First and foremost, happy birthday! I hope you’re eating cake, drinking champagne to your heart’s content, and reveling in the mountains of birthday texts flooding your phone. We love a good birthday around here. But if you’re turning the big 3-0 this year, you might be thinking about how you can spend a little cash on yourself, and our first choice is always on some good old-fashioned self-care, namely by updating your skincare routine. In your 30s, your skincare products will likely change from the acne-fighting formulas of your teens and 20s to anti-aging, hydrating, and protecting products.
Because you, birthday queen, are worth celebrating, we asked a few experts for some insight on how your routine will change and which products you should consider picking up, like, ASAP.
How Your Skin Changes When You Turn 30
Your skin slowly starts changing through your 20s (maybe you suddenly started breaking out the day you turned 25—same), but it really ramps up in your 30s. “As you enter your 30s, your collagen production begins to slow, both as a result of UV exposure and due to the natural process of aging,” said Dr. Marie Hayag, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “You may begin to notice the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, and your skin may not be as firm as it was before. Your skin’s cellular turnover also begins to slow down, causing skin cells to accumulate on the skin’s surface. This can contribute to your skin looking dull as well as textural changes.”
Once you get a little more into your 30s, celebrity esthetician and author of Glow From Within Joanna Vargas explained that you’ll likely start seeing wrinkles for the first time around the eyes and mouth and on your forehead. While wrinkles and fine lines are a normal part of aging and shouldn’t be feared, if you’re protecting and treating your skin with care, you can prolong the youthful glow and health of your skin, which in turn will make those lines crop up a little slower.
How Your Skincare Routine Should Change After Turning 30
If you hadn’t been prioritizing your skincare routine before 30 (who had the time, right?), now’s the best time to start. “The primary focus of your skincare routine in your 30s should be to protect your skin while also maintaining its fullness and elasticity,” Dr. Hayag said. Your first line of defense? Developing (and consistently following) a proper skincare routine. Vargas explained it’s vital to have a routine in place in which you’re washing your face every single night. “It’s important to get the day off of your skin and really give your body a chance to repair itself overnight,” Vargas said. She recommended a foaming cleanser with lactic acid that will exfoliate but leave your skin feeling hydrated too. Along with your retinol and vitamin C serum, Vargas recommended incorporating products that hydrate, whether that’s a hyaluronic serum on its own or combined with an active ingredient. Of course, don’t forget to treat yourself too. A night in once a week with a treatment and face mask is just what the doctor ordered—literally.
Your best chance for improving early signs of aging and protecting it for the future is incorporating retinol, according to both Dr. Hayag and Vargas. On top of aging, retinol can help “control breakouts and improve your collagen production,” Vargas said. It’s basically the golden ticket to good skin all around, as it promotes quick cell turnover to renew and revitalize your skin.
Now that you’re 30, sunscreen is non-negotiable—no ifs, ands, or buts. “One thing I cannot stress the importance of enough is to make sure you are using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30,” Dr. Hayag said. Even in the winter or when you know you’ll be inside all day, UV rays can damage your skin, which can lead to dullness, fine lines and wrinkles, breakouts, hyperpigmentation, and more. If you know you’ll be outside for a long time, invest in a good hat to keep your face out of the sun (and still don’t skip sunscreen!).
Lastly, if you want to protect your skin long-term (and see some brightening and glow), add vitamin C. “Vitamin C provides antioxidant protection from UV damage, [and] it also helps encourage collagen production and helps fade hyperpigmentation,” Hayag added. Use this in the morning, as the antioxidant properties in vitamin C protect your skin throughout the day, and to avoid irritation if you’re using retinol at night.
Products We Recommend When You Turn 30:
UFO mini 2
If there’s any way to encourage you to up your skincare game, it’s a fancy new gadget, and this one will give you results in just two minutes. When you feel like your skin needs an extra “oomph” of hydration and glow, apply a face mask, and then glide the UFO mini over your skin. The device warms to help ingredients penetrate the skin and then an LED light (you know, like the kind you get during a fancy facial) revitalizes dull skin and protects against aging. Lastly, its pulsation gives your skin a quick facial massage.
This one device does the work of an hour-long facial at the spa in just a few minutes, leaving you feeling refreshed and your skin smooth, soft, and glowy. If you want to treat yourself a little, investing in the UFO mini is so worth it. It’ll save you so much in the long run on treatments and skincare.
