From fine lines in your 30s to pigmentation in your 40s and crepiness in your 60s, the award-winning beauty expert presents her all-decades guide for dealing with the after-effects of too much sun

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“Sun damage will always catch up with you,” beauty expert Alison Young ominously warns us and with her 30 years in the beauty industry, we take heed of her cautionary words. While in decades gone by, a tan was a marker of health (and wealth), now, people are wising up to the fact that it’s anything but.

As Alison explains, the colour change is an indicator that your body’s natural defence mechanism is kicking in. “The browning of the skin is a sign of trauma, where the UVA/UVB rays have ignited melanin production in our skin cells to absorb the radiation causing an inflammation and histamine reaction – a sun tan is the skin’s way of protecting itself. Ultimately, there is no such thing as a damage-free sun tan, unless it comes from a bottle.”

MORE GLOSS: 10 top tips for flawless self-tanning

When skin burns, it can cause serious long-term cell memory damage, the cosmetic effects of which can manifest themselves in the short and long-term (and more importantly, lead to an increased chance of developing skin cancer too). “When the sun’s rays go through the skin, they snap the collagen and elastin and degenerate the fibroblast renewal process which creates the mattress of the skin,” explains Alison.

“The first signs of sun damage will initially appear as dehydration or thickening of the skin but you won’t notice the true effects of sun damage until about 10 years later. You may think that being a sun worshipper in your 20s isn’t making a difference but as soon as you hit your 30s, you will begin to notice premature wrinkles and deepened lines, pigmentation in your 40s, and in the later years most likely slackened, lined and crepey skin.”

It’s a trajectory that wearing year-long SPF (check out some of our favourite sunscreens here ) and not going overboard with sun exposure can help prevent from escalating. However, what can you do if the damage has already been done? Thankfully, there are some skincare switch-ups that can help offset some of the effects - just don’t expect miracles. “We need to be realistic when it comes to the results our skincare can provide,” says Alison. “We’re not supposed to have totally line-free ‘thunderbird puppet’ skin that we’ve become used to seeing as a result of the cosmetic procedures available today.

“If you have spent too much time in the sun, your skin will have elements of sun damage but if you treat it accordingly and keep it as healthy as possible, it can look great.”

We asked Alison for her top sun damage SOS product and range picks for those in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, to accompany your sunscreen of choice.

In your 20s

“In your 20s, dehydration and sensitivity are the main causes of concern from sun exposure. For this age group, you need to focus on protection and having a good cleansing and hydrating routine in place.”

Alison’s top product picks

Decleor Hydra Floral Everfresh Hydrating Light Cream , £19.40 for 30ml

“You don’t need expensive or advanced anti-ageing ingredients in your twenties. This is a great, hydrating moisturiser to be used daily, especially after sun exposure.”

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Liz Earle Cleanse + Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser , £15.50 for 100ml

“Cleansing is crucial for this age group. It’s necessary to remove any long-wear makeup  and SPF, especially as women in their 20s will still be experiencing hormonal spots from changes in their hormonal contraceptives and potentially pregnancies. This cleanser will do the job wonderfully.”

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IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream SPF 50+ , £32 for 32ml

“This is a great all-in-one for those who haven’t got sun protection high on their agenda. If you want Instagram filter-esque coverage with the added benefit of SPF protection, then this is fantastic.”

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MORE GLOSS: The best sun creams for sensitive skin

In your 30s

“Your 30s are when you will first start noticing the long-term effects of sun damage - fine lines around the eyes and possibly pigmentation which can be exacerbated by hormonal changes.”

Alison’s top product picks

Sarah Chapman Skinesis Intense Hydrating Booster , £64 for 30ml

“This is the time to start using ‘zoning’ products – specific products used to target the eye area. The all-in-one products you were using in your 20s aren’t enough in your 30s. Add this serum into your existing routine (twice a day before your moisturiser) to tackle dehydration lines around the eyes and face.”

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Pixi Glow Tonic , £18 for 250ml

“Use Pixi Glow Tonic once a day in the evening to treat pigmentation issues. As a general rule, you should avoid the sun entirely when using any acid or product used to treat pigmentation. For best results, start these treatments in the autumn or winter, and always apply an SPF 50 the next day. If you are using these in the summer, you must keep your face out of the sun – wear a hat or keep your face in the shade otherwise you’ll exacerbate the issue you’re trying to treat.”

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Ren Rosa Centifolia range , from £15

“Your 30s are a good time to start using coordinating brand ranges – Ren’s gentle Rosa Centifolia is a good place to start for this age group, with solutions for each skin type and a heavenly rose scent.”

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In your 40s

“Your 40s are when you will start seeing more obvious, deepened lines from sun damage. Predominantly ones on the forehead, crow’s feet and eyelids.”

Alison’s top product picks

Elemis Pro-Collagen Overnight Matrix , £148 for 50ml

“Freckle blurring can also be an issue. Now is definitely the time to start adding in powerful night treatments such as this one. You’ll notice the skin start to recover quicker.”

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Alpha H Liquid Gold , £33.50 for 100ml

“If you’re able to use acids on the skin, use this night toner/serum to minimise pigmentation, freckle blurring and the thickening of the skin from sun damage. With five per cent glycolic acid, it works to resurface the skin and boost collagen and elastin production.”

