The Best Skin Care Routine for your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s & Beyond

July 23, 2020

Woman using the best skin care routine

At every stage of life, we need to care for our skin in different ways to ensure we can age gracefully; however, many people are still treating their skin like they’re in their 20s even though they’re in their 50s. You really need to understand your skin’s needs at different life stages to help you ward off signs of aging, prevent health concerns like skin cancer, and generally, ensure you look and feel your best at any age. In this blog, we will establish a review of the best skin care routine for individuals at different stages of their lives.

Related: How to Build a Skincare Routine and 5 Best Ways to Take Care of Your Skin

Caring for Skin in Your 20s

The biggest mistake most people make is not doing enough preventive skincare in their 20s. Causes of the visual signs of aging on the skin, especially sun exposure, create cumulative damage. That means that each exposure to damaging UVA/UVB rays and other potential aging factors adds up over time. The more steps you take to protect your healthy, youthful skin, the longer you’ll have it.

What to Watch

  • Adult acne – If you struggled with acne in your teens, you may see breakouts diminishing or becoming less severe in your 20s. Whether or not you had acne during adolescence, you may find yourself struggling with newly developed adult acne caused by hormonal fluctuations as we age. This is especially common for women in their 20s.
  • Early sun damage – Depending on your sun exposure and sun protection practices, you may begin to see signs of sun damage such as brown “sun” spots in your 20s.
  • Early collagen loss – Collagen gives young skin its youthful smoothness and fullness. In the mid-20s, the production of collagen begins to slow down, leading to the appearance of the first fine lines and wrinkles in your 30s.

Top Tips

  • Sun protection – Diligent sun protection is the most important habit to establish in your 20s to impact the appearance and health of your skin in future decades. Sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher should be applied daily and re-applied throughout the day, particularly when outdoors.  Choose broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB waves and contain the physical-blocking ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  Apply to all the parts of your body that will be exposed to the sun, paying particular attention to the face, neck, chest, and hands which often show the first signs of sun damage.  When outside for exercise or recreation, wear a brimmed hat and UPF protective clothing or swimwear.
  • Cleanse – Use mild facial cleansers twice a day. At the end of the day, use micellar water or other gentle makeup remover to thoroughly remove makeup prior to cleansing.  If you suffer from acne, use a cleanser that contains salicylic acid.
  • Exfoliate –Look for chemical exfoliating products that include lactic, glycolic, or salicylic acids to use two or three times weekly, as these ingredients help to remove skin cells and promote cell turnover. Use loofas, scrubs, and other physical exfoliants with caution as you don’t want to unnecessarily irritate the skin.
  • Moisturize – Apply a lightweight moisturizer or oil daily to keep skin cells hydrated. Moisturized skin is less likely to break out, is less affected by common skin health issues like eczema, and generally looks and feels better.
  • Retinoids – Your 20s are the perfect time to introduce retinoids into your daily skincare routine. Retinoids are great for building collagen to improve the firmness and density of skin and lightening pigmentation irregularities from sun damage.  Begin with an over-the-counter retinol product 2-3 nights a week and gradually increase to nightly use.  If it is too irritating, mix with a moisturizer before applying.    If you have acne, you may benefit from a prescription retinoid cream to help unclog pores and reduce the skin’s oil production.

Caring for Skin in Your 30s

The 30s may seem like an in-between age, but really it may be more clearly regarded as a crossroads. You need to continue practicing the prevention steps taken in your 20s while introducing treatments to address signs of aging as they appear.

What to Watch

  • Skin discoloration – Uneven skin tone and “sun” spots due to sun damage commonly appear in the 30s.
  • Fine lines & wrinkles – Apart from a lucky few, almost everyone will start to see their skin develop its first fine lines and wrinkles in their 30s. Often, you’ll first notice these changes around the eyes and mouth and on the neck.
  • Dullness and dryness – Skin cell turnover slows down leading to a dull appearance of the skin, dry patches, and increased noticeability of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Adult acne – For most people who had adolescent acne, it is typically cleared up by the 30s. However, if you developed hormonally-driven adult acne, you may still be struggling with this skin condition. This is especially true for women during and after pregnancy. Adult acne that cannot be managed with a topical skincare routine warrants a medical visit with a board-certified dermatologist to discuss more targeted prescription treatment options.

