For 20-somethings, turning 30 is an event that's either feared or a milestone they're looking forward to reaching. Whether you're the former or the latter, entering the new decade isn't just a personal turning point but also signals it's time to change up your skincare routine, too. After all, you aren't the same person you were when you turned 20—and neither is your skin.
Switching out your products while you're riding out the last few months of 20s is one approach to altering your skincare routine to fit your new age bracket, but your complexion's needs are drastically different in your early 20s versus your late 20s. Whether you're concerned about preventing visible signs of aging (which is totally fine if you do!) or want to simply preserve your complexion's health.
“The major issue that seems to change in the skin from your early to late 20s is an increase in skin dryness,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “Younger skin tends to be well hydrated and even oily, but with age, many people find that they need to start using a moisturizer, even if they never used one before.”
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In addition to moisturizer, New York-based dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler says that if you don't apply sunscreen daily, start now. "If necessary, use anti-acne washes and formulas, exfoliants, antioxidant serums, or retinoid/retinol formulas. I recommend twenty-year-olds who have had a lot of sun exposure use a night cream containing retinols or retinoids. This will help with visible signs of aging early on."
When you hit 30, Dr. Wechsler stresses that along with moisturizing and wearing sunscreen, you should continue not picking at your blemishes. Dr. Zeichner suggests adding a retinol cream to your routine if you haven't already and wrinkles are a concern to you.
So, why is taking good care of your complexion in your 20s so important? Both dermatologists agree that preventing skin damaging is easier than reversing it. "Skin ages with time and with exposure to environmental factors like sunlight and pollution. The stronger the skin foundation you put in place when you are young, the better your starting point for aging will be," says Dr. Zeichner.
To answer the question of "what products should I be using before I turn 30?", we rounded up the basics you should have in your skincare routine in both your early and late 20s. Yup, this is what you'd call adulting.
1. Early 20s: Chanel UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily Defense Sunscreen Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum SPF 50
"Sunscreen should be worn daily unless there is zero chance of the person having sun exposure that day," says Dr. Wechsler. "It should be applied 30 min before sun exposure for chemical sunscreens and anytime for physical ones."
Her pick: Chanel's UV Essentiel SPF 50. "I discovered it when I started consulting with Chanel on their skincare line in 2010. I love it because it has 17.1% zinc oxide, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and because it's the most cosmetically elegant sunscreen I have ever used," she explains. "It doesn't clog pores, doesn't have a greasy feel, and it's sweat-resistant."
Chanel | $55
2. Early 20s: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Moisturizing Gel
A moisturizer that's a light gel or lotion will hydrate younger skin without feeling heavy or greasy like Neutrogena's hyaluronic acid-back formula. "Hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge to pull in hydration to the outer skin layer," says Dr. Zeichner.
Neutrogena | $18
3. Early 20s: Vaseline Instensive Care Hand & Body Lotion
Your face isn't the only place that needs hydration. Dr. Zeichner suggests making body moisturizing a part of your regular skincare routine. A lotion with petroleum jelly in it like Vaseline's will do just the trick. "Purified petrolatum provides a protective seal over the skin to prevent water loss and allow dry skin to repair itself," he explains.
Vaseline | $8
4. Early 20s: Aveeno Positivily Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer With SPF 50
Although our skin's circadian rhythm tends to make it more dehydrated at night, it's still important to moisturize in the morning, too. Dr. Wechsler recommends using a product during the daytime hours that also offers SPF 50 protection. We love Aveeno's lightweight formula, which hydrates skin in addition to improving texture, tone, and glow.
Aveeno | $13
5. Late 20s: La Roce Posay Anthelios 60 Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen
"Once you hit your late 20s, some things don’t change—like the importance of wearing sunscreen. “Sunscreen is by far the most important anti-aging product you can use,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection like La Roche Posay’s.”
La Roche Posay | $20
6. Late 20s: Elemis White Brightening Even Tone Serum
Along with your morning and evening moisturizers, start incorporating a vitamin C serum into your routine.
“As you move into your 30s, antioxidant defenses start to decline. Antioxidants are like fire extinguishers that prevent free radicals from damaging collagen which lead to wrinkling,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Layer an antioxidant beneath your sunscreen in the morning to give an added benefit in the morning. Some antioxidants like Vitamin C found in Elemis’s serum also helps improve skin tone, as it interferes with abnormal pigment production and can lighten dark spots.”
Elemis | $98
7. Late 20s: RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream
Going into your 30s, if your concerned about fine lines and wrinkles, retinol will become the hero product in your routine. "This vitamin A derivative stimulates collagen production to repair damaged skin and improves the appearance of wrinkles,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “It essentially thickens the skin's foundation.” Choose a mild form of retinol like RoC's Night Cream which will be gentle enough for someone who's just starting out with retinol products in their late 20s-early 30s.
Roc | $24