I'm 32 and Asked Derms What I Should Do to My Skin—Here's What They Said

Now that I'm in my 30s, I've been thinking a lot about how to take care of my body more. I don't consider myself "old" by any means, and honestly, I now understand why people say your 30s are better than your 20s because I feel more confident and happier with who I am. That said, I'm not a youngster anymore, and sometimes my body can really feel it. Let's just say a couple of glasses of wine really does hit differently the next morning when you're in your 30s. Also, when did my shoulders and back get so sore? 

So I've been trying to be good about eating better, sleeping enough, getting my finances in check, and working out more. I hate the term "adulting," but I am trying my best to do it. One thing I've been thinking about lately—especially since I write so many stories about skincare—is how I can take better care of my skin and keep it healthy as I get older. I'm not talking about just preventing lines and wrinkles (I don't mind a couple of them here and there), but also protecting my skin against the sun and environmental damage and keeping it looking glowy and bright.

I recently learned that your skin type is mainly based on genetics. And if my mom is my model for 60-something-year-old skin, I'm banking on my face being in pretty good shape by the time I reach that age. Of course, I know there's a lot I can do between now and then to protect my skin. So I asked some dermatologists for their best tips for taking care of your skin in your 30s. If you're also in this age range, maybe you'll find this advice helpful.


(Image credit: @sarahayang)

How to Take Care of Your Skin

Prevention is key: The consensus here is that the earlier you start, the better off you'll be. If you've waited until your 30s to start using an anti-aging cream, it's not too late, but you will want to get to it. "Healthy, youthful components of our skin such as collagen, elastin, as well as our skin's natural ability to retain hydration start to decline in our mid-to-late 20s," says Libby Rhee, DO, FAAD, dermatology advisor for Rory and founder of Liora Dermatology and Aesthetics. "Additionally, our skin's natural mechanisms and restorative capability also start to decline in our late 20s and continue to become increasingly sluggish thereafter. So starting an intentional well-aging skincare routine is recommended as soon as possible."

Prioritize these products: Board-certified dermatologist Roberta Del Campo, MD, says you can keep your routine simple with just three products. The first is a mineral-based sunblock that also blocks UV light, which you should reapply every two hours at a minimum if you're outdoors or active. Next, you'll need a vitamin C serum that helps boost collagen during the day and also improves the effectiveness of the sunblock. And lastly, you'll need a retinol or Retin-A at night. "This will help to increase collagen production, increase cell turnover (keeping texture smooth and skin radiant), and help to clean out the pores," she explains. "If the person is very dry or sensitive and cannot tolerate a retinol/retinoid, then a human-derived growth factor product is a great replacement. This is also a collagen booster and will improve radiance and texture, but it will not increase cell turnover or unclog pores."

Be consistent: "A skincare regimen is worthless without consistency," says Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology. "It is the single most important factor in the success of any anti-aging regimen. Although products should be reevaluated every 10 years or so as skin progresses through the aging process and different seasons present challenges that necessitate different skincare products, in general, once a routine has been established with products proven to work, it should be continued and allowed to yield results."

Change up products if needed: Rhee says your skin is a dynamic organ that evolves as you treat it, so its needs may change over time. "Having one or two 'hero' or favorite products that you use every day or every night is great, but you want to mix things up," she explains. "Alternate cleansers, use different serums during different seasons, or alternate a couple based on how your skin is feeling throughout the week (i.e., needing more hydration or more help with inflammation or redness, for example) from time to time so your skin doesn't get too used to something and stop responding." 

Give it some time: The changes won't happen overnight, so consistency and patience are important. "Nighttime is all about repair and recovery. During the night, our skin's ability to recover, rebuild, replenish, and renew is functioning at an increased rate of capability, making it the perfect time to focus on rich nourishment and hydration," says board-certified dermatologist Amy Ross, MD, FAAD. "It takes 28 days for our cells to turnover, so using products for a minimum of four weeks will give you a better idea of whether a product works well on your skin."

Consult a professional: Keep in mind everyone's skin needs are different. "We are all unique, and while the basic themes and needs are similar, it's best to consult a professional so you can make sure your anti-aging routine is optimized for exactly what your skin needs," Rhee says. "This will ensure that you're using the right products based on your skin, your lifestyle, and your personal skincare goals."

What to Look for in an Anti-Aging Cream

When choosing products, you'll need something for day and night. "The morning is the time to protect against the environmental aggressors that we all face on a daily basis," Hartman says. "Stress, UV light, pollution, and environmental damage affect our skin and need protection with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, silymarin, resveratrol, niacinamide, and a host of other potent antioxidants. Choose a product that works with your skin type and packs a cocktail of various actives to prevent the degradation of collagen. At night is the time to restore, and nothing kicks off the restoration of your skin like regular use of a retinol, which stimulates collagen, regulates cell turnover, and promotes effective exfoliation so that your skin can revive itself while you rest."

For the daytime, Ross recommends a hyaluronic acid or a vitamin C product that provides deep hydration and triggers collagen production, respectively. SPF is super important for the daytime, too, as UV rays can put you at risk for skin cancer and can accelerate skin aging. Rhee suggests looking for prebiotic and probiotic ingredients like algae, xylitol, rhamnose, lactobacillus, vitreoscilla, and various ferments, which work together to balance your skin's pH levels and strengthen the skin's ability to fight against environmental pollutants.

And lastly, make sure your skincare is backed by science and that it does exactly what it's supposed to do. "In order for a molecule to be effective, skincare ingredients need to be the right size to penetrate the epidermis and effectively absorb into the layers of the skin where it needs to be active," Rhee says. "A lot of the molecules we know and love are inherently unstable, and if they aren't stabilized through their formulation, all the dedication to your routine can go to waste because the active ingredients are unlikely to work as intended. This is also the case when you layer certain products. Some ingredients can destabilize and/or inactivate others." Working with a dermatologist or other professional can help you figure out if the products you're using are effective or not.

Take a look at some anti-aging creams the dermatologists and some of our editors recommend below.

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

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Managing Editor

Sarah is lifestyle writer and editor with over 10 years of experience covering health and wellness, interior design, food, beauty, and tech. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she attended New York University and lived in New York for 12 years before returning to L.A. in 2019. In addition to her work on THE/THIRTY and Who What Wear, she held editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot). She has a passion for health and wellness, but she especially loves writing about mental health. Her self-care routine consists of five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, an intriguing book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating her home.