What is it about the prospect of turning 30 that brings a newfound devotion to the best skin-care products for our 20s? Yes, there’s the obsessive poring over stray spots and microscopic lines you’ve never seen before, but is it all in your mind, or does your skin actually start to change right when you enter that third decade?
According to Dr. Alicia Barba, a Miami-based dermatologist, the first signs of sun damage do generally show up in your 30s, as your skin’s reparative abilities begin to weaken—think mild brown spots, crow’s-feet, and dull skin. But it’s important to remember that those changes are actually a reflection of past behavior. “The damage you do in your 20s is going to show up in your 30s, 40s, and 50s,” she explains. “It’s a cumulative effect; things will come back to haunt you.”
Fortunately, by taking early action, you can make a significant impact on your skin’s future health, Barba explains. “A lot of it has to do with prevention and protection—being the 20-year-old wearing a hat at the beach,” she says. “But it’s also about developing good habits to carry you on through your later years.” One especially important practice: extending your products’ reach. “When you’re young, it’s easy to think just about your face, but we need to protect our neck, chest, hands, and feet as well,” she adds. “As you get older, you’ll start thinking about them more. You can usually carry what works for your face down to your neck and chest.”
Here, Barba breaks down the best skincare products for your 20s that every person should be using before turning 30—but those 30 and older should also take notes. “It’s never too late to start, and I promise it will help,” Barba says. 30 is the new 20, after all.
A Gentle Cleanser
“We do want to exfoliate, but sometimes we can become over-exfoliated,” Barba notes. “From cleansers to sonic devices to scrubs, if you use one exfoliator on top of another, the skin can become irritated and raw. It’s always nice to have a gentle cleanser on hand, especially in the morning when you really only have natural oils and the product from the night before to clean off.”
“I love bars like the Dove Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin, which is well priced and cleanses and hydrates at the same time,” says Barba. Otherwise, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane formula is a reliable drugstore pick-up, too. Those with sensitive skin should look to Avène’s no-rinse milky cleanser for soothing moisture, while Tatcha’s The Rice Wash offers cream-based cleansing to avoid stripping the skin.
An Exfoliating Treatment
“Once you hit your late 20s, some people might start to see the early signs of sun or smoking damage and want to be more aggressive in treating it. There are a lot of amazing acids to use at home once a week or every two weeks to exfoliate the skin. There is a learning curve with these, as well. You have to be very careful to moisturize and use a gentle cleanser to avoid further stripping the skin.”