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, now I understand why people say your 30s are better than your 20s because I do feel more confident and happier with who I am. That being said, I'm definitely not a youngster anymore, and sometimes my body can really feel it. Let's just say that a couple of glasses of wine really does hit different the next morning in your 30s than in your 20s. And 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 care of my skin and keep it healthy as I get older. I'm not talking just about preventing lines and wrinkles (I don't mind a couple of them here and there), but more so about protecting my skin against the sun and environmental damage, and keeping it looking glowy and bright.
I recently learned that your skin type is mostly based on genetics, so if I'm using my mom as 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, and I know that there's a lot I can do between now and then to protect my skin. So I asked some dermatologists for their best tips on taking care of your skin in your 30s. If you're also in this age range, maybe you'll find this advice helpful too.
How to Take Care of Your Skin
Prevention is key: The consensus here is that the earlier you start, the better. If you've waited until your 30s to start using an anti-aging cream, it's not too late, but you do 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 helping 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 is great, but you want to mix things up, like alternate cleansers, using different serums during different seasons, or alternating 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," she explains.
Give it some time: The changes won't happen overnight, so consistency and patience is 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: Everyone's skin needs are different, so keep that in mind. "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. "In 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 and/or a vitamin C product which 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, and lactobacillus, vitreoscilla, and various ferments, which work together to balance the 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 is the Rolls Royce of night creams," Rhee says. "Its luxurious formulation is chock-full of several natural ingredients to improve skin tone, texture, and resiliency while also adding serious hydration and moisture to address premature aging from all angles. It also feels like silk!"
"This is one of my new MVPs when it comes to an almost-all-in-one anti-aging cream," Rhee says. "It has everything you need in one easy night cream, including the retinoid, antioxidants, hydrators, and emollients and can be personalized to meet all kinds of unique skin needs for any skin type."
RoC's night cream is another highly rated drugstore pick. It's powered by retinol—one of those holy-grail ingredients that can slow down the signs of aging. It also contains ingredients like antioxidants and vitamin E.
I can vouch for this face cream—it's my daily go-to. The creamy moisturizer isn't heavy or greasy at all and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and soft. Some of its key ingredients include vitamin A, chaga mushroom, and hyaluronic acid, which work to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and even skin tone and texture.
This night cream is non-toxic, vegan, cruelty-free, and pregnancy safe, so it's a win in our book. It contains fermented purple tea which provides super antioxidant protection, plus green coffee extract to give energy to skin cells, and microalgae to keep the skin strong and plump.
Board-certified dermatologist Jason Emer, MD, FAAD, says it's important to start using products with peptides, growth factors, and stem cells early, and using them twice daily to help reverse sun/environmental damage and prevent future changes on the skin. He recommends this product from his own line which contains supercharged peptides. "Combine with AHAs/BHAs to boost the penetration of these products into the skin and get more cell turnover and renewal," he says. "Peptides and growth factors work to remodel DNA, reverse collagen damage, improve cellular function and messaging."
"This is one of my favorite anti-aging creams," Ross says. "It's formulated with hyaluronic acid, shea butter and ceramides so it's very hydrating and good for all skin types. It's perfect to be used alone or in combination with a retinol for an optimal skin renewal combination."
"SkinBetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream is a fan favorite for its ability to combine a potent retinol and alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, in a lightweight lotion that doesn't cause irritation and dryness," Hartman says.