Fact: We've been infatuated with the idea of aging gracefully ever since old-world explorers recounted indigenous myths of the magical fountain of youth. Scientifically speaking, it's not (yet) possible to actually turn back the clock, and beauty magazines like Allure have even committed to banning the phrase "anti-aging" entirely so as not to reinforce the idea that aging gracefully is a condition to be avoided. For those of us who prefer to find a middle ground by embracing the natural beauty process that comes with getting older, and taking advantage of everything science has to offer at our disposal, when it comes to skincare in your 30s it's never too late to adopt better habits.
The early 30s are the best time to begin incorporating more effective skincare products because the deep signs of aging—think fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation—often aren't visible quite yet, Manhattan-based dermatologist and founder of his namesake skincare brand Dennis Gross tells MyDomaine. "Scientific research shows that at age 30, collagen and elastin production starts to decline in quantity and quality. With age comes laugh lines, crow's feet, and a few creases. By implanting a consistent skin regimen, you can slow down these telltale signs of aging and improve the overall health of skin for decades to come."
Los Angeles–based celebrity esthetician Kat Rudu agrees, adding that it's not uncommon for people to take their skincare routine more seriously in their 30s after spotting their first wrinkle. "I think embracing natural beauty comes from within the person and how they think of themselves," she says. "If you know who you are and are living your truth in life, those are the most beautiful individuals—being and having their own identity."
"When I work with any of my patients, I approach their aging concerns with a goal of helping them look fresh and 'undone'—a renewed version of themselves," says Gross. He points out that starting too late with anti-aging products and neglecting the eye area are the two big mistakes he sees patients make. If you're in your 30s and looking to start or amp up your skincare routine, there's plenty you can do.
Ready to get a handle on skincare in your 30s? Here, experts share their top preventative tips and the steps you should add to your regimen now.
The Skincare Routine for Your 30s
"A good customized routine is vital to your skin," explains Rudu, who created a pure biotic (meaning, derived mostly from plants) vegan skincare line that focuses on replenishing skin at a cellular level. She recommends cleaning your face in the morning and at night using a combination of cream and oil cleansers. Layering lightweight products is also key in building your regimen, she says. Here, she and Gross map out one daily routine to try:
- Cleanser: Use an oil cleanser first, followed by a cream cleanser—this is the best way to diminish the appearance of pores, says Rudu. She recommends using her Coco Honey Cleanser, "a silky combination of botanical oils and enzymes with cleansing properties."
- Vitamin C serum: This is meant to lock in the subsequent products you'll be using, says Rudu. She and Gross both recommend using a vitamin C serum, a preventative step that "diminishes sunspots and boosts collagen, and naturally restores skin's youthful texture."
- Facial oil: Massage onto your face after serum.
- Serum with hyaluronic or amino acids: Hyaluronic acid helps make skin softer and smoother by boosting its moisture and elasticity, while amino acids can help reduce the appearance of everything from sun damage to lines and wrinkles. "My Liquid Lift, for example, is made with wild geranium and organic Gotu kola to increase brightness and prevent signs of aging by plumping skin," Rudu says.
- Eye cream: "The periorbital skin around the eye area is prone to a phenomenon called solar elastosis, or breakdown of collagen and elasticity," explains Gross. "Because skin in this area is so thin [and delicate], there is a paradoxical need for a specially formulated cream that is both strong yet gentle." He also recommends "harnessing the power of LED light" by using SpectraLite EyeCare Pro for three minutes a day to help reduce crow's feet near the eyes and even lines between the brows.
- Moisturizer: Gross and Rudu agree that finishing with a moisturizer is key to keeping skin looking youthful and radiant. Rudu recommends looking for a product made with botanical, plant-based ingredients, and Gross suggests using an oil-free moisturizer for acne-prone or oily skin and a vitamin C–packed moisturizer for normal or dry skin types.
Skincare experts also recommend working in the following steps one to three times per week at night:
- Gel or cream mask: Depending on your skin type, Rudu recommends avoiding mud masks because "they can pull on your skin like glue. Anything that is pulling on your skin as you remove it is not supporting anti-aging."
- Exfoliator: "A healthy rate of skin cell renewal is one of the key components of radiant and even-toned skin," says Gross. He suggests using products with alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids that help build skin-firming collagen. Rudu recommends incorporating a retinol- or natural plant-based exfoliator two to three times per week to help shed dead skin.
- Chemical peel: Gross also recommends combining an exfoliator with a two-step chemical peel like his at-home Alpha Beta Original Formula Daily Peel, an "all-purpose treatment [that] addresses fine lines, tightens [the appearance of] pores and smoothes texture."
Essential Skincare Ingredients for 30-Somethings
According to Gross and Rudu, the following ingredients are essential for building an effective skincare routine in your 30s:
- Vitamin C: As mentioned above, this ingredient is key for any anti-aging skincare routine. Especially when applied topically, vitamin C is "proven to be one of the strongest catalysts of collagen growth [and] helps to brighten those 'tired' eyes," explains Gross.
- Retinoids: A derivative of vitamin A, "retinoids are also an important part of the anti-aging arsenal. They stimulate the production of new skin cells and inhibit the body's natural enzymes that break down collagen," says Gross. He recommends using his Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream, one of the best-selling products that his clients swear by.
- Peptides, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants: These ingredients address collagen and elasticity loss and "deliver deep hydration to the cellular level," says Rudu.
- Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs): "Acids can be a scary word, but they are a skin's best friend," explains Gross. Rudu recommends using products with glycolic, hyaluronic, furlic, and oleic acids, which help to exfoliate the skin, penetrate the skin, and boost collagen production.
Invasive and Non-Invasive Treatments
If you're looking to incorporate invasive and non-invasive treatments, your late 30s are the best time to explore them, says Gross. Here's what he suggests:
- Non-invasive treatments: For those looking to avoid needles, options like SmoothBeam laser treatments "stimulate collagen production and fight wrinkles without downtime," he says.
- Invasive treatments: "Collagen injections, hyaluronic acid fillers, and Botox are all options to fill in or deplete lines and wrinkles," he says. "For deep lines, you have the option of using fillers like Restylane."
Other Habits to Protect and Rejuvenate Your Skin
On top of maintaining a consistent routine in the morning and night, Rudu also suggests the following:
- Use foundation with SPF: "It has been said that abstaining from foundation is beneficial for the skin," says Rudu. "I believe, however, that using a thick foundation with [sunscreen] is extremely preventative for skin damage concerns because it protects the epidermis even deeper than using an SPF alone." If you're not a fan of foundation, be sure you're using some sort of sun protection that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF factor of at least 30.
- Exercise regularly: Oxygenating your blood by staying active is also key for keeping skin healthy in your 30s, Rudu says. The New York Times, who reported research on the same topic, tends to agree.