Just like retailers seem to roll out holiday merchandise earlier and earlier every year, the age to start your preventative anti-aging routine keeps getting pushed up. To clear up the facts once and for all, we spoke to famed esthetician Renee Rouleau, who says, depending on your skin type, the age can vary. "Anti-aging products, particularly those with antioxidants, can be used as early as age 21, but the most important thing is to use anti-aging products that are appropriate for your skin type," Rouleau says. Generally, anti-aging skin care is targeted to treat drier complexions. That is, if your skin is on the regularly parched side, feel free to dive into this category earlier. Oily complexions may find some anti-aging serums or creams a touch too much. "If your skin is very dry, you need intensive, lipid-rich oils, but normal, combination, acne-prone, and oily skin types do not need this," Rouleau adds. "The result can be clogged pores, breakouts, and an increase in blackheads."
Especially if you're still breaking out, pay extra-close attention to the ingredient list as some vitamin combinations and peptides can kick the metabolism of already-active skin into a higher gear than necessary. We love the Sisley Paris Sisleyouth moisturizer ($198; bloomingdales.com), which is specifically formulated for preventative care. Rouleau recommends using a daily sun protectant, like her lightweight SPF 30 ($38; reneerouleau.com), underneath makeup. "The best way to prevent aging for young skin is to use sunscreen every single day of the year, eat a rich diet in antioxidants to prevent aging from the inside, and always, always, always use product exclusively formulated for your skin type," she says. "Once you get into your 30s and acne is mostly behind you, you can start to consider incorporating more active ingredients into your routine."
Another key thing to remember: steer clear of overly harsh exfoliants, whether in chemical or scrub form. "Many people will use acids in their serums, scrubs, and cleansers. This can be too aggressive, damaging the skin's barrier function, and result in redness and irritation," Rouleau says. "What you need to understand is that normal cell function still occurs in your 20s, and many anti-aging products are focused on stimulating cell turnover by exfoliating with ingredients like glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids." Instead, use a gentle scrub like the Purity of Elements Exfloliating Cleanser ($29; nordstrom.com) once a week.
If you're really concerned your skin is forming fine lines, use a serum like Tata Harper's Rejuvenating formula ($95; sephora.com) in your nightly lineup, and Rouleau also recommends looking into a chemical peel to tackle both breakouts and premature signs of aging at once. "The more you rid the skin surface of dry skin cell build up, the less oil and bacteria will be trapped underneath, resulting in less clogged pores," she says. "In addition, it helps to speed up cell turnover, which is an absolute must for keeping the skin healthy, smooth, and young-looking." No time to visit the spa? Rouleau's own Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($87; reneerouleau.com) serves as a satisfying quick fix.