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In your 30s? Here’s your skin care shopping list, per derms

Now's the time to restock your beauty cabinet.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Your 30s is a great time to start getting serious about a dedicated skin care routine. You're still young, but more mature, 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!

Best cleansers | Best serums and retinols | Best sunscreens | Best night moisturizers | Editor favorites | How we chose | Meet the experts

Shop TODAY Snapshot

Best cleansers for your 30s, according to experts

No7 Radiant Results Nourishing Melting Gel Cleanser

What we like
  • Tackles makeup, dirt and oil
Something to note
  • Can be drying when used in a double-cleansing routine

Size: 5 oz. | Some active ingredients: Vitamins C, E, B5 and grapeseed oil | Formulation: Gel, oil, milk | Best for: Dry skin

"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 says.

This cleanser starts off as a gel formula and then turns into a cleansing oil that banishes remaining 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," dermatologist Dr. Angela Lamb says.

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser

What we like
  • Many customers say it's gentle
Something to note
  • Mixed feelings about the scent

Size: 12-16 oz. | Some active Ingredients: Glycerin | Formulation: Foam | Best for: Combination, normal, acne-prone, sensitive skin 

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!),” board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology David Lortscher says. “It’s oil-free and formulated to be soap-free and non-comedogenic for sensitive, acne-prone skin.”

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

What we like
  • Great value for the price
Something to note
  • Some experienced irritation

Size: Various sizes | Some active ingredients: Thermal spring water, glycerin, niacinamide | Formulation: Cream cleanser | Best for: Dry, normal, sensitive skin

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 Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City says. "Ideally, twice a day, the skin should be cleansed with a gentle cleanser that doesn’t remove natural skin hydration 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.

Dr. Ife Rodney, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology, tells Shop TODAY the cleanser has quickly won her over. "Cream cleansers remove dirt and oil without drying your skin out," she says. "Right now, I'm using this one and love that it preserves my skin's natural oils."

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

What we like
  • Makes skin feel very clean
Something to note
  • Some experienced dry skin

Size: 8 - 12 oz. | Some active ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Formulation: Liquid | Best for: Oily, normal, sensitive, combination, dry skin

"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 tells us.

This fragrance-free foam cleanser is perfect for normal to oily skin as it removes excess oil, dirt and makeup while maintaining the skin’s moisture balance with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides.

Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Solutions Cleanser

Editor's note: This product is currently unavailable, but we found a similar option below.

Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel

What we like
  • Offers great results
  • Has a nice scent
Something to note
  • Not ideal for sensitive skin

Size: 8.5 oz. | Some active ingredients: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid | Formulation: Gel | Best for: Normal, dry, combination, oily 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," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien suggests.

The glycolic acid in this gel cleanser exfoliates while panthenol hydrates and arginine soothes the skin. Over time, the nourishing formula can help improve the look of fine lines and uneven skin tone.

Best serums and retinols for your 30s, according to experts

Asterwood Naturals Hyaluronic Acid Serum

What we like
  • Leaves skin feeling hydrated
Something to note
  • Some say it's too watery

Size: 1 oz. | Some active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Formulation:  Serum, liquid | Best for: All skin types

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 says. “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.

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

What we like
  • Many customers saw results
Something to note
  • Can cause skin sensitivity

Size: 0.5 oz. | Some active ingredients: Adapalene | Formulation: Gel | Best for: Sensitive skin

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,” says Dr. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

L’Oreal Paris Revitalift 10% Vitamin C Serum

What we like
  • Helps improve skin texture
Something to note
  • Many don't like the scent

Size: 1 oz. | Some active ingredients: Vitamin C | Formulation: Serum, liquid | Best for: Sensitive skin

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 says.

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.

ProactivMD Adapalene Gel 0.1%

What we like
  • Offers prescription strength
Something to note
  • Can cause skin sensitivity

Size: 1.6 oz. | Some active ingredients: Adapalene | Formulation: Gel  | Best for: Acne-prone skin

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 says. “It’s a third-generation retinoid that can help increase collagen production, skin cell turnover and improve the appearance of wrinkles and pore size.”

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Facial Serum

What we like
  • Many saw a difference post-use
Something to note
  • Some don't like the dropper

Size: 1.3 oz. | Some active ingredients: Vitamin B3 + Retinol Complex | Formulation: Serum, liquid | Best for: All skin types

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,” says Dr. Azeen Sadeghian, a board-certified dermatologist advisor for the AI-powered skin symptom checker app Aysa.

