I like to think I’ve always taken care of my skin, but I really started to ramp up my routine when I turned 30 two years ago. Sure, I was thinking about warding off any fine lines and wrinkles, but honestly, I just wanted to keep my skin as healthy as possible since I know that it goes through changes as you get older. I was pretty much revamping every single thing in my life at that time, from my career to relationships to my wellness routine, so skincare was another box to check off.
And ever since I started covering beauty a year ago, I’ve learned even more about taking care of your skin in your 30s and beyond. “The aging process starts much earlier than many people expect,” explains Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, FAAD, founder and CEO of Vibrant Dermatology and Skin Bar MD. “In your 30s, you may start to notice the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, loss of collagen and elasticity, and uneven pigmentation. Some may even notice the resurgence of troublesome issues like acne. Skincare in your 30s should focus on prevention.”
Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics adds that cell metabolism, aka your skin’s ability to turnover, slows as well in your 30s. “More stress (career, kids, marriage, 30-year-old crises) means constantly swinging hormones for both men and women,” she says. “As a result, you’ll see some changes in your skin type (it might become drier or more sensitive).” And she notices that some patients in their 30s start to ask about procedures like Botox.
So, if you’re in your 30s or about to turn 30, here are some tips and advice I’ve learned from dermatologists and applied to my own life. And if you’re not 30 yet, perhaps you should start thinking about how you can take care of your skin. Rodney says that one of the mistakes people make is not thinking that behaviors as a teen or 20-something will serve you in your 30s. “If you haven’t yet, you should start using sunscreen every day, washing and cleansing your face, applying moisturizer, and so on. Now it’s non-negotiable,” she says.
“The 30s is a pivotal time for your skin. You’ll begin to see changes in fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots, and a dull complexion,” Rodney explains. So, she suggests doing these three things…
Protect your skin from further environmental damage and sun damage.
Rejuvenate and nourish your skin with targeted products.
Heal your skin from the inside out with great sleep, diet, and stress reduction.
Imahiyerobo-Ip says that when it comes to choosing products and looking at certain ingredients, you should keep your skin type and any other skin conditions in mind. Here are some of her suggestions below…
Sensitive skin: “Those with sensitive skin may want to opt for mineral-based sunscreens,” Imahiyerobo-Ip says. “Retinols may be too irritating and should only be used three times a week maximally. When it comes to antioxidants, those with sensitive skin may find potent antioxidants like vitamin C too irritating. My favorite antioxidant serum for those with sensitive skin is HydroPeptide’s Hydrostem. It contains a powerful blend of botanical antioxidants and stem cells in a non-irritating creamy serum.
Acne-prone skin: Imahiyerobo-Ip recommends incorporating a salicylic acid-based wash into your skincare routine because it exfoliates the skin and helps prevent whiteheads and blackheads. “My favorite salicylic acid wash is St. Ives’s Acne Control Cleanser,” she suggests. “In addition to 2% salicylic acid, it also contains tea tree extract which helps fight acne-causing bacteria. Mild acne can be treated with salicylic acid washes, whereas troublesome cysts may require more potent medicines like benzoyl peroxide.”
Hyperpigmentation and melasma: “Retinoids and retinols are powerhouse ingredients that help combat acne, fine lines, and wrinkles, and treat hyperpigmentation,” she says. “If you are new to retinols and retinoids, you can start with an over-the-counter product retinol These products are gentler than prescription retinoids, but will still help you stimulate collagen and improve hyperpigmentation.” If you’re really looking to amplify your anti-aging results, though, Ip recommends going to a dermatologist so you can get a prescription-strength retinoid. She suggests using a pea-sized amount to your whole face. Start with three nights a week and then work up to nightly.
Having trouble sticking to a routine? Keep it simple. “I find that the most simple skincare routines also tend to be the most long-lasting,” explains Imahiyerobo-Ip. “You don”t need a 20-step anti-aging routine. What I generally recommend is a cleanser in the morning, followed by an active ingredient (think acne medicine or antioxidant), followed by moisturizer, and sunscreen. Repeat this routine twice a day for maximal benefits.”
The relationship between skin and food is still being researched and we still need more information. But Imahiyerobo-Ip says there is a true scientific link between dairy consumption and acne. “If you have severe acne in your 30s, I would avoid dairy,” she says. “For those who might be suffering from rosacea (think stubborn facial redness, accompanied with acne-like cysts) you may also want to explore food triggers. Some rosacea suffers find that spicy food, chocolate, or wine may trigger their rosacea.”
“Your 30s is also a great time to establish a relationship with a dermatologist,” Rodney says. “Your dermatologist will give you the best advice and provide treatments to keep your skin type healthier during your 30s and beyond.”
If you want to keep things streamlined and forgo the 20-step routine, there are some key skincare products that dermatologists recommend everyone keeps at hand. “For most dermatologists, the holy grail of preventative skincare includes sunscreen, antioxidants, retinol, and moisturizers,” says Imahiyerobo-Ip.
Take a look at the product categories Imahiyerobo-Ip and Rodney recommend prioritizing below.
“You have to hydrate your skin with a moisturizer,” Rodney says. “It’s a great time to establish two moisturizers. One to protect your skin and retain moisture in the day and one to help rejuvenate your skin at night.”
“The sun causes most of your skin damage and signs of aging. You’re also at higher risk for skin cancers as you age,” Rodney says. “It’s not uncommon to see people in their 30s being diagnosed with skin cancer. You should look for a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 which should be reapplied every two hours when out in the sun.”
Since your skin cells turn over more slowly as you get older, your skin might start to look dull and your pores can appear larger. Soap cleansers can make things look worse, Rodney says. “Use a cleanser with alpha and beta hydroxy acids to help remove dead skin cells while nourishing and cleaning your face,” she suggests. “Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid are prime examples. Some cleansers can double as an exfoliating mask that you can do once a week.”
“Your eyelids have the thinnest skin on the face with no oil glands,” Rodney explains. “Dark circles and puffy eyes can show up quickly. In fact, it’s usually the first sign of aging in your 30s. Get a light, yet powerful serum containing retinoids and antioxidants like vitamin C.”
“Retinoids speed up cell turnover and help those with fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production deeper on your skin,” Rodney says. They also can help you get rid of sunspots and discoloration.
“Antioxidants help your skin repair itself from the cell damage that can occur from environmental toxins,” explains Imahiyerobo-Ip.