Your skin is in a constant state of flux. When you’re young it feels bright, elastic, and unstoppable. Scratch your face in your sleep? Don’t worry, it’ll heal in a few days. Wake up Sunday morning with a raging hangover? Nothing can dull your glowing complexion.
Related story The Pregnancy-Safe Skincare Products You Need for Anxiety-Free Self-Care
However as you grow older, one of the most visible signs of aging is the condition of your skin. One day you might notice age spots, freckles, and moles that weren’t there before. Suddenly your pores look huge and you can see the blood vessels in your cheeks. You might wonder what the hell is happening to me? But before you go to the store and buy a basketful of face products, let me tell you that aging skin is a natural wonder. Not something to fear.
While I can reiterate over and over that letting your skin mature gracefully and naturally is on trend, knowing what to expect makes the process a little more bearable. Even though we all know that looks change when we age, it’s not always an easy thing to accept — especially as those changes become more pronounced. Below are the ways your skin develops during each decade of your life, complete with dermatologist recommendations for creams, goos, and treatments galore you can utilize to keep skin feeling its best.
Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale.
In Your 20s
During your early 20s, skin is experiencing its first major transformations. This is the golden age for your skin’s health and appearance because collagen production is thriving — AKA why your face looks so glossy and bouncy all the time. Acne is still there (sorry) and these years might feel a bit like the Puberty Sequel, but hormonal pimples are nothing a cushy exfoliator can’t handle.
When you enter your late 20s, you start to worry about premature aging and prevention. That doesn’t necessarily mean losing sleep about deep forehead wrinkles, but you should watch for permanent lines. Even when you’re resting your face, the lines you get when you smile or frown will be more visible.
If you haven’t yet, please invest in a regular skin routine that includes cleansing, toning, exfoliating, and moisturizing. (I’ll haunt you if you’re an adult who’s still rinsing your face with water and calling it a night.) Dr. Katina Miles at Skin Oasis Dermatology adds that you “never want to go to sleep with makeup still on the skin unless you really are aiming for a dull complexion and acne.”
“Do not use facial scrubs and spinning brushes on the face like a jackhammer,” Dr. Miles continues. “Overuse will cause irritation, dryness, and thickening of the skin.”
In Your 30s
30 feels like a big number, one that begins a whole new chapter of your life. This is also the decade that many age-related changes become noticeable in your skin. During your 30s cell turnover and collagen production both slow down, meaning less elasticity and a dull or sallow complexion. You’re also more likely to experience more dryness and irritation, but that doesn’t mean the “fresh and dewy” ship has sailed.
Skincare in your 30s goes way beyond just anti-aging creams. Load up on key ingredients like alpha hydroxy and glycolic acids in your products, both of which help speed up skin cell turnover to expose newer, younger skin underneath. Hyaluronic acids and antioxidants will also help add moisture back into the skin.
The biggie to watch out for in your 30s is sun damage. Your skin “remembers” all those tanning sessions and long days by the pool without protection. “Unfortunately, most people use SPF creams only during the summer months. Still, ultraviolet rays that lead to sun damage of the skin are present all the time, regardless of the temperature outside,” dermatologist Dr. Cristina Vajaitu reminds us. “When UV comes in contact with the skin, the sun’s rays can cause severe injury and burns as acute reactions, while in the long term they can lead to hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.” Sunscreen applied in a correct manner can improve the texture of the skin and reduce wrinkles. It’s the most vital aspect of your daily skincare routine, no matter the season.
In Your 40s
During your 40s, all those skin changes you experienced in your 20s and 30s begin to accelerate. The wrinkles get a little deeper. Things get droopier. There are noticeable shifts in pigment and texture. Picking and squeezing aren’t options anymore. Facial-volume loss also starts to become noticeable, as skin naturally becomes less elastic and you’re beginning to lose some bone density in your face. But instead of lamenting changes that are beyond control, you can accept that lines around your eyes are a part of life, and invest in a really fun skincare routine instead (re: get glowy).
Older skin retains less water and becomes dryer and thinner, so you want to boost collagen and elastin production with peptides as well as antioxidants . A good vitamin C serum works wonders on the appearance of sun spots, and don’t overlook your neck — put sunscreen on it every day and moisturize .
As you move through your 20s, 30s, and 40s you always want to look after the health of your skin, understanding its developing needs as you age, just as much as the rest of your body. Remember to take good care of your skin — but also try to appreciate the incredible job it does and not worry too much about how it looks.