Top Tips

  • Cleanse – You should continue to use gentle products, but you may want to consider using a cleanser with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to promote cell turnover.
  • Exfoliate – Emphasize regular exfoliation with products containing AHAs to address skin dullness and an uneven complexion. Be cautious when using multiple products, such as cleansers, scrubs, and treatment pads, that contain these ingredients to avoid over-exfoliating and irritating the skin.
  • Moisturize – Continue to use a daily moisturizer as part of your healthy skin routine.
  • Sun protection – As stated previously, sun damage is cumulative, so if you had damage caused by failure to protect skin from UVA/B rays in your 20s, you will be seeing the results of this damage in your 30s. Avoid further damage by applying an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen every day, even if it’s cloudy, rainy, cold, or you’ll be indoors most of the day. Every exposure counts.
  • Antioxidants – An antioxidant serum with vitamin C should be a part of your skincare routine by your 30s. Antioxidants prevent and treat fine lines and pigmentation caused by UV rays and other environmental stressors that produce damaging free radicals in the skin.  Apply in the morning under your daily sunscreen.
  • Retinoids – For wrinkles in the early stages, retinoids should be your go-to. If you didn’t introduce these products into your skincare routine in your 20s, it’s essential to do so in your 30s. They can help reduce the appearance of existing wrinkles and prevent the development of wrinkles in the future. If you have been using a nightly retinol in your 20s, you may consider transitioning to a prescription-strength retinoid cream in your 30s.
  • Establish a routine of treating areas that most often show signs of aging – around the eyes, around the mouth, and on the neck and upper chest.

Caring for Skin in Your 40s

You can really tell in the 40s when people have taken good, preventive care of their skin in their 20s and 30s. Actually, many people who have great looking skin in their 40s and beyond are those patients who struggle with chronic skin health issues. These concerns meant they had reason to learn about appropriate skincare techniques, find good products, and often, work with a dermatologist who offered good skincare recommendations. Whether your sensitive or acne-prone skin lead to better skincare or you were just dedicated to maintaining youthful beauty, your efforts will really be paying off once you hit your 40s. If you haven’t been great at skincare or your best efforts weren’t enough to beat genetics, there are some really effective at-home and dermatologist-provided treatments that are minimally invasive, conservative, and effective in turning back the clock.

What to Watch

  • Skin laxity – Due to continued loss of collagen and elastin, in your 40s your skin will start to look thinner, looser, and less supple. In most cases, this first becomes apparent in the face, neck, and hands.
  • Facial volume – In addition to skin thinning, there is a gradual loss of underlying fat, muscle, and bone causing areas of the face that used to be smooth and round to look sunken in. Hands, arms, and legs may start to look bonier.
  • Sun damage – Cumulative damage from unprotected UVA/B exposure will really become noticeable at this age. From a sallow skin tone, sun spots and brown patches, to fine lines and wrinkles, you will see the adverse impact of sun damage adding up in your 40s.
  • Dry skin – Our skin produces less sebum in our 40s, so you may notice skin appearing drier, duller, and there may even be rough patches of skin. Perimenopausal women may especially notice increased dryness as the natural deceleration of sebum production is compounded by the decreased production of estrogen.

