Upgrade your (no-doubt soapy, sudsy) face wash to a milky cleanser that will “take off all makeup, sunscreen, and pollution from the day but in a way that’s not stripping,” says Holey. If you’re oily, go for a purifying clay- or charcoal-infused gel formula like the Bioré Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar instead.
Soaking skin with a probiotic toner like Marie Veronique Pre+Probiotic Daily Mist in the morning, evening, and throughout the day will reset skin’s pH to help maintain moisture levels, minimize acne-causing bacteria, and quell inflammation, notes Holey.
And a lightweight face oil imbued with protective antioxidants and anti-inflammatory omegas will further buoy your skin’s defenses. No matter what your skin type, “don’t be afraid to moisturize,” says New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe. “Anyone can get dehydrated, and with dryness comes low-grade, chronic inflammation, which leads to premature wrinkling.”
Scrubs were so fun at sixth-grade slumber parties but they don’t have a lot of use in the years right after you get your college diploma. “You’ll benefit later on if you exfoliate less in your 20s,” says Holey. Adding a weekly Greek yogurt-based mask — a natural source of lactic acid and probiotics — is plenty sloughing for most. Of course, the real deal works just as well, too.
You thought you’d outgrown acne like an old high-school sweetheart, but 45 percent of women in their 20s still regularly battle bumps, says Bowe. In this decade, docs have shifted the list of triggers from clogged pores and overactive bacteria to unbalanced hormones, which typically cause pimples to sprout on the chin and jawline right around the time of your period. Sometimes acne flairs up when women go off the pill after many years not realizing (light bulb!) it was preventing both pimples and pregnancies. For some, returning to the pill can quickly rectify the problem (talk options with your gynecologist).
In every case, introducing a retinol into your night regimen will normalize your skin, encouraging it to shed and rebuild in a healthier way. “Retinols are fantastic multitaskers, proven to clear pimples and fade the marks they leave behind,” explains New York City dermatologist Doris Day. The vitamin A derivatives can be irritating, but this version contains a tolerable .1 percent of the over-the-counter retinaldehyde. Ease in by using yours just two or three nights a week and topping it with one of those inflammation-curbing oils we mentioned earlier. (As skin adjusts, up the frequency, adding one night each week.)
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Then spot-treat as needed
In the days before your period, swapping out your regular cleanser for one with antibacterial benzoyl peroxide (BP) like the Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser can keep zits from cropping up, says Robert Anolik, a dermatologist in New York City. (If you find it too drying, use it only on your lower face to target impending zits.) But, again, he stresses, “even if you knock out bacteria and unclog pores, hormonal acne will often persist without the help of birth-control pills.” While Anolik prefers BP for pimple prevention, once bumps arise, he likes salicylic acid (in both spot treatments like this and masks) for its unparalleled ability to free up pores and temper swelling.
“Twenty-somethings tend to worry about things they don’t yet see in their own faces but notice on their parents or grandparents,” says Day. “Yet, many are still tanning and not connecting sun exposure with those very things they’re noticing.” With dark spots, by your 20s, “you’ve had enough bursts of intense sun exposure that freckles can start becoming permanent rather than fading after summer,” says Anolik. Under-eye shadows, upon close inspection, may reveal brown pigment burgeoning there, too. True spot- and wrinkle-thwarting sun protection involves daily, liberal applications of broad spectrum SPF 30 year-round, plus frequent touch-ups (we like Colorescience Sunforgettable Very Water Resistant Powder Sun Protection SPF 30), when spending any time outdoors. It also means hats with generous brims, protective clothing, a vampire-like shunning of mid-day rays, and making the shady side of the street your perennial happy place.
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You get extra credit for antioxidants
While eye cream isn’t a must yet, experts want you applying sunscreen, hydrators, and actives up to the bony ridge beneath the eyes to protect and treat the delicate area. Make sure at least one product in your regimen contains antioxidants such as vitamin C, ferulic acid, like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, or green tea. Worn day, night, or both, they can save skin from the ravaging effects of pollution, stress, UV, and infrared rays — all of which contribute to spots and lines. Many have complexion-brightening powers, too.
Take a look back at the last century of skincare. From Coco Chanel sparking a 1920s tanning oil fad, to cleansing with a cold cream in the 1950s, to the Korean sheet masks and snail creams of the 2010s, find out how skincare has evolved over the last 100 years. Special Thanks to: Cynthia B. Yalowitz, MD, FAAD General & Cosmetic Dermatology Larchmont, NY
The Best Skin-Care Routine for Your 20s
We get it: Ruling the world from one’s iPhone leaves little time for diligent skin care. But “by your mid-20s, you really need to start paying attention,” says Kristina Holey, a holistic facialist in San Francisco. Breakouts, brown spots, and dry patches are likely on your mind. But using too many products can irk skin and clog pores. Here, experts highlight the decade’s most common challenges — and everything you need to overcome them.