Anti-Aging in Your 20s: What You Need (And What You Don’t)

Kelly Dougher
gigi hadid

Photo: IMaxTree

For some women, anti-aging is the furthest thing from their minds in their 20s. For others, it’s never too early to start with the richest eye creams out there. We say that there’s a happy medium. Most of what you can do in terms of anti-aging in your 20s is preventative: the goal isn’t to treat wrinkles but to put them off for as long as possible.

This means following some common-sense measures, like being careful in the sun and getting enough sleep. However, if you’re really worried about it, there are additional things you can do to take your anti-aging regimen up a notch while in your 20s. Follow these six steps to keep your skin looking its best—your future self will thank you!

1. Get serious about sun protection.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. It is the number one preventative measure you can take in your 20s to avoid early aging later on. Dermatologists agree that you should be wearing at least SPF 30 every day, even on overcast winter days. This can easily be achieved by choosing a daily moisturizer that you like that contains SPF 30 or above; just make sure that you apply generously to get the promised protection—a tiny dab won’t do it.

If you have oily skin and you’re worried about looking greasy, choose a matte-finish moisturizer or sunscreen: we like Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29, ulta.com). And if you have sensitive skin, you may find that a mineral sunscreen is better for you. We love First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen ($30, sephora.com): it absorbs quickly with no white cast, so it feels like you’re not wearing anything at all, and is free of irritants like artificial fragrance and parabens.

Other things you can do to protect yourself from the sun: wear large hats and sunglasses with UVA/B protection, wear sunscreen on your neck and hands, skip the tanning beds for an awesome self-tanner, and stay in the shade on sunny days. Nothing’s too good for your skin, after all!

2. Up your moisturizing routine.

Whether your skin is dry or oily, it’s important to have a good moisturizing routine in your 20s to keep your skin hydrated. Those with normal to oily skin will probably be fine with a daily moisturizer that has SPF 30, like we already discussed. However, if you have slightly dry or very dry skin (especially in the winter) it’s a good idea to invest in a rich night cream as well. Apply it before bed after cleansing your face to keep your skin plump and hydrated. You can also use an eye cream if you really want to, but as long as your regular moisturizer doesn’t warn to keep away from the eye area it’s totally fine to save some money and dab that on your under-eye skin.

A tip: those with very dry skin can look for creams that are marketed for “mature” skin, since those will often be very emollient (which means hydration galore). For example, Lush Skin’s Shangri La ($50, lushusa.com) is marketed for mature skin, but anyone can use it for intense moisturizing at night in the winter. We love it for the way it plumps, smooths and moisturizes our skin, keeping it that way through even the most inclement of weather.

3. Use chemical exfoliants.

It’s important to exfoliate your skin regularly to encourage cell turnover. Harsh physical exfoliants like scrubs aren’t great for your complexion because they can tear up your skin’s outer barrier, leading to irritation and damage. Instead, help increase cell turnover and unclog pores with chemical exfoliants like Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids (AHAs and BHAs, respectively) and your skin will appear smoother and clearer with consistent use. AHAs are better for those with dry, sensitive skin while BHAs are great for those with acne-prone skin (look for anything with salicylic acid). Just be sure to wear sunscreen religiously because AHAs increase photosensitivity; we recommend using AHAs at night for that reason as well.

Convinced? Try Paula’s Choice 2% Salicylic Acid BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($28, paulaschoice.com) for your BHA needs, and Cane + Austin Retexturizing Cream ($80, beautybar.com) which has 10% glycolic acid, and is ideal if you’re looking for a good AHA.

4. Try a retinol.

Retin-based skincare products are ideal for those concerned about aging, but there’s two kinds: retinoids and retinols. Retinoids have a higher concentration of retinoic acid and need a prescription, whereas retinols aren’t quite as strong and can be purchased over the counter. We suggest leaving your retinoid prescription for 30s or 40s, instead starting slow with a product that contains a small concentration of retinol. The slight photosensitivity irritation that retinols bring are worth it, as it increases cell turnover and helps with sun damage. You probably don’t have many (if any) wrinkles to worry about in your 20s but if you really want to up your preventative skin care, you can’t go wrong with a retinol. We suggest Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream Night ($14.99, neutrogena.com), which contains a good amount of retinol and is (bonus!) quite affordable.

5. A silk pillowcase is a must.

Seriously, buy a silk pillowcase. It’s so much gentler on your skin, and if you’re the type to smash your face against your pillow every night, you need something that won’t wreak havoc on your delicate complexion. It’s much easier than trying to train yourself to sleep on your back (although hey, that works too). The silk pillowcases from SpaSilk ($20, spasilk.com) are considred the gold standard; they’re amazingly soft, practically wrinkle-proof and come in a wide range of colors to suit every decorating scheme.

6. Get enough sleep and water.

Speaking of sleep, you need that as well (duh). Getting enough sleep every night, as well as staying hydrated with plenty of water every day, is one of the best things you can do in your 20s to ensure that your skin stays gorgeous well into the next decade and beyond. Unless you also take gentle care of yourself with plenty of sleep, water, exercise, and nutrition, the best creams won’t do anything for you.

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