My Fool-Proof Fall Skin Care Routine For Smooth, Glowing Skin In Your 30s

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Hannah Baxter
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Another season, another skin care routine. You may not think it’s worthwhile to audit your products when the weather starts to change, but I assure you, your skin’s needs fluctuate depending on the time of year. And if you’re in your 30s, your skin care routine needs to be designed like a strong offense, gearing up to combat those signs of premature aging, environmental damage, and general markers of stress that are synonymous with this time of life. As a beauty editor, I’ve taken close to a decade to find a new beauty routine that works for my complexion, tweaking it with every passing year, and I think that I’ve done it — or at least my dermatologist and esthetician seem to think so.

With fall comes colder weather, which is ideal for maintaining additional hydration in your potentially congested and sun-damaged post-summer skin, but pesky things like dry air and cooling temperatures can throw your skin out of whack. For these types of issues, calming and soothing products are your best friend. I also begin to swap out my lightweight summer moisturizer with an emollient-rich cream to moisturize and smooth my skin, followed by some SPF and a bit of oil if I need another occlusive layer on my cheeks and chin where I tend to be drier.

If you’re also dealing with dark spots and melasma from all that summer sun exposure, using a potent antioxidant like vitamin C is essential, as is reapplying your SPF throughout the day to ensure your skin is protected.

Is this routine a tad high maintenance? Perhaps. But I assure you, if you want to maintain the health, look, and feel of your skin despite the change in seasons (and your decreasing collagen levels), sticking to a routine that works for your skin, and being consistent, is the best “anti-aging” defense out there.

So if you’re a fellow 30-something and you’re looking to update your skin care routine for fall, check out what new products and techniques have made it into my daytime beauty lineup.

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Step 1: Oil Cleanser

I’m soaking in the last of outdoor activities in nice weather with lots of diners and drinks with friends, so I typically wake up with a very puffy face and no cheekbones to be found. To combat this, I start my day with a nourishing oil cleanser and a face massage, spending at least five minutes with either my hands or a Gua Sha tool to move around that static lymph fluid and help all that puffiness drain. Then I rinse with cold water and pat dry on a clean towel (the ones from Baina are my favorite).

Step 2: Gel Cleanser

I’m still dealing with some residual build-up from summer and I’m wearing more makeup for the fall, so I typically require a two-step cleanse to prep before additional serums. In the winter I’ll go with a cream cleanser but while the weather is still somewhat warm, I love a gel texture to get my skin clean without any of that dry, squeaky, uncomfortable feeling.

Step 3: Essence

I always use an essence to add a boost of moisture to my skin, no matter the season. And since I’m in my 30s, I look for products that have additional anti-aging benefits to minimize fine lines and fight hyperpigmentation for an all-over even tone. Don’t forget about your neck and décolleté when using this, and apply the excess to the back of your hands (which don’t get nearly enough love when it comes to skin care).

Step 4: Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Can you tell that moisture is the name of the game when you’re in your 30s? Dry skin is the ultimate enemy, not only because it’s wildly uncomfortable, but also because it emphasizes fine lines and generally makes you look... kind of blah. So a hyaluronic acid serum (which draws water into the skin) is always a part of my lineup. I wait until my essence is almost dry and then add one pump to my face, neck, and décolleté for a nice, juicy finish.

Step 5: Vitamin C Serum

The older you get, the more that dark spots begin to top your list of skin priorities. Using a daily antioxidant like vitamin C is crucial for fighting free-radical damage and minimizing hyperpigmentation (from either sun exposure or after battling a breakout). Just make sure to allow your chosen formula plenty of time to dry down before moving onto your next step — adding in another product too soon can mess with its potency, and sun exposure can break down the formula. Patience is a virtue with your skin care routine, so no rushing if you can help it.

Step 6: Eye Cream

I know that some people will happily smear their moisturizer everywhere and not bother with eye cream, but I’m a big proponent of using something targeted for the most delicate skin on your face. Just make sure you don’t pull or press too hard around your eyes — be gentle and tap in the formula until it’s dry.

Step 7: Moisturizer

Although the average SPF does have emollient (meaning moisturizing and softening) ingredients, when you’re in your 30s this is definitely not a step you can skip. Hydrated skin is happy skin, and I love to use a very straightforward, clinically tested moisturizer to keep my face and neck soothed and supple throughout the day. I massage in a quarter sized amount after my serums are dry and wait about five minutes before moving onto the next step in my routine.

Step 8: Oil

If you’re familiar with “slugging” then you’re aware that an occlusive product can help to minimize water loss in the skin and lock in moisture. With fluctuating temperatures in the fall, I like to tap in a light layer of my favorite face oil both morning and night to keep dry patches at bay.

Step 9: Sunscreen

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it 1,000 more times: your “anti-aging” efforts are pointless if you don’t use SPF every single day. It’s worthwhile to find a formula that agrees with your skin, is comfortable, and if you’re prone to melasma like me, doesn’t leave a white cast (since only a mineral/physical SPF can combat those dark patches from forming). Trust me — you will thank yourself in the next 10, 15, 20+ years when your skin is still looking healthy, strong, and youthful. And if your skin care budget can only allow for a handful of products, invest in your sunscreen 100% over anything else (although quality formulas are available at a range of price points).

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