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

What we like
  • Many say it's very hydrating
Something to note
  • Some don't prefer the scent

Size: 1 oz. | Some active ingredients: Vitamin C, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid | Formulation: Serum, liquid | Best for: Normal, sensitive, mature, dry skin

Believe it or not, early signs of aging can start to appear in your 30s. 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 says. "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. Be generous to yourself and apply some in the morning and evening!

Best sunscreens for your 30s, according to experts

CeraVe AM Face Moisturizer with SPF 30

What we like
  • Has a non-greasy texture
Something to note
  • Some say it's hard to blend

Size: 2 oz. | Some active ingredients: Zinc oxide, homosalate, meradimate | Formulation: Lotion | Best for: Combination, acne-prone, oily, sensitive, normal, dry skin

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. Lortscher swears by this oil-free CeraVe 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 says.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50

What we like
  • Many say it absorbs quickly
Something to note
  • Some customers find it greasy

Size: 1.7 oz. | Some active ingredients: Titanium dioxide, oxybenzone | Formulation: Cream | Best for: All skin types

Avoiding sunburns 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, tells 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.

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer

What we like
  • Helps even skin tone
Something to note
  • Some dislike the smell

Size: 2.3 oz. | Some active ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate | Formulation: Lotion | Best for: Dry, normal, combination, mature, oily skin

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 says. "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 Lamb.

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

What we like
  • Many say it goes on smoothly
Something to note
  • Some customers broke out

Size: 1.7 oz. | Some active ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate | Formulation: Gel | Best for: Normal, dry, combination, oily skin

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 says.

Supergoop! 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!

Best night moisturizers for your 30s, according to experts

Cetaphil Deep Hydration Health Glow Daily Cream

What we like
  • Many say it absorbs well
Something to note
  • Not enough product, some say

Size: 1.7 oz. | Some active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin | Formulation: Cream | Best for: Dry, sensitive 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 says.

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.

Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream

What we like
  • Very moisturizing
Something to note
  • Some didn't see results

Size: 1.7 oz. | Some active ingredients: Dimethicone, glycerin, niacinamide | Formulation: Cream | Best for: Combination, dry, oily, dry, mature skin

“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 says. “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.

Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins Resurfacing Cream

What we like
  • Many people like the scent
Something to note
  • Can feel drying to some

Size: 1.7 oz. | Some active ingredients: Fruit-Derived AHAs | Formulation: Cream | Best for: Dry, combo, normal skin 

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 says.

Best skin care products for your 30s, per editors

CÉLOR Under Eye Patches (20 Pairs)

What we like
  • Relaxing
  • Feels good on skin
Something to note
  • May take time to see results

Size: 20 pairs | Some active ingredients: Collagen, castor oil | Formulation: Patches | Best for: Dry skin, puffiness

Allie Wise, an associate editor at Shop TODAY, recommends these soothing under-eye patches. She says, "I love using these gold under-eye patches before bed. They are so relaxing and cooling that it feels like an at-home spa. They also help reduce my dark circles under my eyes."

Peach Slices Snail Rescue Purifying Cleanser

What we like
  • Good for acne-prone skin
  • Feels hydrating
Something to note
  • Has little to no scent

Size: 4.5 oz. | Some active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Formulation: Gel | Best for: Dry, combination, normal, oil skin

Amanda Fama, an editor at Shop TODAY, recently started using Snail Rescue and it's her "new favorite." She says, "I have sensitive skin that's prone to breakouts, and this cleanser leaves my complexion feeling clean and refreshed." Fama continues, "I use this along with the Snail Rescue moisturizer, which is super hydrating."

How we chose

Shop TODAY consulted a range of skin care experts to get their picks for the best anti-aging skin care products for anyone in their 30s. They shared a mix of products for various budgets and skin types.

Meet the experts

  • Natalie Aguilar is a celebrity aesthetician and dermatological nurse
  • Dr. David Bank is a board-certified dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York and the founder/director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery
  • Dr. Roberta Del Campo is a board-certified dermatologist at Del Campo Dermatology & Laser Institute
  • Dr. Ranella Hirsch is a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of Atolla, an Allure Beauty Breakthrough
  • Dr. Angela Lamb is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City
  • Dr. Tiffany Libby is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City
  • Dr. David Lortscher is a board-certified dermatologist and the CEO of Curology
  • Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City
  • Dr. Ife Rodney is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology
  • Dr. Azeen Sadeghian is a board-certified dermatologist at Baton Rouge General
  • Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien is a board certified dermatologist and an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.