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Your 30s is a great time to start getting serious about a dedicated skin care routine. You're still pretty young and have plenty of time to repair any past damage and protect your complexion.
To help you craft the ideal skin care routine in your 30s, Shop TODAY consulted top dermatologists to get their take on what products you should stock up on immediately. Now you just have to make some room in your beauty cabinet!
Think skin cancer isn't really a concern in your 30s? Think again!
"It's becoming increasingly prevalent in younger populations, and sun damage is cumulative and irreversible. SPF works to preserve the skin barrier from harmful UVA and UVB rays," Johns Hopkins dermatologist and Disco Skin Care Medical Advisor Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien said. "You can wear a chemical sunscreen or a physical sunblock with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher."
Simmons-O'Brien recommends this daily moisturizer to her clients for its solid sun protection and optimal hydration. The lightweight lotion is formulated with moisturizing hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, and antioxidants like goji berry and pomegranate.
Want to keep your skin healthy and youthful in your 30s and well beyond? Keep those powerful sun rays at bay with a daily dose of sunscreen. Board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology David Lortscher swears by this oil-free facial moisturizer that hydrates throughout the day with the help of ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
"It contains niacinamide, which can help lighten dark spots from years of sun exposure, help decrease redness, and may improve the appearance of fine lines and improve skin elasticity. It also contains hyaluronic acid to help skin retain moisture, which may help improve the appearance of wrinkles," he said.
Not all sunscreens are created equally, and there are a few traits you should look for before incorporating a new one into your skin care routine.
"I recommend using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30," Lortscher told Shop TODAY. "It should also be broad-spectrum, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays."
Aveeno's daily moisturizer shields skin from the sun while working to fight the early signs of aging with the help of the brand's Total Soy Complex. It's also a go-to for Dr. Angela J. Lamb, medical director of the Patient Access Center at Mount Sinai Doctors Faculty Practice.
Sunscreen is one of the most important products in any skin care routine, but finding one that doesn't make you look like a ghost can be a bit challenging. Luckily, this one is designed to blend seamlessly into the skin without leaving behind any residue.
"There's no white cast, it's super lightweight, it offers great protection and it has a smooth finish," Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch said.
Unseen Sunscreen offers SPF 40 broad-spectrum protection and is filled with antioxidants to help shield your skin from blue light. As an added bonus, it's scentless and oil-free!
Avoiding a sunburn shouldn't be your only motivation for putting sunscreen on. "It is important to wear sunscreen daily to avoid skin cancer and keep the skin looking youthful. UV is one of the biggest contributors to premature aging of the skin," Dr. David Bank, a board-certified dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York, told us.
Cetaphil's SPF 50 works to hydrate skin for eight hours and blends in seamlessly thanks to micronized titanium dioxide that won't leave a white residue behind.
"Our 30-year-old skin isn’t as forgiving as it used to be, making it crucial to never skip a nighttime cleansing. It’s at night that our skin repairs itself and reverses the day’s damage," celebrity aesthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar said.
This cleanser starts off as a gel formula and then turns into a cleansing oil that banishes dirt and oil. When you're ready to rinse it off, it quickly transforms into a milk.
"It also has some anti-inflammatory ingredients in it that are good to ward off brown spots that might be starting in the 30s," Lamb said.
Cleansing is a seemingly simple step that becomes even more critical in your 30s.
"It's a decade where skin can change drastically, and multiple skin concerns can present — acne, sensitive skin, aging — all at the same time," Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City said. "Ideally, twice a day the skin should be cleansed with a gentle cleanser that doesn’t remove natural skin hydrators but gently removes surface dirt and oil."
La Roche-Posay's cream cleanser combines prebiotic thermal water, ceramides, glycerin and niacinamide to gently clean and hydrate skin.
Ife Rodney, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology, told Shop TODAY the cleanser has quickly won her over. "Cream cleansers remove dirt and oil, without drying your skin out," she said. "Right now, I'm using this one and love that it preserve my skin's natural oils."
"Cleansing is important to set the stage for a clean base so products can not only penetrate more effectively but prevent risk of product dilution, cross-reactivity or product inactivation (some products are not meant to be applied in tandem)," Del Campo Dermatology & Laser Institute's Dr. Roberta Del Campo told us.
This fragrance-free foam cleanser is perfect for normal to oily skin and removes excess oil, dirt and makeup while maintaining the skin’s moisture balance with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides.
Available in both foaming and creamy formulas, this gentle cleanser removes excess oil, dirt and makeup without drying out your skin. Luckily, it does so without leaving behind an annoying residue.
"To remove the day’s build-up (think: makeup, dirt, oil) it’s important to use a gentle face wash that does not contain potentially pore-clogging ingredients (especially if you’re prone to breakouts!)," Lortscher said. "It’s oil-free and formulated to be soap-free and non-comedogenic for sensitive, acne-prone skin."
A no-fuss, gentle cleanser is perfect for the morning, but at nighttime, you'll want something with a bit more strength.
"After a long day of work or a workout, you should use what we call a ‘workhorse’ cleanser — something that wipes away dirt, grime, oil, and toxins without stripping your skin," Simmons-O’Brien suggested.