Top Tips

  • Cleanse – Most should be able to use gentle, cream or milky cleansers exclusively by the time you reach your 40s. If you do have very oily or acne-prone skin even in your 40s, you may want to use a cleanser with alpha hydroxy or salicylic acid once each day.
  • Moisturize – In your 40s you are likely to notice an increase in skin dryness, so hydrating your skin is even more important than ever before. Look for rich moisturizers and serums that are cream or oil-based. Check for ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and petrolatum acid to help introduce and contain moisture in the skin.
  • Antioxidants – Continue daily use of an antioxidant serum containing vitamin C followed by sunscreen. Other valuable antioxidants to consider incorporating into your routine include Vitamin E, coenzyme q10, and green tea.
  • Sun protection – No matter what your age, you should be using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily. As we age, our skin is thinner and more susceptible to damage, so if you notice you’re burning more easily or you’re seeing additional signs of sun damage, increase your SPF, reduce time in the sun whenever possible, and work with a dermatologist to address any changes in skin’s appearance or texture as soon as they appear.
  • Retinoid – By the time you reach your 40s, you should discuss using a prescription-strength retinoid cream with your dermatologist. In addition to anti-aging benefits,  prescription retinoids have even been shown effective in reversing precancerous skin damage.
  • Peptides – Consider adding peptide-containing moisturizers or serums to further boost collagen production.
  • In-office treatments – If you notice skin laxity, consider energy-based laser, radiofrequency, or ultrasound treatments to reverse damage by promoting the production of collagen and elastin. Soft tissue fillers may be injected to address the loss of volume and increased laxity. Neuromodulators, such as botox, may resolve or soften facial lines.  Laser resurfacing and other light-based treatments can be used to treat sun-damaged skin.  Consult with a board-certified dermatologist to tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs.

Caring for Skin in Your 50s & Beyond

Two generations ago, living to your 50s was impressive. One generation ago, people in their 50s were old. Today, your life may not even be half over by the time you reach your 50s, so we all want to look and feel a little better as we look forward to living longer. Even if you’ve been taking great care of your skin your whole life, you will still be seeing the signs of age by the time you reach your 50s, but continued preventive care and new treatments to address concerns as they arise will help to keep you looking great in your 50s and beyond.

What to Watch

  • Skin thinning and sagging – With continued loss of collagen and elastin, the skin will start to appear saggy. This is often most noticeable around the jaw, neck, eyes, and mouth. However, you may also notice loose or “crepey” skin all over your body.
  • Pronounced wrinkles – After years of laughing, smiling, frowning, and making a million other little expressions, these lines may be written on your face.
  • Dryness – Between less frequent cell turnover, decreased oil production, and slower toxin removal, your skin may appear dry and dull. The change may be thought of as going from a “glossy” finish in your 20s and 30s to a “matte” finish in your 40s, 50s, and older.
  • Hyper/hypopigmentation – Changes in the shade of your skin may appear as spots of discoloration or more widespread areas where the skin tone is lighter or darker due to years of cumulative sun exposure.
  • Menopausal and postmenopausal skin concerns – hormonal changes result in further loss of collagen, increased dryness and sensitivity, and in some women, menopause-related acne and rosacea.

Top Tips

  • Cleanse – Because your skin is more susceptible to dryness, use cream-based, hydrating cleansers in your 50s and beyond.
  • Moisturize – It is important to maintain the skin barrier with adequate hydration to reduce your skin’s vulnerability to damage. Use thick cream and oil-based moisturizers morning and night.  Consider adding a hyaluronic acid serum to further moisturize and plump the skin.
  • Sun protection – As we age, our skin will benefit from the additional moisture of adding a separate sunscreen, and in most cases, you’ll need the added protection of an SPF higher than what is available in most moisturizers.
  • Antiaging – Continue an antiaging regimen that includes, antioxidants, peptides, and a topical retinoid. Choose oil-based formulations that are more hydrating.  Your dermatologist can recommend moisturizing retinoid products.
  • Hyperpigmentation – over-the-counter and prescription lightening ingredients can be used to address brown spots, such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, azelaic acid, and licorice.
  • In-office treatments with injectables, lasers, and energy-based devices continue to be effective at this life stage. A consultation with a board-certified dermatologist is required to devise a treatment plan specific to your needs and to set appropriate expectations.

Contact the U.S. Dermatology Partners Team

If you’re ready to discuss skincare at any age, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team is here for you. Getting started is easy. Simply fill out our standard request form. A member of our team will be in touch to answer questions or schedule your appointment. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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