I thought the last year of my twenties would be one full of celebratory endings — a cheers to a chapter of my life full of late nights, un-chased tequila shots, and 'forgetting' to floss my teeth. Instead, this year has been one of accidental discipline. But, now with 30 a few weeks away (Dec. 26, to be exact), it's time to stop making self-care an accident — especially when it comes to my skin. Developing a skin-care routine for my early 30s — beyond just sunscreen and face lotion — has been one of those chores I manage to remind myself about reproachfully when I'm trying to fall asleep, but never manage to actually get around to during the day. Not anymore!
According to Dr. Barbara Sturm, an aesthetics doctor and industry skin care favorite, your skin begins to change, losing elasticity and moisture. "Collagen production decreases in your late 20s, causing among other things the appearance of visible fine lines," she tells me via email. "50 percent of the essential humectant hyaluronic acid in our bodies is found in our skin, but in our twenties, hyaluronic acid production also begins its long decline. Hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient for many skin functions and cellular health, but it is also necessary for collagen production, because without adequate hyaluronic acid, cells can no longer hold enough water to properly produce collagen."
As someone who has a hard time sticking to a beauty routine long term, the changes I'm integrating into my skin care plan all had to be small and simple. Aging isn't something I'm looking to completely avoid anyways — surviving my twenties has brought me wisdom and expertise I would never trade back (and the stress and laugh lines that come with it). My goal is to simply make sure I'm doing the small things now that make sure I'm set up down the line. So what does that mean when it comes to actually putting proverbial tires to pavement — or perhaps serum to skin in my case? Sturm warns that aggressive skin care isn't a long-term answer. "Temporary quick fixes that attack healthy skin cells are medium- and long-term destructive. Aging skin does not need acid peels or aggressive lasers. Aging skin cells are under siege; they need assistance and protection, not attack." TLDR: Overdoing your skin care routine makes things worse in the long run.
Esthetician and founder of Jordan Samuel Skin, Jordan Samuel Pacitti, explains that, in reality, there are only three key groupings of skin care to commit to. "The most important things for your skin are cleansing, exfoliation, and sun protection," he tells me. "A lot of the time many people have their bases covered with these three steps and don’t need to add anything. That being said, in your early thirties, you may want to invest in a good exfoliant and a specific vitamin A (retinol) product. These products will help with collagen stimulation and creating a thicker dermal layer over time."
Below, find my shopping list for easing into my thirties. The three to four-step process is one I can do morning or night in around 10 minutes, which makes it easy enough to actually commit long term.
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My Early 30s Skin Care Routine: Cleansing
I've spent the last few years testing gentle cleansers and finally graduating from the sad habit of simply splashing water on my face before settling down for the night. My skin is dry, so I don't want anything too astringent which is why I love the lightweight feel of the options below.
My Early 30s Skin Care Routine: Exfoliation
"An exfoliator is essential to help remove dead skin cells, encourage natural cell turnover and help effectively optimize absorption of any further products you may be using afterwards," Sturm explains. She suggests a hyaluronic serum to hydrate, reduce irritation, and leave skin refreshed. After cleansing, it's as simple as layering this on.
My Early 30s Skin Care Routine: Sun Protection
I've made it my mission to apply sunscreen to my face almost every morning. My parents both spent much of their lives in the sun, and they've dealt with skin issues as a direct result, so I try to be careful. But I've learned over time that not all sunscreens are created equal. I recommend finding a type — mineral or chemical — that is best suited to your skin but also provides enough protection for everyday use. "Especially during this lockdown period, I have been applying my Anti-Pollution Drops regularly to protect against both environmental pollution and HEV rays from digital screens," adds Sturm. "The blue HEV light that is emitted by mobile phones, tablets, monitors and other digital devices penetrates deeply into the skin, making it potentially as dangerous as UV rays."
My Early 30s Skin Care Routine: Vitamin A
While Sturm doesn't recommend retinol products, if it is something you're looking to try, Samuels suggests going slow and making sure you're using the right formulas for your skin type. "To start, apply retinols only one to two days per week until your skin acclimates. This can take several weeks," he explains. "All too frequently I see individuals who begin using retinol five nights per week right away, only to face the frustration of the traditional side effects of peeling, inflammation, and dryness. This process of increasing your nightly usage can take months, so be patient. With retinol, you want to always be the tortoise and not the hare."