In my teens and 20s, I had a lot of wild ideas about what it meant to turn 30. Most of them were debunked as I entered the decade (I did not, in fact, transform into a pile of dusty old bones on my birthday), but I did notice my perspective change a bit. While I still felt like a kid in my 20s, 30 was the year I finally began to see myself as a young adult. And, in a highly adult fashion, I also began worrying. High on my list of this beauty writer’s concerns: what are the best skincare products for your 30s?
While my 20s were more about experimenting with skincare (and the occasional woke-up-still-in-makeup morning), my 30s have been about honing a routine to both correct the damage (dear reader, please don’t fall asleep in your makeup) and lay the foundation for a solid, fresh-faced future. Honestly, a well-rounded skincare routine is basically the beauty version of a 401K—invest in yourself now and reap the benefits decades later.
With that in mind, I tapped Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist, to run through an ideal product routine for 30-something skin. No skincare line-up will ever be one-size-fits-all, but knowing what kind of ingredients work best for most skin types can help you hone your own daily repertoire.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
What does my skin need in my 30s?
By the time we hit our 30s, most will begin to notice a decrease in collagen production (we begin losing about 10% of our collagen every decade, according to Dr. Engelman). That decrease in collagen, our body’s main structural protein, contributes to the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles, and other signs of aging.
“At this time, our skin is also starting to lose its ability to retain moisture, further lessening the firm and plump look of skin that we associate with youth,” Dr. Engelman shares.
Using a hard-working moisturizer with hydrating ingredients (like hyaluronic acid, squalane, ceramides, and glycerin) is key to keeping skin plump and glowy in your 30s. If you want to level up your routine after that, consider antioxidants (like vitamin C) to fight free radicals or retinoids to encourage cell turnover (and skin repair). And of course, sunscreen is a non-negotiable at any age, but SPF (an anti-aging superhero) begins to feel even more important when crow’s feet start to creep in.
Another thing our 30-something skin desperately needs is a clean slate at night. Always make time to remove dirt, makeup, sweat, and any other accumulated debris from your face at the end of the day. “I suggest using the double cleansing method of first washing with a cleansing oil, then following with a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils,” Dr. Engelman adds about practicing the best skincare for your 30s.
What are typical skin issues we begin to see in our 30s?
“By age 30 and up, we start seeing more signs of aging, like fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Engelman explains. “This is also when some people may start noticing their skin manifesting signs of hormonal changes, like acne breakouts, even if they’ve never previously experienced them before.”
Is it okay to use anti-aging products in your 30s?
Yes! In fact, Dr. Engelman usually recommends patients begin using retinol in their 20s.
“It’s usually best to start with over-the-counter retinol and integrate it slowly and gently,” Dr. Engelman recommends for the best skincare products for 30s. “This is because retinol can be very irritating and sometimes too strong if not used with the right balance. If you have been using retinol for a while and are starting to notice less results, then it may be time to graduate to prescription retinol. This tends to be more potent and has a higher percentage of retinol, so it’s important your body has been exposed to retinol before, to prevent adverse side effects like irritation and purging.”
What is the best skincare routine for a 30-year-old?
As your skincare routine evolves over the years, you’ll begin to hone two anti-aging routines: one for the morning and one at night. The morning is about protection (free-radical-fighting vitamin C is your friend), while the evening is for renewal (reach for cell-turnover-inducing retinol). And while no routine is a perfect fit for all, Dr. Engelman shares a solid line-up to help you find the best skincare for your 30s.
Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Replenishing Cleansing Oil
“For a cleanser, I recommend something gentle that will not strip your skin of natural oils and leave you more dehydrated. To treat dry, sensitive skin, I recommend double cleansing (wash first with an oil cleanser, then a gentle face wash).” — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Replenishing Cleansing Oil, $36
Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C & Tri-Peptide Serum
“Antioxidants are important for people 30-plus. They help combat oxidative stress from free radicals and prevent signs of aging. Bliss Bright Idea Serum is packed with antioxidants and is easy to layer under other skincare products, SPF, and makeup for additional skin defense.” — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C & Tri-Peptide Serum, $28
Glo Skin Beauty, C-Shield Anti-Pollution Moisture Tint (SPF 30)
“Finally, your morning skincare routine should end with sunscreen—always! This is crucial for not only preventing premature aging but also for protecting against skin cancer. My go-to is Glo Skin Beauty’s C-Shield Anti-Pollution Moisture Tint SPF 30+, which not only defends against UV rays and blue light but also keeps skin hydrated throughout the day while providing a sheer, natural-looking tint to blur imperfections.” — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Glo Skin Beauty, C-Shield Anti-Pollution Moisture Tint With SPF 30, $47
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
“By your 30s, you should be using retinol regularly. This is an amazing ingredient for strengthening the skin barrier and overall keeping skin more youthful. Elizabeth Arden’s Retinol Ceramide Capsules are one of my favorites because they pack in both retinol and barrier-strengthening ceramides.” — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum, $114
Natura Bissé Essential Shock Intense Cream
“Finish with a nourishing moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated all night long.” — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Natura Bissé Essential Shock Intense Cream, $135
Canopy Humidifier with Aroma
“I also recommend running a humidifier to balance the humidity in your home, which helps prevent transepidermal water loss. The Canopy Humidifier is my favorite because it’s made with mold-resistant technology that’s designed not to spew mist, allergens, or irritants into the air. It’s also very easy to use and clean.” — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Canopy Humidifier with Aroma + Filter Subscription, $125
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