6 skin-care habits to introduce into your routine once you turn 30

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Real talk: Things change once you reach your 30s (coming from someone who’s hit big 3-0 myself). For instance, hangover severity increases—and, as a result, you might develop a fine appreciation for staying in rather than going out. Along with these also come gradual, yet noticeable, changes to the complexion.

Sadly I’m not talking about the abrupt halting of pimples, because adult acne is real. But, as Joanna Czech, celebrity esthetician and founder of Czechlist.com, puts it: The results of good (and bad!) habits can start to reveal themselves on your face around this time. “That’s why you should take good care of your skin from as early an age as possible,” she tells me.

So what exactly does this mean for your routine? “When you reach your 30s, your skin starts to become a little lazier than it used to be,” says Quenby Erickson, MD, a Chicago board-certified dermatologist. “The skin cell turnover rate slows down and your cells don’t renew as quickly as they used to. Collagen and elastin begin to break down, resulting in slight volume loss. The oil glands are less active and hyaluronic acid production slows down, resulting in drier skin. You may also start to see more dark spots and sun damage from previous years beginning to show.”

Alas, when you know the challenges of the new decade, you can be better prepared to tackle them head on. “This is an important time to pay close attention to what your skin needs specifically,” says Czech. And with that, these are the most important skin-care habits to pick up once you reach your 30s.

skin care routine 30s
Photo: Getty Images/Jirapatch Iamkate Eyeem

Be diligent about SPF

Of course, sunscreen is a skin-care staple that should be in your beauty bag regardless of your age. Still, it’s particularly important when you’re starting to guard from the first signs of aging. “Prevention starts with daily SPF, whether the sun is shining or not,” says Dr. Erickson. “I recommend SPF daily to ensure that your skin’s protected from the sun’s damaging rays. UVB rays can cause sunburns, and UVA rays trigger premature aging such as brown spots, wrinkles, and the breakdown of healthy skin cells.” Also, she says to apply it even when you’re not outside since rays can penetrate windows.

Never skip a nighttime routine

Hitting the hay without a proper facial cleanse may have happened more times than you’d like to admit in days past, but it’s best to not keep that habit going once you reach your 30s. “The most important thing to do is to properly prepare your skin in the evening so that it can relax and renew itself,” says Czech. “While you sleep, your skin is in the cell renewal process, so everything that you apply at night will penetrate more deeply and give more noticeable results.” Her tips? “I like to use a good cleanser and Biologique Recherché P50 Lotion, which is a pH-balancing toner,” she says. Follow that with a retinol that helps to stimulate collagen production such as Environ Vita C-Quence.

Embrace facial massage

Beauty products tend to instruct you to massage them into your skin—yet it’s commonplace to slap them on and go about business as usual. The thing is, taking the time to give yourself a facial massage is loaded with benefits. “It increases blood circulation, stimulates lymphatic drainage, awakens the muscles resulting in a better tone, stimulates cell turnover, and relieves muscle tension,” says celebrity facialist Michaella Boulder. Not only that, but it also allows your products to absorb better, according to her. “Mornings are to awaken your skin, so getting a strong massage flow during your cleanse is the first step,” she recommends. “Take your cleanser and massage it into the skin using deep circular pressure before removing with warm water and a face cloth.” Her tip? Massage your facial muscles upwards and outwards (the directions you naturally want the face to go).

Exfoliate, but not too much

Exfoliation is an essential part of anyone’s skin-care regimen, since it gets rid of the dead skin cells that make a complexion dull as well as contributes to a glowy complexion. The thing is, because it’s so effective, it’s important to take it down a notch when your skin’s in its 30s—or else it can have detrimental effects. “Too much exfoliation can actually strip the oils from your skin and damage the protective layer, leaving it more vulnerable to environmental stressors,” says Czech. “I recommend exfoliating no more than three times per week and always following up with moisturizer.”

Don’t neglect the neck, décolleté, or hands

Caring for your skin is so much more than nourishing from the chin and up. “Your face starts at the nipples and ends at the hairline, so keep these areas in mind when you are taking care of your skin,” says Czech. They’re your skin, too, which means they’ll also be losing collagen and elastin as you age—hence why Czech says it’s key to include them in your beauty routine as well. “The Meder Gel Net-Apax Cleanser ($80) is a gel-emulsion with yogurt powder and goat’s milk peptides that’s perfect for applying to both the neck and décolletage,” she recommends. “And Grown Alchemist’s Age-Repair Hand Cream ($39) is great for fine lines and wrinkles.”

Stock up on a good retinol

If I had to pick one MVP of my skin-care regimen, it’d be retinol—without a doubt. Vitamin A’s effectiveness is not only praised by dermatologists and facialists alike, but even science backs up the fact that it improves your skin. It’s the most studied and most effective product around. “Retinoids are the key component to warding off signs of aging, as they speed up the cellular turnover rate which smooths the skin’s texture,” says Dr. Erickson. “When used daily, long term, they help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles while promoting collagen growth in the skin.” If you start using it in your 30s or sooner, she says that your complexion should appear even more glowy, regardless of the decade you’re in.

Here’s the wellness guide to your 40s, and some wellness advice for your 50s

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