2021 is unequivocally the golden age of skin care. The category boom is obvious as new products launch unceasingly and your social media doom scrolling is bound to take you down a SkinTok rabbit hole. At this point, you’re more likely to have a multi-step skin care routine than a robust savings account — yet the number one complaint I hear as an esthetician from my clients is that they are still unsure of not only what products to buy but also what professional services to book, especially for the ever-popular facial. Ultimately, that confusion might dissuade you from even attempting to book an appointment with a skin care professional. And while great skin care routines and quality products are fundamental to maintaining results, the information overload that’s keeping you away from an esthetician or dermatologist does a huge disservice to your overall skin goals.
“A big mistake I see is people being influenced too easily,” says Essence Moore, NYC-licensed esthetician and owner of Lineage Skin & Hair Studio. “It’s just very tricky to leave what someone’s skin can tolerate up to them. A lot of people think their skin is strong just because they are young. You can’t really go wrong with an esthetician or a dermatologist who offers customization in their services and will build your treatment around your skin’s needs.”
Zeroing in on your personal skin care concerns also requires taking your own biology into account. “Another mistake is not paying attention to how your family ages. A lot of how we age is due to genetics,” adds Kendra Joseph, certified physician assistant at Schweiger Dermatology Group. Understanding the general skin concerns associated with each decade is crucial in righting the ship and steering you towards smart, professional skin investments (and maintaining healthy skin throughout your life).
So if you’re curious about what skin care treatments to ask for and what beneficial ingredients to incorporate into your routine (professional or otherwise), check out the best types of facials for your age below.
Facials In Your 20s
“Your 20s is all about establishing a good routine,” says Jordan Pacitti, esthetician, founder and creative director of Jordan Samuel Skin. “This is a good time to talk about those building blocks with an esthetician who you should go to at least three to four times a year for deep cleansing, professional exfoliation, and basic skincare information from a professional.”
In this decade, most individuals are concerned about lingering acne, but they also have less disposable income to invest in frequent services. Focusing on creating an air-tight routine of basics with strategic professional exfoliation sets you up for fewer breakouts and great skin through the years.
“Exfoliating facials with glycolic or salicylic peels are really great in your 20s,” says Dr. Angela Lamb, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine. “Also retinol, retinol, retinol!” Contrary to popular belief, the professionals agree that it’s never too early to start using retinol (which increases cell turnover, prompts collagen production, and a whole host of other skin care benefits). Dr. Lamb suggests using the highest strength your skin can tolerate at the moment (which still may be a gentler option) as you can expect to pull back on the potency as you get older.
Facials In Your 30s
“Photodamaged skin usually starts to appear [in your 30s] due to not using sunscreen seriously in your 20s,” says Joseph. “Photodamage can range from freckles, uneven skin tone, or even a darkened face with a lighter body.” She recommends brightening treatments that include antioxidants such as vitamin C, ferulic acid, resveratrol, and niacinamide. “The 30s is where people are starting to see subtle changes in their skin,” says Moore. “This is when my clients get into more machinery like the HydraFacial and microneedling to tackle anti-aging [concerns] and strengthen the skin.”
For those looking towards high-technology, both Joseph and Dr. Lamb point to non-ablative lasers like the Clear & Brilliant as a gentler, decade-appropriate option to treat current photodamage and prevent signs of premature aging, like fine lines, crepey skin, and uneven tone.
Facials In Your 40s
This decade is mainly characterized by loss of volume and hollowness, particularly around the eyes, which calls for targeted anti-aging and collagen-boosting services. “This is when I’ll do Belotero and Juvéderm [fillers] around the eye. I also do some mixes of Platelet Rich Fibrin (PRF) treatments that’s really natural for people with more hollowness under the eye,” advises Dr. Lamb. “You have to be really careful and not over-do it. Once your eyes look overfilled it starts to distort the face.” While injectable treatments cannot replace the benefits of regular facials when it comes to keeping your skin clean and healthy, they can provide temporary lifting, sculpting, and volumizing effects that the patients in this age demographic might be looking for.
Moore similarly focuses on the eyes with microneedling for clients in their 40s, as well as a combination of hydration and resurfacing services to keep the skin plump and luminous. “Usually these clients are doing regular chemical peels and [are incorporating] a lot of hydration,” she says. “In my chemical peel services I don’t just peel — I'll also do 20-30 minutes of LED to help strengthen the skin. They really enjoy the extra time to relax and see good results.” Pacitti adds that LED is ideal for all ages due to its versatility and non-invasive nature. LED pro-tip: the longer and more consistently you use it, the better.
For advanced players, Dr. Lamb recommends Fraxel lasers in your 40s to target stubborn brown spots — but be forewarned, these often require much more downtime than the average facial, or even fillers. Not a dealbreaker, but it is good to plan for plenty of time for your skin to heal and see the results.
Facials In Your 50s
“Hormonal changes start to appear in this decade so you may experience a combination of all the skin changes you have ever experienced,” says Joseph. “Acne, discoloration, skin laxity, dullness, etc. Targeted combination therapy is best [at this time of your life].” Focusing on hydration and comprehensively boosting collagen through retinoids and in-office treatments is ideal to simultaneously address a host of skin care concerns.
“Something for the 50s where you wouldn't have dealt with earlier is increased sensitivity,” warns Pacitti. “You want to keep on course but ensure you aren’t breaking [your skin barrier] down any further. Radiofrequency is a great non-invasive best friend here.” Pacitti also recommends oxygen facials for an intensive yet gentle hydration boost that can simultaneously treat hormonal blemishes (because yes, you can still experience adult acne well into your 50s, especially as menopause sets in).
Facials In Your 60s+
“I find that people start to back away from aggressive treatments at this age,” says Pacitti “Instead of a deep peel, they want to do the mid to superficial peels.” As you age, skin gets significantly drier and more fragile, which means it requires less exfoliation and more gentle, moisturizing ingredients.
“In these services I focus a lot on massage and LED,” says Moore. “Circulation is definitely the most important thing. Getting that lymphatic drainage going to get the radiance and appearance that you’d like.” Radiofrequency and oxygen facials continue to be good options in your 60s, with emphasis on hydration and protection at every step to ensure your skin continues to be as healthy and luminous as possible.