Skincare Through The Ages

How does your skin change in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+ ? How will these changes impact your skin’s appearance?

Until someone figures out to stop biological deterioration at the cellular level, aging is a fact of the human experience, sans alternatives. You grow up and out of your acne-scarred teenage years, drink your way through the delusions of your twenties and hit your thirties running headlong into career leaps, baby showers (yours or others) and...fat loss in your face?

Life is happening fast and your skin is living proof.

And even though those smile lines are there for good reason, it’s still disconcerting to see once-supple and even-toned skin get noticeably thinner with new brown spots cropping up that weren’t there this time last year. So what’s to be done? As your skin matures, your routine should mature with it. Here’s the best way to go about skincare through every age.

Keep Things Simple In Your 20s

Focus on protection & prevention

You thought your first years of mostly employed independence meant eating out at triple-dollar-sign restaurants, adult furniture and freedom from acne. Yet here you are, mid-twenties and eating ramen on your IKEA futon while Googling how to get rid of another blight of bumps. Your 20s are the decade when reality chops up your once-blissful ignorance into a thousand pieces and you learn how to deal like a boss.

But, hormonal acne aside, these are not the years you need to overthink your skincare routine. Collagen production is still up, the skin barrier strong and sun damage surfacing only in the form of super cute freckles. So relax, skip the scrubs and focus on setting your future self up for success with a straightforward routine and the occasional dose of antioxidants.


  • Use a mild, soap-free cleanser once or twice a day. (I know everyone, everywhere says twice a day but I’ve only ever used a cleanser at nights and I swear it looks 30-going-on-25).
  • Choose lightweight moisturizers with antioxidants like vitamin C and E.
  • Spot-treat hormonal acne with anti-inflammatory soothers like tea tree oil or green tea.
  • Liberally apply sunscreen, either in your morning moisturizer or separate, but do NOT skip this step no matter how much self-love you have for your freckles.

Do Not

  • Use harsh scrubs — your skin is doing just fine on cell turnover at this age, thanks.
  • Go overboard with hydroxy acids and other chemical exfoliators unless treating difficult acne, but even then, let your skin be young, wild and pimply. Like you, it’s figuring itself out, too.

Tackle the First Signs of Aging In Your 30s

Carry on, but introduce exfoliation & eye cream

Hello, promotions, family planning and yard work. Goodbye, alcohol tolerance, free time and collagen. This is the decade where all your hard work really starts to pay off but also starts to show. Skin becomes thinner, cell turnover slows down and sheer exhaustion gets the upper hand. What worked in your 20s probably doesn’t cut it anymore.


  • Use an exfoliating cleanser to encourage cell turnover and brighten dull skin.
  • Up your antioxidants to fight free radicals.
  • Add a de-puffing eye cream with caffeine.
  • Introduce alpha hydroxy acids once or twice a week.
  • Swap your lightweight moisturizer for a heavier duty, replenishing cream.
  • Start topical retinoid treatments at night once or twice a week.
  • Keep on keeping on with a daily sunscreen.

Do Not

  • Use those retinoids if pregnant or breastfeeding, especially not oral retinoids.


Bring Back Lost Collagen in Your 40s

Add extra moisture and retinoids

You're giving fewer f***s, reclaiming your space room-by-room as the kids move out and truly living your best life with a confidence you could only dream of two decades ago. Plus, that hormone-induced acne from previous years is but a distant memory. This is your 40s, enjoy every minute of it. But while you’re busy enjoying being on top of your world, take a minute to up your skincare routine to accommodate this decade’s most common challenges — dryness, dullness and wrinkles.


  • Opt for creamy cleansers that won’t strip away moisture.
  • Introducing a daily hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid to help compensate for moisture loss as the skin barrier weakens, causing volume loss and dehydration.
  • Increase topical retinoids from once-in-awhile to on-the-regular.
  • Choose day and night collagen-boosting moisturizers that are rich and creamy.
  • Slap on an overnight mask every now and then for a major moisture lift.

Do Not

  • Believe for a minute that you’ve outgrown sunscreen. In fact, up your SPF to 30+.

Firm & Hydrate in Your Golden Years

Focus on barrier-boosting, active ingredients and oil-based everything

Brands are finally catching on (and embracing) both the beauty and real-life needs of over-50 skin. Your days of looking back on a treasure trove of memories and personal growth have arrived with your most kick-ass self yet to look forward to. But gone are the days of skincare wunderkinds that fix it all in one step as estrogen declines, dryness and sensitivity surge, crepey texture sets in and elasticity doesn’t bounce back. But you’ve been through enough life by now to know you’ve totally got this.


  • Shift to cleansing oils that won’t trigger sensitivity
  • Target dark spots, discoloration and wrinkles with brightening serums and plumping peptides.
  • Upgrade your antioxidant to a soothing facial oil both morning and night.
  • Moisturize with rich textures like balms and oils that are high in lipids and fatty acids.
  • Switch your caffeinated eye cream to one with a low dose of retinol.
  • Troubleshoot slack skin with overnight firming masks that rev up collagen production with retinoids, peptides, stem cells and hyaluronic acid.
  • Do we really need to say it again? Sunscreen.

Do not

  • Use a topical retinoid every day. Thinning skin is more easily irritated, so proceed cautiously with lower doses and less frequency.

In any decade, remember that perfect skin is boring skin. No amount of fancy serums or dermatologist appointments can take away a lifetime of stuff happening. But you know what? You grow stronger and more yourself with each passing decade. Let it show.

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