe other topical skin products or treatments that can help if required.

Everyone, she says, should use some form of retinol cream, Dr Ward says.

“We use it at night because it’s a ‘true multitasker. It helps skin behave like young skin by turning over better. It’s great for pigmentation, improving the appearance of superficial scars, textural problems and fine lines and wrinkles as well as preventing acne.”

“It comes in lots of different strengths. I start people on low strengths because many people don’t tolerate it well initially. Generally I’d start people on it in their 30-40’s and slowly the build up the strength.”

The irritation people can experience if they don’t build up slowly includes redness, dryness and flakey. Using it every 2nd or 3rd day for the first few weeks can also help reduce irritation.


Dr Ward stresses that one of the most important things for aging skin and preventing pigmentation is daily sun protection.  

Other things that can help with skin texture in addition to retinol are the salicylic and glycolic acids as well as hyaluronic acid.

Dr Ward says she gives her clients yearly and 5 year plans for their skin. It includes their skin care regime as well as what they do at home. Eating well, exercising, reducing stress, not smoking or drinking too much alcohol are vital for good skin.

The other thing she says is that good skin care requires patience. It can take a few months a few months to start seeing improvements with your skincare.


You can see the full interview with Dr Ward here:

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