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How Your Morning Skin Care Routine Should Change in 20s, 30s, and 40s


When it comes to skin care, there are two rules to remember: Persistence is key, and timing is everything.

Making a few smart tweaks at the right time can make a huge difference in how you age.

At your 20s

You’ve likely established some basic skin care habits — cleanse, moisturize,—but at this stage, the most important thing to do is preserve and protect. If you start caring for your skin now, you will have less to worry about later on.

Choose a skin-type-specific face wash

Step one of any good skin care routine: proper cleansing. If you have normal skin, pretty much any cleanser type. If you’re dry or sensitive, steer clear of foaming formulas and anything with fragrances, which can be irritating. Try creamy options like balms and milks instead. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for cleansers with 2 percent glycolic or salicylic acid to keep oil and bacteria in check. For the best results, work the formula in circular motions and let it sit on your skin for at least a minute before rinsing off.

Add antioxidants

Antioxidants are the superheroes of skin care that fight free radicals, prevent collagen breakdown, and repair sun damage. You should start with a potent but lightweight booster, something you apply before serum or moisturizer. Top antioxidant choices are flaxseed, sea fennel, vitamin C, green tea, and pomegranate.

Apply (and reapply) sunscreen every single day

Using sunscreen can form an invisible protective barrier to help prevent harmful toxins and pollution particles from penetrating skin. However, just applying it isn’t enough. For all-day protection, you need to reapply every few hours.

At your 30s

This is crucial time to step things up in the anti-aging department, because those fine lines and wrinkles are creeping.

Swap your cleanser for toner

Skin gets drier as we age, and washing too often can strip it and mess with your moisture barrier. Besides, you’re not exposed to pollutants or dirt while you sleep, so there’s really no need to cleanse in the morning if you were diligent about removing makeup and oil the night before. When you get up, pour a few drops of toner into your palms, rub them together, and gently press them into your forehead, cheeks, and chin. Lock in hydration by layering your serum on top while your skin’s still damp.

Start using an eye cream

By the time you hit 30, you’ll have lost about 10 percent of the skin-plumping collagen under your eyes. Factor in the cumulative effects of sun damage and squinting, and suddenly you’re dealing with the dark circles and crow’s feet. To stop them in their tracks, invest in a killer pair of shades to filter out UV rays, and an antioxidant-rich eye serum. Eye serum helps with signs of aging and puffiness.

Exfoliate more

By this age, it takes twice as long—40 days versus 20—for dead cells to slough off, which means skin looks less radiant. Use a chemical exfoliator with glycolic or lactic acid, no harsh scrubs as they can trigger inflammation, two to three times a week to retexture, lift pigmentation, and reduce fine lines. On these days, exfoliate first and then apply your toner and serum.

At your 40s

Dryness and wrinkles are your biggest issues, so your overall strategy should be to boost moisture and repair damage. Do that by rinsing with soothing cleansing water each morning, followed by these simple steps.

Invest in a multifunctional serum

This is the decade where our past skin mistakes catch up to us and expose themselves in tons of heinous ways—from sun spots and fine lines to sagging skin. While it may take in-office treatments to completely reverse all signs of damage, using a multitasking serum full of ingredients that work double duty can help a lot. Opt for a product that’s packed with a supercharged antioxidant.

Throw on an oil

Face oils are the holy grail of youthful skin—they can soften fine lines, reduce irritation, boost hydration, and make whatever you put on top of them work even better. Press a few drops onto dry areas post-serum.

Upgrade your moisturizer

Your former moisturizer probably isn’t fit anymore. That’s because estrogen levels take a nosedive in our 40s, making skin super dry and flaky. Switch to a skin-plumping cream with ceramides, which can help replenish natural lipids and prevent water loss. For waking up more luminous and dewy, slap on a hydrating overnight mask and get some solid beauty sleep.