If you’re overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite array of lotions and potions out there—and the added wrinkle that your best choices change as you age—you’ve come to the right place. With advice from leading dermatologists, we’ve created a core regimen for each decade, so you can enjoy complexion perfection (and a streamlined routine) your whole life long.
In Your 20s…
Now is the time to develop good habits to preserve your youthful glow, says Jennifer Linder, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. The one guaranteed to shore up your chances of gorgeous skin in the decades to come? You guessed it: applying sunscreen religiously. You might be noticing dryness for the first time, so a moisturizer is essential. If you’re one of the many 20-something women who suffer from acne, you may see that it’s shifted from the forehead and midface to the jawline, which means it’s hormone related. The breakout treatments you’ve been using may now be too aggressive; it’s time to switch to a less drying routine.
Your Face Basics
It’s best to wash your face twice a day, but if you can manage only once, do it in the evening: Never sleep in your makeup, says Linder. Does your skin feel squeaky-clean after cleansing? Then you’re stripping it of necessary natural oils, and it will eventually feel dry, tight, and itchy. Use a nonsoap face wash. For oily complexions, one with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide is a good choice. For combination or dry skin, try a creamy cleanser.
Look for one with broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection and SPF 30. Linder recommends a moisturizer with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. To ensure that you remember to use it, keep the bottle near your toothpaste; apply it all over your face, neck, décolleté, and— whenever they’re exposed—the tops of your ears.
Peptides (strings of amino acids) may have a role in preventing fine lines and wrinkles, so try a peptide serum with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. If you have acne or are already seeing signs of sun damage like sunspots (hyperpigmentation), use a prescription retinoid lotion or cream or a product containing retinol, the over-the-counter version.