The glycolic acid in this gel cleanser exfoliates while panthenol hydrates and arginine soothes skin. Over time, the nourishing formula can help improve the look of fine lines and uneven skin tone.
Believe it or not, early signs of aging can start to appear in your thirties. Fortunately, a daily dose of vitamin C serum can help fend off fine lines and irregular pigmentation.
"Vitamin C is great for protecting collagen and brightening the skin," Simmons-O’Brien said. "It has also been proven to improve the efficacy of your sunscreen."
La Roche-Posay's serum is formulated with 10% pure vitamin C, neurosensine and salicylic acid that leaves behind a nice glow and a soft finish. So be generous and apply some in the morning and evening!
Retinol is a powerful ingredient that can help reduce fine lines, smooth out acne scars and shrink pores. This lightweight serum offers impressive hydration and anti-aging benefits with its vitamin B3 and Retinol Complex. Just remember to only apply it at night since retinol might make skin more sensitive to sunlight, and use it sparingly.
"Follow the instructions. More is not better, more is just more irritation! Even in a moisturizing cream form, you may find you need to add lotion afterward. You can use your gentle moisturizing lotion after your retinol," said Dr. Azeen Sadeghian, a dermatologist advisor for AI-powered skin symptom checker app Aysa.
As our skin ages, its ability to retain moisture wanes. Adding a few drops of hyaluronic acid can help combat that.
"It can reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping our cells with moisture," Aguilar said. "When our skin is hydrated properly, a protective barrier is created. Hyaluronic acid can also speed up wound healing and is beneficial for all skin types."
Aguilar loves this affordable option from Asterwood Naturals that's formulated without oils, fragrances or parabens. The organic, vegan serum helps even out skin tone and leaves skin glowing over time.
Otherwise known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals and environmental damage. However, It's a bit unstable when exposed to air, light or water, so the packaging is important.
"This serum is a true gem as its metal packaging blocks out all UV light, ensuring your skin gets the most effective formulation," Rodney said.
The serum is packaged in an air-tight metal tube and has a creamy formula that absorbs quickly and evens skin tone. It also has just the right amount of vitamin C to be effective and not irritating.
Struggling with adult acne? It's a pain, we know, but retinol can help. This over the counter option is fragrance- and oil-free and is an effective acne spot treatment.
"Adapalene is an active ingredient that used to be available by prescription only," Nazarian said. "It's a third-generation retinoid that can help increase collagen production, skin cell turnover and improve the appearance of wrinkles and pore size."
6. Differin Gel
Formulated with 0.1% adapalene, this gel acne treatment works to clear breakouts and prevent new pimples by targeting two of the main causes of acne: inflammation and clogged pores.
"It's one of my absolute favorites to recommend because it has a prescription-strength formula that is available over the counter. It is extremely affordable and well-tolerated, and I often recommend my patients use it mixed with a moisturizer or in a 'retinoid sandwich' style which essentially layers moisturizer, retinoid and then moisturizer again to minimize irritation," said Dr. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
The star ingredients in this anti-aging cream are hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and, of course, retinol. The night cream targets fine lines and wrinkles, helps fade dark spots and gives skin a healthy glow.
"Everyone needs some kind of retinol. The prescription ones are the most potent, but Neutrogena's Anti Wrinkle cream is a very good over-the-counter option and is a good place to start if you do not have a dermatologist," board-certified dermatologist Mary Lupo told Shop TODAY.
If you want to get the most bang for your buck with your daily moisturizer, seek out one that has restorative ingredients like antioxidants. Proactiv's lightweight, oil-free moisturizer fends off free radicals with green tea, softens and hydrates with macadamia nut oil extract, and moisturizes with the help of hyaluronic acid.
"I love this product because it contains a lot of antioxidants and botanicals, and it’s not only calming but is also a wonderful protective base to use every morning after cleansing," Nazarian said.
It's a twofer! This night cream doubles as a peel with fruit-derived AHAs that leave skin glowing. The neroli, valerian and vanilla essential oils also leave behind a pleasant scent!
"It contains vitamins C and E to help improve hyperpigmentation, uneven texture and dryness," Lortscher said.
"Starting in our early 20s, new collagen production in our skin begins to steadily decline. When combined with chronic sun exposure, tell-tale signs like fine lines, wrinkles and sun spots start to appear in our 30s," Rodney said. "The good news is that by sticking with a targeted skin care routine, you may be able to slow down and even turn back the hands of time."
The amino-peptide complex in this Olay night cream hydrates all night long and targets fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, the fragrance-free formula isn't greasy and will absorb quickly into your skin.
Applying a moisturizer will help to seal in other products and give a skin barrier to irritants. Just make sure to pick your products based on skin type (for example an oil-free product for oily skin and a thicker more creamy product for dry skin)," Del Campo said.
The hyaluronic acid and vitamins B5 and E in Cetaphil's daily cream help hydrate and soothe skin and the non-greasy formula leaves skin nice and soft.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Dermatologists say these are the products everyone in their 40s should be using
- This beauty sale only happens once a year — here's what we're buying
- How to correct and prevent sun spots, according to dermatologists