How to Take Care of Your Skin in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, and Beyond

Some of my fondest memories as a child are watching my mother take care of her skin. Now, she wasn't a huge skincare junkie, but my mom always took pride in caring for her body's largest organ. I mean, growing up in the tropical (and humid) climate of Cairns, Australia, makeup was useless (it melts off your face), so my mom embraced that fresh-faced and dewy look (something I'm still trying to replicate now). One of the most valuable and memorable lessons she taught me was to take care of my skin.

In my preteen years, she showed me the basic cleanse, tone, and moisturize routine, and I've stuck with it ever since, adding a few serums along the way. (Okay, maybe more than a few. I have a slight addiction.) But as someone who has officially moved into her late 30s, I personally prefer prevention when it comes to skincare. This is something my Australian dermal therapist (and skin whisperer), James Vivian of James Vivian Dermal Therapies, advised early on in our "skinship."

That said, there are so many amazing treatments and products out there that can help reverse any signs of damage. The key, Vivian tells me, is to "be proactive. Once you see signs of damage, then intervene. You never hear someone say, 'I wish I hadn't taken better care of my skin earlier.'" It's important to remember that we're not entirely against the aging process.

In fact, in the words of Gwyneth Paltrow, we "subscribe to the 'age gracefully' thing," and this is more about taking care of your skin's overall health.

skincare regimen

But while there's a myriad of lotions, potions, and treatments out there, Vivian stresses that genetics also play a huge role. "There is a huge genetic element to skin aging, so everyone will experience signs of aging at differing times due to this," he says. "Climate, skin type, lifestyle, stress, and pregnancy all have an impact and can alter the natural process. Everyone's skin requires an individual approach." So we asked him to break it down for us and provide simple skincare advice, treatments, and products for every age, from your 20s to your 50s, to embrace (and love) the skin you're in.

In Your 20s

While there normally aren't many skin concerns at this age, aside from the odd breakout, your 20s is the time to think about protection (like wearing sunscreen every day) to prevent skin issues later on. Age prevention and possible scarring due to acne breakouts in teen years and hormonal breakouts are the main skin concerns.

Recommended skincare regimen:

This is where good habits are established to help prevent future damage, especially from the sun and other environmental factors. "Establish a regular routine of twice-daily cleansing, moisturizing, and incorporate daily application (and reapplication) of SPF, " advises Vivian. "Add an exfoliation and antioxidant serum for daytime use, and you have the perfect, simple program for this age group." Vivian says a spot treatment may be required for skin that continues to break out following the teen years and a more regular and/or deeper exfoliation.

Skincare products to invest in:

Societe Triple C Vitamin Serum $106
Colorescience Tint du Soleil SPF 30 UV Protective Foundation, Medium, 1 fl. oz.
Colorescience Tint du Soleil SPF 30 UV Protective Foundation $55
Cosmedix Defy $72

Microdermabrasion Light chemical peel treatments Clear and Brilliant Laser treatments to help reduce possible breakout and acne scarring left over from teen years (Drew Barrymore is a fan.)

skincare in your 30s

In Your 30s

Although everyone can begin to show signs of aging in their 20s or post-30s, Vivian says it's this decade where the initial signs of aging begin to set in, including expression lines on the forehead and around the eyes, as well as enlarged pores. "These concerns are predominantly due to the repetitive movement of muscles, smiling, frowning, and often from sun damage during childhood," he says. "If the skin wasn't appropriately protected in the 20s, then brown spots and redness can also start to show up in the 30s, creating uneven skin tone and pigmentation," Vivian says. Hormonally deposited pigment, also known as melasma, can form during pregnancy or genetic predisposition, which also adds to the uneven skin tone.

Recommended skincare regimen:

Now is the time to expand on your 20s regime. "Ideally, every concern should be addressed with a corresponding product," says Vivian. For example, a pigmentation serum should be applied to assist with uneven skin tone, and an age-management serum can be used to soften fine lines. "Retinol is also an essential ingredient to introduce here, as it helps repair daily damage at night," he says. "Exfoliation should be increased due to a decrease in natural cell turnover."

Skincare products to invest in:

Anti-wrinkle injections (at the discretion of the individual)
Laser Genesis
Intense pulsed light (IPL)
Medium-depth chemical peel treatments

Cosmedix Opti Crystal Eye Serum $95
0.5% Pure Retinol Night Intensive Brightening Treatment, 1 fl. oz.
PCA SKIN 0.5% Pure Retinol Night Intensive Brightening Treatment $111
Skinmedica Lytera 2.0 $154

In Your 40s

This is the time to invest in products with active ingredients that help to hydrate and amplify your skin health. Due to a decrease in the natural production of collagen and elastin (as well as a decrease in natural hydration stores), Vivian says there may be volume loss under the eyes and through the cheek and mouth area. This can further be exacerbated with early onset menopause. "Skin discolorations due to previous sun damage may continue to reveal themselves, and some of these may become permanent features of the skin," he says. But an individual skincare approach and in-salon treatments can help.

Recommended skincare regimen:

Once again, continue to build on earlier routines, and introduce products that target specific concerns. "Begin to increase the dose of vitamin A, and consider investing in an age management serum that helps stimulate the skins natural processes," says Vivian. "Increase topical hydration if required. Makeup may be needed to be altered due to the above changes in texture and tone. Don't forget the neck."

Skincare products to invest in:

Dermal fillers (at the individual's discretion)

Deep chemical peels

Skinmedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator $178
Rejuvaphyl Rejuvenating Complex HS $150
Medik8 Glow Oil $55
PCA Skin Perfecting Neck & Décolleté $84
skincare in your 40s
Edward Berthelot /Getty Images

In Your 50s

Regardless of age, we encourage everyone to embrace their natural beauty and use skincare products and treatments to enhance the skin's overall health. Vivian says skincare in your 50s is very similar to your 40s in terms of the treatments and products. "During this time, there is a further breakdown of deeper structures including fat, muscle, and bone, which results in volume loss, sagging, and wrinkles," he adds. "Hormonal changes continue to contribute to dryness, and makeup may only seem to make matters worse." So hydration is also key to boost the skin's vitality.

Recommended skincare regime:

Continue with your preferred skincare regime, but consider increasing potency when required and tolerated. Vitamin A is especially important, as are age-management ingredients, including stem cells, growth factors, peptides, and antioxidants.

Skincare products to invest in:

Skin Medica TNS Essential Serum, 1 Ounce
Skinmedica Dermal Repair Cream $129
Dermaquest Peptide Line Corrector $195
Skin Medica TNS Essential Serum, 1 Ounce
SkinMedica Skin Medica TNS Essential Serum $281

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