Are you in your 30’s and just starting to explore skincare? Here’s what I would begin with.
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There’s a lot out there, in the skincare department, and I completely understand being very overwhelmed. There are not only so many product lines but so many ingredients and chemicals and injectables and treatments that it’s not really clear where to even begin!
I’ve had a few friends tap me for info on this very subject, so I thought I would share my answer here as well.
For a little background, I have never done any work to my face. I promise you that I do not have strong feelings about people having work done to their faces (botox, etc.). For most of my life, I would describe my skin as dry, with occasional breakouts, however, I dealt with a major hormonal acne issue starting in 2022 that I got under control with a daily oral pill in July 2023.
Now, I would still describe my skin as dry and sensitive, and no longer acne-prone since I’m treating it with a pill.
SO! I’m going to go in order of intensity (least to most) to give you a starting point and perhaps an end goal of where to land when it comes to skincare products.
One. Get a great moisturizer. The easiest way to start really caring for your skin is to find a great moisturizer. Something that deeply hydrates your skin without leaving you feeling or looking oily. It also helps to drink a lot of water. The moisturizer I’m loving right now is Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench.
Two. Add Vitamin C to your routine. There are so many different products with vitamin C, and adding one is a great first step in achieving brighter, more even, well-hydrated skin. My long time recommendation is Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum . I used it for years! My skin looked brighter, more radiant, and felt soft and hydrated during that time. You would apply this product daily before your moisturizer. Another much-loved vitamin C product is SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. I originally tried this product because it is such a loved vitamin C serum, but to me, I found it smelled like hot dogs and I couldn’t continue with it! I’ve been told to apply it at night, though the SkinCeuticals website suggests applying in the morning. CeraVe makes a vitamin c serum that would be a great budget friendly option. My dermatologist put me on these products when I was quitting all my existing products during my acne flare up. And La Roche-Posay would be another budget friendly brand to explore that makes a nice vitamin C serum!
The thing about vitamin C is you can use it daily, and if you stop using it your skin won’t necessarily have a bad reaction. So it’s a low-commitment, easy-to-incorporate product.
Three. Find a chemical exfoliator you love, like a lactic acid. I know the word acid may sound intense, but a lactic acid product is likely a more gentle exfoliator than a gritty physical product like No7 Total Renewal Microderm Scrub. I like this product and I have it in my shower to use about once a month. Sometimes I just need a little skin reset by using a physical exfoliator. But generally, I err on the more gentle side with products these days. A lactic acid is a great option to exfoliate, brighten, and help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. I like the Good Genes Lactic Acid, as well as the Shani Darden Lactic Acid. For a more budget-friendly option, look into The Ordinary Lactic Acid. It is very well-loved via the comments on Sephora’s site!
If you use a vitamin C and a lactic acid product, I recommend applying vitamin C in the morning, under your moisturizer, and using lactic acid at night on freshly washed skin.
Four. If you’re ready for it, consider introducing a retinol into your routine. This is a product applied at night, and cannot be used in the same night as lactic acid (you’ll give yourself a chemical burn). I had great, great success with Shani Darden Retinol Reform. You can read my experience with it here. I only stopped using it because I was hit with the hormonal acne issue, otherwise I would have kept right on using it. Retinol is a stronger chemical that helps with cell turnover to reveal clearer, brighter, smoother, less uneven skin. It can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and generally is regarded as a great anti-aging solution.
Retinol products are everywhere, and it’s wise to do some research before starting to use them. The % within a product will determine the strength of retinol. No matter what strength you begin to use, you must always introduce it gently. Start by using it one time a week. The next week use it two nights, with a little space between which nights you apply it. The third week you can use it three times, leaving a day between use. Pay attention to your skin and if everything is going well, you can begin to use it nightly.
I’ve had the most success with Shani Darden Retinol Reform, so I can personally recommend that one to you. Otherwise, I actually suggest talking to your dermatologist about getting a retinol prescription. It can be pretty cost effective and your derm can help you decide on the strength that is right for you.
Five. Beyond skincare products, I highly recommend sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase, wearing sunscreen every day, using clean towels when you wash your face, and avoiding washing your face in scalding hot water. Don’t pull down on your skin, and don’t rub your eyes too hard to stretch and tug the sensitive skin around your eye.
If you decide that you can only handle adding one thing into your routine right now (besides moisturizer), let it be vitamin C. You’ll see swift results that I think you’ll be happy with and it will serve your skin well for a very long time!