While skincare is currently an integral part of my life—I write about it, practice it, and sometimes obsess over it—that hasn't always been the case. In my early twenties, I hardly had a skincare routine to speak of. When I started college, I had a subscription to a kit of acne-fighting products that served as my first introduction to a multi-step routine. Eventually, I moved on to incorporating more generalized skincare staples (though, for whatever reason, still didn't commit to a daily moisturizer). Truth be told, my skincare game was far from sophisticated. There'd be many a night when I'd "wash" my face with the sweep of a makeup-removing wipe. Looking back at my old habits, it's hard to believe I could have been so laissez-faire without significant consequences. Oh, the joys of being young.
Today, my approach to skincare is much more comprehensive. I've studied up on ingredients, have years of trial and error under my belt, and have curated a collection of products that best suit my skin. Now that I'm in my early thirties, I thought it would be interesting to revisit my OG routine from when I was first learning about skincare and see how (and why) things have changed. Keep scrolling to read what happened when I turned back the clock to my early-twenties skincare routine for my 30-something skin.
My ride-or-die cleanser in college (then, simply known as "face wash") was a drugstore buy that was popular amongst all my friends. Reincorporating it back into my routine, and smelling its fresh invigorating scent, instantly brought me right back. While I was all for the nostalgia, the formula is simply too drying for my sensitive skin these days. In my twenties, I washed my face every night and morning (and sometimes during the day). Today, I cringe at the thought of washing my face multiple times a day.
After a much-needed skincare diet, I pared back my routine to the basics and landed on Cetaphil's classic cleanser. I use the exfoliating Extra Gentle Daily Scrub every night before bed and simply use micellar water to clean my face in the morning.
What I use today:
I distinctly remember learning about toners from another girl when I was in the eighth grade. The ones I used as a teenager were too harsh and drying—remember astringents? The experience felt more like I was punishing my skin to comply rather than doing it any favors.
Today, toners and essences (something I knew nothing of until my late twenties) might be the skincare categories I invest in most. A couple of years ago, I finally bit the bullet and splurged on SK-II's cult-favorite Facial Treatment Essence ($99). The value kit I bought also came with the brand's Facial Treatment Clear Lotion (a toner). I became hooked on both. SK-II's offering is so different from the toners I tried in my youth. It's extremely gentle and effective, never drying or irritating. As a duo, these beauty buys are even better—few products have had this significant of an impact on the appearance and health of my skin.
What I use today:
At this point in my life, I've accrued an assortment of oils in my skincare collection. Each oil serves a different purpose, stepping in when needed depending on how my skin is doing. Sunday Riley's U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil ($80) is a godsend to curb breakouts and Ranavat Botanics Radiant Rani ($90) has become my all-time favorite for brightening.
Still, the one product that has survived in my skincare routine the longest is Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Whatever state my skin is in, it always benefits from this nourishing nighttime solution. When I was younger, I used to hate the feeling of anything on my face when going to bed at night (boy have times changed), but this formula felt light enough—and I quickly grew addicted waking up to skin that felt super moisturized and refreshed come morning. It's still my go-to to tackle an array of skin problems or to simply ensure I wake up looking my best.
What I (still) use today:
I used to rely on the SPF in my foundation to serve all of my sunscreen needs. I've since realized that's not a great strategy. Now I know sunscreen needs to be reapplied throughout the day (something I won't do with foundation), but I no longer wear makeup most days of the week and need sun-protection that isn't contingent on makeup.
Now that I'm in my thirties, I've become hyperaware of protecting my skin from harmful UV rays and won't leave the house without sunscreen. Tatcha's sunscreen is on the pricier side, but has remained my absolute favorite since its release. It goes on beautifully, smooths, blurs, and offers a beautiful finish whether or not you choose to wear makeup on top.
What I use today:
I'm not sure how I ever survived without it, but for many years in my young adulthood, I didn't use a moisturizer at all. I always hated the feeling of having any amount of product on my face, especially a moisturizer that was thick or greasy or had any weight to it. At some point during my college years, I integrated Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+ ($28) into my routine, but still only on days when I felt my skin needed to be quenched.
Today, I recognize moisturizer as an essential part of my daily skincare routine to keep skin nourished and prevent wrinkles. That said, I haven't been faithful to one particular moisturizer and often switch things up with each season as my skin's needs change. For the past several months, I've been loving the lightweight but effective Drunk Elephant's Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68).
What I use today:
Now here's the best skincare routine for your 30s.