Every now and then I look in the mirror and feel like I’m way behind on taking care of my skin. Until recently, my skincare “regime” (if you could call it that) was washing my face with Cetaphil in the shower and slapping on some moisturizer afterwards. Very luxurious, right?
But now that I’m officially closer to being 30 than I am to being 21, I’ve built a small obsession with skincare. I know that years of lifeguarding and playing outdoor soccer have already done some damage to my skin, and I’m newly determined to put that to a halt so I can look 27 forever (a girl can dream, right?).
After some serious research and trial-and-error, I’ve figured out what works for my skin. While it may differ slightly for you based on your skin type, there are a few principles that hold true for anyone in their 20s. Here’s how to ensure that your skin stays young and beautiful for years to come.
Say Yes to SPF
I know, I know. SPF is not sexy. But you know what is? A fresh, non-damaged, wrinkle-free face later in life. Dermatologists say SPF is crucial no matter your age, but the earlier you start making it a regular part of your skincare routine, the better your skin will age. According to Dr. Elizabeth Hale, sun is the top cause of external skin aging, and you can get hit by UV rays whether it’s cloudy, you’re in your car, or you’re outside for five minutes ducking into the coffee shop. A lightweight sheer sunscreen in the SPF 50 range will protect your skin for years to come (I love the Kiss My Face brand, which you can find on Amazon or at Whole Foods).
Still need a little convincing? One Australian study showed that people who wore sunscreen every day for four years didn’t show ANY signs of aging. Now, imagine how much money they’ve saved on Botox in that time.
Cleanse Twice a Day
You know the importance of cleaning your face already, but your 20s are the time to (ugh) be a responsible adult and dedicate two minutes of your night to washing off your makeup. Sleeping in your makeup on a regular basis will block your pores and leave oil trapped inside, building up bacteria and leading to breakouts.
While you’re at it, upgrade your cleanser from your old college generic brand. In your 20s, you’re mostly over the traumatizing acne of your youth, meaning you can step away from harsh cleansers that may dry you out. Look for gentle, hydrating cleansers with natural ingredients.
And since we know you’re all active ladies getting your sweat in on the daily, we have to emphasize washing your face after your workout. Keep some gentle facial-cleansing wipes to stick in your gym bag for emergencies.
Baby Your Eyes
The skin around your eyes is the most delicate skin on your face, and it’s especially susceptible to sun damage. An eye cream with SPF will double down on protection. Apply eye cream once in the morning and once at night to stave off fine lines, patting it in softly with one finger and allowing time for it to sink into your skin.
And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about my eyes in my 20s, it’s that a late night out or a restless night’s sleep reeaaaallllllly shows up now. I keep Milk’s Cooling Water stick in my fridge as a quick fix, swiping it under my eyes and on my eyelids for a refreshing de-puff before heading out the door – it feels luxurious and takes no time at all.
Moisturize + Night Cream
You know that it’s important to moisturize your skin to keep fine lines and wrinkles plumped up and filled. A daily moisturizer will do just that. Look for one with ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid; they’ll suck moisture from the air and attract it to your face, especially if you put them on right after your shower. Hyaluronic acid in particular is great because it naturally occurs in the skin, so it won’t cause any rogue breakouts. I use products from the Neutrogena Hydro Boost line.
But now that you’re in your 20s, moisturizer alone may not be enough. Try adding in night cream, which sounds old-lady AF but is actually pretty delightful and way soothing when it’s time to wind down for the night. Just like the rest of your body, your skin repairs itself overnight. A healthy dose of moisture before bed helps the process along. I love the Olay Regenerist line.
Get a Jump Start on Anti-Aging
It seems like wrinkles are millions of years away, but the terrifying truth is that your skin starts losing its ability to repair itself in your 20s. A little bit of retinol goes a long way in preventing aging, but it may cause irritation if your skin is particularly sensitive. Start by using a retinol product a couple of times a week before bed, and double down on the SPF the next morning until your skin gets used to it.
Stay Hydrated and Exercise
Drinking enough water every day is crucial to keeping your skin hydrated and soft; there’s a reason every celebrity swears by drinking gallons of water when asked about their skin care routine. Get bonus points by infusing your water with fruits like raspberries or cucumbers for the added boost of antioxidants.
And when you think about working out, you probably picture yourself as a red, sweaty, blotchy mess – and you’re probably correct. BUT studies show that exercise benefits the skin in some of the same ways it helps your bones and muscles – so just remember to wash your face afterwards.
While these basics are crucial, there’s two more things to mention: first, give yourself time to build an actual skin care routine. Your body needs time to adjust to new things, and that’s especially true with skin. Give new products a solid month of testing before you determine whether or not they’re working for you.
And consider this your friendly reminder: go to the dermatologist. Besides being able to answer your questions about skincare and anti-aging, it’s crucial to get yourself checked for any sun damage so that you can catch any trouble spots sooner rather than later. A full-body check takes less than 10 minutes and is completely worth the peace of mind it provides for the next year.
What skincare products are you crazy about? Give me another reason to go to Sephora on my lunch break, please.