Editorial note: this article was updated on July 8, 2020.
Our skin changes over time. When we are children, we have the healthiest, smoothest skin that we’ll ever have. It’s well-hydrated, and it functions like a state-of-the-art, well-oiled machine. All of its components are balanced, and it appears beautiful.
As we age, the factors that make up our skin start to diminish. This includes all that lovely collagen, elastin and water, intermixed with fibroblasts, ceramides and more. Literally, our skin loses mass, because it loses cells. This is what causes wrinkles and sagging.
But, what if there were a way to slow down our skin’s aging process?
Believe it or not, it’s possible (to a degree). Our skin is an organ. So, just like we can do a lot to keep our lungs and liver healthy, we can take measures to prevent skin degradation too.
Some of these measures are referred to as ‘anti-aging routines.’ But really, most of it is ‘aging prevention.’
What types of products and routines should you engage in for life-long, healthy skin? To know that, we need to start by understanding skin ages and skin types. We’ll cover these below, decade-by-decade.
While we give this information, keep this very important caveat in mind: every case will be unique, and there are exceptions to the ‘rules.’
So, even if you are in your 20s, a skin care specialist may recommend a routine that is typically suited for someone in their 40s. Likewise, someone in their 40s may still be suffering from acne, which is typically thought to be prevalent in younger people. So each unique case should be taken into account when recommending a mix of products and routines.
The best way to find out how to care for your skin, is to consult with a skincare specialist or doctor.
In the meantime, here is what we know about most anti-aging scenarios:
Skin care in your childhood, teens, and throughout your life
Some skincare advice will never get old. No matter your skin age, you’ll want to start with the following good habits.
Learn to use sunscreen as early as possible
For children and teens, the most important skin care lesson to instill is good sun protection. Much of our aging happens early in life, thanks to our exposure to UV light. This can be from the sun, or from other sources, such as tanning beds. We’re probably all guilty of having played outdoors without wearing sunscreen, right?
UV light from the sun is not always visible, and doesn’t always cause a burn. It comes in two main forms: UVA and UVB rays. These penetrate the skin at different levels.
UVB rays are the ones that leave a sunburn. UVA rays are a little more sneaky than that. We don’t feel them or see them. They can reach us through windows, and they travel deep into our dermal layers, where they cause free radical damage. However, both types of UV rays are problematic even on cloudy days. And, both result in skin cancer.
A good quality, high-SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen should be used daily on all exposed skin, at every age. But very importantly, this habit should start in childhood. Sunscreen should also be reapplied every 2 hours (yes, really; not doing so will render it ineffective). This habit will go a long way to reduce signs of aging later in life (e.g. wrinkles and brown spots). It can also help to prevent skin cancers.
Learn more about sun damage, here.
Learn more about sunscreen quality, here.
Start teen acne treatments early
In the teen years, our bodies produce increased amounts of hormones that produce excess oil, which leads to acne. Whether or not acne is severe, teens should practice daily hygiene and moisturization on their skin. However, it’s important to balance the cleansing and toning of the skin. You’ll want to remove the excess oil and bacteria, while ensuring that the skin retains moisture.
Those with acne will want to use an effective pore cleaning ingredient, such as salicylic acid (a BHA acid). Benzoyl peroxide and other ingredients may also be suitable at this stage. Some of these products can be left on the skin, or they can be designed to wash off.
Depending on the severity of a person’s acne, a retinoid (Vitamin A derivative) may be recommended or prescribed by a doctor.
It is important to seek medical help if acne starts to worsen. This will avoid leftover scars after it clears up.
Learn more about acne care and help, here.
Learn more about acne scar formations and treatments, here.
Makeup in your teens and beyond
Any makeup you use should be non-comedogenic (i.e. not clogging to the pores). On the flip side, it should not contain drying ingredients that can strip your skin of beneficial moisture throughout the day. It also should be compatible with sunscreen.
So, how do you get an all-in-one solution like this? Try a well-made, mineral makeup line. Mineral makeup can be formulated so as to provide sun protection, prevent clogging and still keep the skin moisturized.
More importantly, if you start with a mineral sunscreen base, it may ‘play nicer’ with mineral makeup by not creasing, pilling or caking throughout the day. It can also help to prevent the rubbing off of sunscreen as you apply makeup, which is a very important reason to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
Facial cleansing in your teens and beyond
Wash your face first thing in the morning. Then, at the end of the day, be sure you are thoroughly cleansing your face to get rid of all makeup, moisturizer and sunscreen residue. Some people recommend a ‘double cleanse’ to achieve this effectively. Start with a micellar water or oil-based cleanser to remove most of the product on your face. Then wash again with a foaming, non-soap cleanser.
If you have oily, acneic skin, use an antibacterial wash, or one with the acne ingredients noted above. If you have sensitive skin or rosacea, go for something much more mild; whatever you use, it shouldn’t strip your skin dry.
Keep reading to “The best skin care routine for your 20s…”