So you survived your 20s… Congratulations! While your 20s may have been a time of exploration and fun with bits of chaos thrown into the mix, now that you're in your 30s, it's still about trying new things, but with more of a routine. Especially for your skin.
"Your 30s are a time of … stress and hormonal swings that can wreak havoc on your skin," explains celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. "The growth hormones start to slow down, so the skin won't repair itself as it did in your 20s; breakouts can often occur in the form of cystic acne." In your 30s, you might also be dealing with dark spots, acne scars, and fine expression lines that were never there before. "It's time to take your skin seriously," says Rouleau. "The days of neglecting your skin are over." But don't freak out—for every skincare concern that's likely to pop up in your 30s, there's an easy fix. We spoke with Rouleau and two other experts who walked us through their best advice for skincare in your 30s.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling for the most important habits to integrate into your skincare routine in your 30s.
How to Adjust to Skincare in Your 30s
"Many people in their 30s fall into the habit of using the same routine morning and night, but it's important to understand the needs from day to night are different," says Rouleau.
During the day, our skin is exposed to the UV rays and environmental stressors that age us; then at night, our skin goes into repair mode to recover from all that. Thus, your morning skincare routine should be all about protection, involving an antioxidant serum and sunscreen. Then your nighttime routine should focus on rejuvenation, incorporating products like retinol, peptides, and chemical exfoliation, followed by night cream.
How to Introduce Anti-Aging Products in Your 30s
"In your 30s, it's important to start using anti-aging products," says Jaliman. By starting in your 30s, you may prevent signs of aging, so you'll have less to deal with later.
Retin-A (tretinoin) is a form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself by encouraging cell turnover. It's commonly prescribed for acne, fine lines, and sun-damaged skin.
"Aside from sunscreen, the best, tried-and-true proven ingredient for smoothing the texture of the skin and making lines, wrinkles, and pores less visible is retinol or a prescription retinoid like Retin-A," says Rouleau.
In your 30s, you can start by using over-the-counter retinol like the RoC serum once or twice a week, gradually building up to three or four nights a week. "Once you have been using it for six to nine months, you can transition into a prescription retinoid," says Rouleau. It may take about six weeks to see results from using retinol, so be patient.
Morning Skincare Routine for 30s Skin
Remember when we said that your morning skincare routine should be all about protection? DermaDoctor's antioxidant Kakadu C-Serum is the perfect lightweight serum to wear under makeup. Kakadu plum extract, ferulic acid, and vitamin E are meant to work together to help brighten your complexion and smooth and soften skin.
No matter your age, sunscreen is crucial to your skin's health. A Byrdie-fave and dermatologist-approved pick, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk sunscreen has an SPF of 60. The French sunscreen is fragrance- and oil-free, water-resistant for over an hour, and is non-irritating, according to the brand. The best part (and a bonus for any sunscreen), is it goes on sheer and absorbs quickly, leaving a beautifully soft and smooth finish.
Many women avoid wearing makeup every day to let their skin "breathe," but according to Rouleau, makeup can actually help protect your skin. "I like to educate my clients to think of makeup as a skincare product," she says. According to Rouleau, because UV damage is a major cause of premature aging and most people don't wear enough sunscreen to get true protection, she recommends wearing foundation every day "as an insurance policy." In other words, that layer of makeup serves as an extra barrier between your skin and its "worst enemy—UV light."
If you're worried about daily foundation clogging your pores, don't be: "As long as you're using makeup that's appropriate for your skin type, you shouldn't run into any problems," says Rouleau.
For even more protection, choose a foundation with SPF built into the formula. We recommend BareMinerals for its SPF 15 protection against UVA and UVB rays. Bonus points for a variety of shades (30!) to choose from.
Evening Skincare Routine for 30s Skin
Estheticians agree that as you age, it becomes especially important to treat your neck and décolletage. "These are more delicate areas that show signs of aging first," explains Czech. "Your 'face' starts at your nipples and ends at your hairline."
In your early 20s, it was a good night if you remembered to take your makeup off at all; in your late 20s, you embraced the makeup-wipe life. But now it's time to get serious.
"Makeup wipes dehydrate and spread dirt and grime all over your face," explains Czech. Not to mention they may not actually do a good job of cleansing your skin. Instead, choose a gentle, sulfate-free cleansing lotion or gel-like Renée Rouleau's Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel. Follow up by wiping the skin with a baby washcloth, making sure to switch out your cloth each time you wash to avoid bacteria.
"Clean skin is healthy skin," Rouleau reminds us. "Be very meticulous about cleaning a day's worth of makeup, dirt, and bacteria from your skin so you'll get the best results from serums and moisturizers applied afterward."
And remember: Rubbing the leftover moisturizer from your face down to your neck isn't good enough. "While the intention is good, it's truly not helping that much in the quest for smooth, moist skin on the neck," says Rouleau. Instead, the neck deserves its own step in your skincare routine. "This means applying one application of moisturizer (with sunscreen during the day) to the face and then a second full application to the front and sides of the neck," says Rouleau. "This will ensure that the neck gets a proper coating of moisturizer and sunscreen to keep it looking soft, smooth, and damage-free."
Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Neck & Chest Broad Spectrum SPF 25 is a moisturizer specifically formulated for the neck. Use it nightly as part of your skincare routine to try to help smooth, firm, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles in this area.
As for eye cream, Rouleau explains its importance like this: "Considering the eye area has virtually no oil glands and is the first area of the face to show aging from facial expressions like squinting and smiling, protecting this area with a well-formulated eye cream is essential."
That doesn't mean you should slather eye cream all over your under-eye area, though. "Eye cream should be applied only to the orbital bone around the eyes, which is the bone just at the top of the cheekbone," says Rouleau.
For daily use, we recommend Tatcha eye serum in a pea-sized amount every 12 hours. While eye serum can be applied in the morning, nighttime application can be a nice addition to your routine thanks to the cooling ceramic applicator. For a more wallet-friendly pick, try Botanics All Bright Refreshing Eye Roll-On ($14) infused with hibiscus extract.
Odds are you didn't get a full eight hours of sleep each night in your 20s, and that undoubtedly took a toll on your skin. "Beauty sleep is very important," says Jaliman. As our experts mention, nighttime is when the skin repairs itself, and the longer you sleep, the more time it has to do that. "Sleep on a satin pillowcase so that the skin doesn't crunch against the pillow and sleep lines do not form," Jaliman suggests. We can't recommend Slip Silk Pillowcase ($89) enough for skin and for preventing unwanted frizz and loss of moisture in your hair.
The Final Takeaway
Aging is a beautiful, natural thing. After all that our body does for us, the least we can do is treat our skin kindly with the right products as we gracefully age from one year to the next.
Lyons AB, Moy L, Moy R, Tung R. Circadian rhythm and the skin: a review of the literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(9):42-45.
Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443