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MORE GLOSS: A guide to using exfoliating acids in your skincare regime

Time Bomb Over-Exposed Sun Damage Rescue , £40 for 40ml

“For those who have sensitive skin  or for other reasons aren’t able to use acids, this is a fantastic option for skin recovery from sun damage. The rich formula contains an antioxidant called pycnogenol which works on skin pigment intensity and an ingredient called Omega9XEster (a vegetable-derived emollient) which is able to penetrate deep into the skin and counteract the rough, leathery texture associated with sun exposure.”

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“If you’ve really overexposed your skin to the sun in your early years, then you can benefit from introducing a retinol  into your skincare regime in your late 30s/early 40s. Remember retinol is an aggressor so if you do get a flare-up or reaction, you shouldn’t stop use altogether. If this happens, lessen your dosage and frequency of application.

"BeautyBio has a retinol R45 Reversal  system £150, which contains three different dosages of retinol. This type of treatment contains slow-release microencapsulated retinol and allows you to build up your dosage so your skin can become acclimatised to the ingredient, helping to avoid the flaking that usually occurs when starting off with retinols. You can slot this into your existing routine and you only need to use it once or twice a year. Brands such as  Environ  also do very good salon-grade formulations.”

MORE GLOSS: The best retinol body products

BeautyBio GlowPro Microneedling Regeneration Tool , £175

“In terms of treatments, microneedling  is something you can really benefit from in your 40s and upwards. This is a treatment which consists of tiny needles puncturing the dermis to boost your skin’s own regeneration process. You can buy the BeautyBio GlowPro instead, an at-home microneedling device to stimulate collagen and elastin production for plumper, brighter skin.”

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MORE GLOSS: The skincare to use when you're microneedling

“When it comes to the more ‘advanced’ treatments like retinols or microneedling, it’s important to note that these shouldn’t be carried out straight after sun exposure – you don’t want to immediately cause further trauma to the skin. Instead, opt for these treatments in the autumn or winter time.”

In your 50s

“Those who have experienced sun damage and are in their 50s are often concerned about slackening of the skin all over the face and chest, crepey lines, eyelid sagging and laughter lines. If you’re also going through the menopause , be wary that it can cause sensitivity, so be careful about putting active ingredients on your skin.”

Alison’s top product picks

Gatineau Age Benefit , from £20

“Sensitive menopausal skin  can’t take too many actives at this time so stick with products and ranges aimed at your age range like Gatineau’s Age Benefit collection which has been designed for skin that has damage to both the internal and external layers.”

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Jane Scrivner Intense Oil Repair Restore Facial Oil , £25 for 30ml

“Jane Scrivner Intense Oil contains 100 per cent single estate rosa mosqueta oil which will be gentle on sensitive skin while working to repair sun damage, pigmentation and dryness.”

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Ultrasun Anti-Pigmentation SPF 50+ , £32 for 50ml

“This should be worn all year round – it’s gentle for sensitised skin, will protect you from UVA/UVB damage and improve any existing pigmentation thanks to illumiscin [stabilised vitamin C  in the form of ascorbyl glucoside] and asyntra SL.”

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L(A)B Prolift+ , £260

“While your skin might not be able to take active ingredients, you will be able to use non-invasive at-home beauty devices like the L(A)B Prolift+. This device can really make a difference. It uses galvanic current, red and blue light therapy and you can use your existing skincare alongside the treatment.”

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In your 60s

“In your 60s, you’ll be experiencing the same issues as those in your 50s but most likely with added crepiness of the eye and neck area. Many women in their 60s who have experienced sun damage will also experience thinning skin.”

Alison’s top product picks

Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel , £35 for 50ml

“You still need to be regularly exfoliating your skin in your 60s to encourage and speed up cell turnover, but the skin may be too thin for mechanical dermabrasion. Instead, opt for a gentler chemical exfoliation like Elemis’ Papaya Enzyme Peel. The fruit enzymes will work to chemically break down the surface layer of dead, dull skin.”

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Prai Ageless Throat and Decolletage Creme , £24.99 for 50ml

“Treat the neck and décolleté  area with targeted formulas like this one. It has shea butter to intensely hydrate as well as fruit extracts to work on pigmentation and discolouration.”

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Lancome Advanced Genifique , £59.50 for 30ml

“Dullness is a common concern for women in their 60s. Lancome’s Advanced Genefique contains patented technology with lots of antioxidants to boost skin’s vitality and energy.”

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In your 70s

“When you get into your 70s, ageing in the form of crepiness continues to develop into what is called hashtag ageing (like the # symbol) mostly on the chest, décolleté and cheeks. This can be accelerated from earlier sun damage.”

Alison’s top product picks

Korres White Pine Meno-Reverse Volumizing Serum-In-Moisturiser , £47 for 40ml

"Designed for mature and post-menopause skin this is designed to promote collagen production and and improve the look of deep-set wrinkles."

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Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser , £42 for 50ml

“This will keep the skin nourished and hydrated.”

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In your 80s

“For women in their 80s, skin will be fragile and slow to heal. Now is the time to go back to simple, clean and ‘free-from’ skincare formulas. You want to focus on softening and hydrating the skin.”

Neal’s Yard Rosehip Oil, £17.50 for 50ml

“Neal’s Yard has a great extraction process so you can feel confident that you’re using a quality oil on your skin.”

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Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Facial Oil , £67 for 15ml

"This light oil is non-greasy and plumps out deep lines and wrinkles to create a smoother, luminous complexion"

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Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture , £60 for 50ml

"This ultra-thirst quenching moisturiser keeps dryness at bay without being heavy or greasy."

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Read more: Alison Young on how to do ‘invisible’ makeup

Follow Alison  @aliyoungbeauty  and Ayesha  @Ayesha_Muttu .