In our teens and twenties, it’s much easier to take a laissez-faire approach to our skin. We may stubbornly leave our makeup on overnight or wash our face only when we remember or feel like it, but by the time 30 rolls around, the effects of time and poor care tend to become visible. This is the time wrinkles start showing up and those dark circles won’t seem to go away no matter how long we sleep. Why? Well, around age 30 our hormone levels begin to wane, especially in women.
This can lead to a decrease in collagen production and less cell turnover, which makes for duller, less springy and more wrinkled skin. But not to worry, there are some practices that can help and they don’t have to be high-maintenance either. Below are a few skin care tips for 30 somethings and everyone in-between.
Adopt a skin care routine, if you haven’t already
Yes, you may have ignored this one before, but 30 is the time to seriously start embracing a basic skin care regimen. The fundamentals — cleanse, tone, moisturize — aren’t too complicated to manage either. Get in the habit of following the steps below every morning and night and in no time it will become second nature, with your skin reaping the benefits.
Step 1: Cleanse
Cleansing the skin removes sweat, oil, dirt and other pollutants that your skin naturally collects throughout the day and night. Cleanse your skin in the morning and in the evening to keep your pores clear and your face fresh. Your cleanser may vary based on skin type, but with all cleansers, apply them using an upward, circular motion so as to prevent wrinkles from forming. Make sure your hands are clean as well so as to prevent any extra pollutants from entering your pores.
Keep in mind:
It’s best to steer clear of harsh bar soaps when cleansing your face as they tend to dry out your skin and cause it to overproduce sebum, the natural oils your skin produces for protection which also contribute to clogged pores and breakouts.
Step 2: Tone
After you cleanse your skin of impurities, toner removes any residue left behind by the cleanser as well as any makeup or oils your cleanser might have missed. The added cleansing effects help prepare your skin to absorb moisturizer and minimize the appearance of pores. Some toners may have PH balancing and antiseptic benefits as well. Apply toner right after you have cleansed your skin while it is still damp. The best way to apply it is with a cotton pad or cotton ball, simply soaking the pads in the toner and wiping upwards, starting at your neck.
Keep in mind:
Stay away from harsh alcohol or citrus-based toners as they can damage and irritate your skin.
Step 3: Moisturize
Moisturizing adds a protective layer to the skin that locks in moisture and keeps it hydrated. This hydration is what gives your skin a smooth, luminous appearance. Choose a moisturizer based on your skin type — it can be a cream, lotion, gel or oil—and gently rub it into your skin in an upward motion, being careful not to tug on the delicate skin around your eyes. Once the moisturizer is applied, give it time to sink in before applying makeup, so you receive its full benefits.
Keep in mind:
Find a moisturizer that works for your skin type. People with oily skin should opt for lighter moisturizers while people with drier skin should use heavier and richer creams.
As we age and our skin becomes less resilient, exfoliation can be an important tool for rejuvenating skin cells by sloughing off dead skin that has accumulated in pores. It’s best to exfoliate after toning and before moisturizing, and most dermatologists agree that you should exfoliate one to three times a week, but this depends on your skin type and how it reacts to exfoliation. Experiment and find what works best for you. There are chemical exfoliators and granule exfoliators such as your traditional sugar or salt scrub. Both can be effective tools for removing dead skin cells, but chemical exfoliating ingredients like AHA and BHA are often more effective in getting deep into your pores and removing buildup.
Keep in mind:
If you struggle with blackhead and acne or sun damage, opt for chemical exfoliators that contain AHA and BHA over your traditional granule scrub. For acne and blackhead plagued skin, look for an exfoliator containing BHA as it penetrates deeply into your pores. If you struggle with sun damage, AHA is your preferred option as it mainly exfoliates the upper layers of skin.
Wear that SPF, really
If you ignored all the SPF warnings in your twenties, now is the time to truly heed the importance of sun protection. Dr. Elizabeth Hale, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation and a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the NYU Langone Medical Center, cites that approximately ninety percent of the signs of premature aging come from UV exposure. UV exposure is also the leading cause of skin cancer. That’s why using a moisturizer that contains SPF or applying a sunscreen after your moisturizer is key for protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays and maintaining a youthful and healthy visage. Even if it’s gray or raining outside, this rule still applies as UV rays can still reach and harm your skin. Wear a SPF of at least 15 during the daytime, using a higher SPF if you anticipate heavy sun exposure throughout the day. Don’t neglect other areas of your body either. Be sure to cover any exposed areas and re-apply every few hours as it wears off.
Add retinol to your regimen
While there’s a whole host of anti-aging products and wonder ingredients out there, one particularly effective ingredient that most dermatologists and skin experts can agree on is retinol. Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A that has been shown to slow down signs of aging by increasing cell turnover and slowing the breakdown of collagen, among other things.
Most dermatologists agree it’s never too early to start using retinol, but you should take care to not use too much for your skin as it can be irritating and increase skin sensitivity. It’s also important to note that there is a difference between retinol and retinoids. The main one being that retinoids are stronger and most are prescription-only while retinol is over-the-counter, meaning that it can be less effective, especially if vitamin A isn’t listed as one of the top five ingredients or if it’s not packaged in an airtight, opaque bottle.
If you are still in doubt, consult your dermatologist to find the ideal type and dose for your skin’s needs.