Micellar Cleansing Water
After 30, your skin type might change a bit. All we’re saying is to keep your friends close and your moisturizer closer. Dry skin will creep up big time, regardless of what your skin type was previously. One way to combat dryness is forgoing your morning cleanse (our dry skin editor stopped washing her face in the morning and noticed a massive difference!). Instead of the whole shebang every morning, opt for a micellar water that will remove any remnants of retinol or heavy creams from the night before without compromising your skin’s healthy glow.
Mixed Greens Nutrient-Rich Cleanser
The harsh acne washes of yesteryear can stay in your 20s. A hydrating, simple cleanser that keeps your moisture barrier intact while you’re treating with harsh retinols and acids will improve your skin significantly more than something harsh that could dry you out. This under-$20 option sits high on our list, thanks to its pH-balanced formula that’s safe for skin and inclusion of soothing aloe vera and green tea.
Dr. Hayag recommended incorporating a prescription tretinoin to your anti-aging routine if you're looking to level up, especially if you’ve been using retinol for a while. If a prescription-strength isn't in the cards for you, retinal is the closest version you can find over the counter, and this one is effective, powerful, not stripping, and under $40. It has a lightweight texture that plays well with other products in your routine, and in our editors’ experiences, it doesn’t dry you out and retinize your skin the same way prescription tretinoin might.
On top of preventing and treating fine lines and wrinkles, this is a master at smoothing out uneven texture and reducing hyperpigmentation. While this is a bit stronger than a traditional retinol, it’s gentle enough to start with if you’re beginning your retinol journey now. Use it only two to three nights per week at first, then increase frequency as you notice your skin can tolerate the product.
AlphaRet Clearing Serum
If you are still dealing with acne but want to incorporate anti-aging into your routine, it’s possible. Dr. Hayag recommended this serum for those in that weird phase of their skin when it’s breaking out and looking dull and dry simultaneously. "This is a great retinol serum with added salicylic acid,” she said. “It also has other great ingredients including lactic acid and niacinamide. It improves skin tone and texture, reduces the appearance of pores, and is not overly drying." The AlphaRet line is a top favorite amongst dermatologists and our editors, as it has a patented formula that masterfully combines retinol and lactic acid for major results.
Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
The first step to making sure you wear sunscreen every single day is finding one that gets you excited to apply it every day. If this SPF 50 sunscreen is good enough for babies’ sensitive skin, you can trust that it’ll treat yours with lots of TLC. Even though it’s a mineral sunscreen, it has no white cast (even on deep skin tones) and sinks in without leaving a sticky residue. The best part? It’s under $15.
Universal C Skin Refiner
There are a handful of reasons why we love this vitamin C. Unlike other popular vitamin C products, this one is a cream, which means the l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the product is stabilized and effective for quite a bit more time than the liquid options on the market. This creamy texture makes it ultra-glowy and comfortable to wear on the skin, but the results are what make it worth it. Dark spots, texture, and dullness are a thing of the past with this product in your arsenal, as the product will both treat and prevent them from cropping back up.
Vargas calls this a green juice for the face, and we can see why. Filled with hyaluronic acid, Galactoarabinan (a gentle exfoliant Vargas swears by), vitamin F, and avena sativa (AKA oat, which is rich in tons of vitamins and minerals—like zinc, potassium, chlorophyll, and more), this delivers everything your skin needs, all in one product. If you’re looking to add one step to your skincare routine, a serum like this is great to apply day and night to moisturize, revitalize, and protect your skin over time.
Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Face Cream
Now that you’re using actives like retinol and vitamin C, moisturizing isn’t an option. Your moisture barrier is quite fickle in general once you hit 30, let alone while using a bunch of new products. Choose a moisturizer that is occlusive and thick for nighttime but will sink in well in the mornings. This one is specifically formulated with barrier repair in mind, so it’s a trusty option to keep on hand that will never fail you in a time of need.
Intensive Firming Neck Creme
I’m sorry, y’all, but it’s time to finally start protecting your neck. "Many people forget to apply their skincare products to their neck,” Dr. Hayag warned. “Make sure you don’t forget that area in your skincare routine to ensure your neck remains just as youthful as your face.”
While a specific cream for your neck is a little bougie, we can’t help but recommend it to encourage you to start treating that delicate area with the respect it deserves. This one is gentle on skin (as the skin on your neck and decolletage is very thin), but it’ll tackle fine lines and wrinkles with a moisture-rich peptide blend, antioxidants, and brown algae extract to depuff. And if you needed any more convincing, Lisa Rinna called it her “favorite neck cream of all time.” Sold.