The skin care routine you have in your 20s can impact the way your skin looks in a few decades, so it’s the perfect time to lay the groundwork for a happy, healthy complexion that maintains its youthful glow for years to come.
Not sure where to start? Shop TODAY called up a few top dermatologists to find out what you should be focusing on in your 20s, and we also got them to recommend a few of their favorite products!
Best cleansers, according to skin care experts
Cleanser is important no matter what age you are, but when you’re in your 20s, a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils is ideal. Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist and author of the book “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist,” swears by this budget-friendly find that cleanses and protects skin.
“It has antioxidants like blackberry complex to counteract the effects of free radicals and it’s gentle so it can be used on dry skin. It won’t clog pores and it’s also hydrating,” she said.
Cleansing your face helps remove impurities, but certain formulas can totally dry out your skin, so Jaliman suggests seeking out a product that offers an extra dose of hydration, like this cleanser from Kiehl’s.
“It contains squalane, apricot kernel oil and avocado oil along with other hydrating ingredients,” she said. “Squalane is extremely moisturizing and keeps skin hydrated. Its molecular makeup is very similar to our own skin’s cell membrane and this allows it to absorb rapidly.”
Dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick called this a “great overall cleanser” and sang its praises for its ability to get rid of dirt and buildup without drying out skin.
“This cleanser uses MVE Technology, which provides a continual release of ingredients for all day hydration,” she told us. “It contains both hyaluronic acid and ceramides, so it helps to hydrate the skin as well as support and strengthen the skin barrier. It’s a great option for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin as it is fragrance-free.”
It’s rare to find a cleanser that works well for all skin types, but Jaliman raved about this versatile foaming one from La Roche-Posay that removes face and eye makeup and said she appreciates that it’s “super gentle.”
“It’s made with prebiotic thermal water, which contains trace elements and minerals. This makes the water soothing for the skin. It also contains hydrating ceramides, glycerin and niacinamide,” she said.
Best sunscreens, according to skin care experts
Sunscreen is one of those non-negotiable products that you should be using every single day, no matter what the weather looks like. And it’s important to start the habit early to help protect your skin as it ages. “Sunscreen should be worn daily in your 20s to prevent fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots and other pigment irregularities, but most importantly to help prevent skin cancer,” Jaliman said.
The derm recommends this mineral sunscreen that’s made with zinc oxide and titanium and said it’s great for all skin types. “The niacinamide in this will help to prevent more dark spots from forming and if there is inflammation or redness from acne, it will help fade it,” she said.
Garshick likes to think of sunscreen use as a long game, and she said it’s critical that you start a sun protection routine in your 20s if you don’t already have one. “Wearing sunscreen provides protection against UV rays, and it is best to seek out a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum coverage against UVA and UVB,” she said.
Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen tops the derm’s list of skin care must-haves and she loves how lightweight it is. “It’s easy to apply and oil-free, so it won’t leave the skin looking or feeling greasy. It offers broad spectrum SPF 40 coverage and also contains red algae to protect against blue light, which can be emitted from digital devices,” she said.
Board-certified dermatologist Mary Lupo told Shop TODAY that a broad spectrum sunscreen, preferably one that’s mineral-based, is an everyday essential she always suggests to clients in their 20s. She particularly loves this tinted formula that’s made with titanium dioxide.
The SPF 50 sunscreen protects and provides light coverage, offering skin a healthy glow with its subtle tint. It also helps that it’s lightweight and non-greasy and has an antioxidant complex that shields skin from free radicals.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, this is one sunscreen that derms constantly recommend, and Dr. Shari Sperling told us it’s one of her go-to products. “This sunscreen contains zinc and works as a mineral SPF. This brand has tinted ones to match skin tone, too,” she said.
The derm added that you should look for an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply often. “This will protect against photo-aging. Your skin will thank me later!” she said.
Best serums and treatments, according to skin care experts
According to Garshick, your 20s are a great time to start incorporating a topical antioxidant such as vitamin C into your skin care routine. “Antioxidants help to protect the skin against free radical damage that can occur as a result of environmental stressors (like UV radiation and pollution) and subsequently lead to collagen breakdown, which can lead to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and skin laxity,” she explained.
This vitamin C serum is one of the derm’s faves, and it’s easy to see why. The multitasker helps protect and brighten skin and it’s also safe to use on sensitive skin.
Think you’re too young for a retinol in your 20s? Think again! “Using a product with retinol from an early age helps increase cellular turnover and stimulate collagen production. This can minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles later on in life,” board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Somenek, who’s based in Washington, DC, said.
If you’re new to the world of retinol, Somenek suggested easing in with this gentle yet effective serum. “It minimizes dark spots and fine lines and evens out the skin’s texture,” board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Somenek, who’s based in Washington, DC, said.
This is another affordable vitamin C serum that’s ideal for youthful skin. “It contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, which all work together to fight against the signs of aging. This serum is known for its skin-brightening effects and rids the skin of dark spots,” Dr. Stacy Chimento, board-certified Miami dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology, told us.
The paraben-free, cruelty-free serum is ultra popular with Amazon shoppers and has earned over 55,000 five-star ratings. Not bad for $20!
Dealing with redness, irritation or dryness? This serum is a worthwhile solution, according to Jaliman, thanks to its star ingredient: niacinamide. “Niacinamide is a B vitamin, also known as vitamin B3. It helps even skin tone and is a potent antioxidant with numerous benefits. Niacinamide improves the appearance of enlarged pores and dullness,” she said.
This $16 find is vegan and cruelty-free and can be used on all skin types. It’s also full of multiple multitasking ingredients. “Besides the niacinamide, it has other beneficial ingredients such hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, rosemary extract and aloe. It soothes, firms and replenishes the skin,” Jaliman said.
Best moisturizers, according to skin care experts
Did you know that dry skin can lead to premature aging? Yep! And that’s why Chimento believes that moisturizer is one of the most important skin care products for anyone in their 20s. “Consistently using a moisturizer will prevent you from developing premature fine lines and wrinkles. I recommend using a moisturizer that is oil-free and contains hyaluronic acid,” she said.
When asked for a great moisturizer suggestion for those with dry skin, the derm let us know about this budget-friendly find. “It provides skin with ultimate hydration but does not leave an oily residue. This product is lightweight and leaves the skin feeling refreshed,” she said.
When it comes to moisturizing, hyaluronic acid has always been one of the best ingredients around, so we weren’t surprised to hear that Sperling loves this popular product. “It leaves the skin looking radiant,” she said.
The derm also explained why hyaluronic acid is such a powerhouse: “It works to lock moisture in your skin, keeping it looking and feeling healthy.”
Dealing with oily, acne-prone skin? That’s totally normal in your 20s, but you don’t have to sit back and just accept these annoying complexion conundrums. Garshick suggests looking for a moisturizer that won’t leave behind extra residue or grease, like this one from Cetaphil.
“The lightweight gel cream helps hydrate the skin and helps breakouts with its 0.5% salicylic acid. Additionally it is soothing on the skin and leaves behind a natural matte finish,” she said.
A solid nighttime moisturizer can help your skin recover overnight, hence the name of this product that Lupo digs. The multitasker helps strengthen skin’s natural moisture barrier and has a potent blend of powerhouse ingredients — including niacinamide, glycerin and rice proteins — that help hydrate, even skin tone and encourage cell growth.
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