skincare in your 20's

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Your 20s can be pretty hectic – you have to pretend like you know what you want to do in life and try to be as “adult” as possible. And added to a long list of newly acquired responsibilities, your skin begins to change, and you’re faced with a range of different skincare issues and priorities: the products you used in your teens just won’t cut it. But because we know from personal experience just how much effort your 20s can be, we thought we’d at least simplify your skincare regime for you.

So, we spoke to four world-renowned dermatologists, Dr. Friedmann from the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic, Dr. Timm Golueke, Founder of the Dr. Golüke Clinic in Munich, Dr. Jessica Wu M.D, L.A-based dermatologist, and Dr. Jessica Weiser from the New York Dermatology Group, for their trade skin secrets and ride-or-die products. We’re giving you the ultimate 20s skincare rules.

1. Double cleanse

If there’s one skincare rule that everyone should know, it’s the power of double cleansing: now is the time to get this habit on lockdown. Double cleansing is super simple: cleanse first using an oil-based cleanser, and then cleanse again using a cream, gel or foam-based cleanser. This ensures that all of the makeup, dirt, and bacteria is properly removed from your skin – you’ll be surprised how much more you can remove with that second cleanse.

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Top tip: Go to a skincare brand and ask a specialist, they’ll help you work out what your skin type is, so you’ll be able to find a cleanser and products that are suited to your skin type.

2. Exfoliate

Exfoliating is an essential part of any good skincare regime, but you need to find the perfect balance, as you don’t want to over-exfoliate, which is one of the most common skincare mistakes. Dr. Jessica Weiser recommends “using an exfoliant twice a week like lactic acid or glycolic acid,” which are both AHA exfoliators that chemically remove dead skin cells and can help improve skin tone. However, if your toner or cleanser contains an exfoliating ingredient like AHAs or salicylic acid, then you might only need to exfoliate once a week (if you feel this isn’t enough, you can exfoliate twice). Dr. Jessica Weiser recommends the REN Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, $56, as it contains natural lactic and glycolic acid.

3. Start using an eye cream

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Dr. Timm Golueke insists that your 20s are “the right time to look at preventative products like eye creams as it’s the part of the face with the most movement.” Dr. Jessica Wu also agrees, “you need to protect this delicate area.” In the morning we love the Garnier Clearly Brighter Anti-puff Eye Roller, $13, it’s a cult classic for a reason! The roller will boost lymphatic drainage while hydrating the undereye with hyaluronic acid. For nighttime, we like the slightly heavier Kiehl’s Creamy Avocado Eye Cream, $48, which is super-rich and contains both shea butter and avocado oil; two of the most nourishing natural ingredients out there.

4. Start using a retinol

Most people assume that you only need to wear retinol when your skin is maturing, however by incorporating it into your nighttime regime in your 20s, you’ll help prevent the wrinkles from forming in the first place – saving yourself a lot of effort later down the line! Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, boosts skin renewal and helps strengthen the deeper layers of your skin, increasing collagen production, and decreasing oil production, which will make your pores less noticeable. However, make sure you introduce retinol to your skin slowly: for the first two weeks, start using it only once or twice a week. By week three, use it two to three times a week, and after one month, if your skin hasn’t had a reaction (or become very dry), you can then try using it every other night.

5. Treat adult acne

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Although acne is something that most people associate with their hormonal teens years, it can still persist into your 20s. Dr. Friedmann said, “if you suffer from acne, an anti-bacterial facial wash that contains salicylic acid is recommended.” Salicylic acid will break down the ‘glue’ that traps bacteria and dirt, loosening the barrier of your pores, helping you get rid of any debris that’s blocking them. Dr. Friedmann says that you should “avoid irritants such as soap, wipes, and fragrance.” He also recommends “applying an anti-acne lotion to any spots before they come up fully.” Dr. Jessica Wu suggests “sulfur-containing acne treatments” like the Dr. Murad Rapid Relief Spot cream, $22. Check out our fave sulfur-based products here.

Top tip: Understanding how your hormones affect your skin can also help you adapt your skincare regime, find out how your cycle affects your skin each week here.

6. Treat uneven tone

One of the most common skincare issues women in their 20s face is melasma, which is when your skin tone becomes uneven. It’s caused by a mix of sun exposure combined with hormones that are normally a result of the contraceptive pill. To treat it, Dr. Jessica Wu recommends a “tranexamic acid or skin brightening vitamin C.” Alternatively, you could opt for a topical Azelaic acid cream like The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid solution, $13. Although, with all skin conditions, we suggest booking an appointment with your dermatologist. You should also make sure you apply SPF every day to help protect your skin from sun damage, as the sun makes scarring and pigmentation worse.

7. Always wear SPF

If you ask any dermatologist what essential product you need to apply to your skin each day, they’ll tell you SPF. We know it seems like a lot of effort, but when you consider that 90% of how your skin ages is within your control and is directly linked to sun damage, it’s definitely worth it. So during the summer months, you should apply a sunscreen with SPF 30 and 5-star UVA rating, however, in the winter months, you can get away with simply applying a product containing SPF.

Products we love

Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi+ Pollutant & Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil, $40: This cleansing oil will rid the skin of oxidative stress, micro-impurities, and stubborn makeup. It also contains antioxidant-rich green tea extract, moringa extract to remove pollutants, and papaya extract to polish skin.

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser, $35: This foaming gel cleanser is amazing for oily or acne-prone skin as it’ll extract the impurities from your skin. It’s made with plant-based soaps that will rebalance your skin, leaving you with a healthy glow. 

Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream, $23: This sunscreen offers amazing protection and is really light on your skin, making it perfect for everyday use.

The Inkey List Zinc Oxide Cream Moisturizer, $12: This lightweight formula will hydrate and moisturize your skin without blocking your pores. It’s also great for controlling oil.

Maybelline Facestudio Master Prime Primer Makeup Blur+Illuminate, $9.99: This primer blends onto the skin seamlessly, prepping your skin for the most flawless foundation.

Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner, $17: This toner contains a range of AHAs, which will gently exfoliate, rebalance the skin, and help correct uneven skin tone.

Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, $88: This face oil contains 1.5% salicylic acid, so if you have acne-prone skin this is the oil for you. It also contains tea tree oil, which is anti-bacterial so it’ll keep breakouts at bay.

Tarte Rainforest Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer, $46: This hydrating moisturizer contains marine ingredients, as well as hyaluronic acid, that’ll brighten and plump your skin.

Features you might also love: The best DIY face masks for oily skin, and remember, layering your skincare is the key to everything, so learn how to layer your skincare here.

Let us know if there are any other skincare issues you would like help with in the comments below.