I believe Jennifer Garner’s character was right to skip from 13 to 30—it truly is the start of the best decade. It’s the age I finally started seeing myself as an actual adult, which comes with a confidence you just don’t have fresh out of senior year. And though life at 30 was good to me on the psychological front, I knew the year, as exciting as it may be, would also herald something a little less fun: namely, changes to my skin.
Really, those changes started happening in my late 20s. Thin lines began etching their way across my forehead, and I was suddenly aware of how thin the skin was around my eyes. I also became intimately familiar with the term “nasolabial folds”—the smile lines that extend from your nose to the corners of your mouth. But something about turning 30 last year inspired me to start actually addressing specific concerns. Along with confidence, apparently, comes the drive to finally invest in your skin.
I’ve learned I’m fortunate to have an oiler complexion (I might have more breakouts but wrinkles are slower to develop). I’ve also learned that there is a product or treatment for almost every concern. Occasionally that might include filler or Botox (which I’m totally open to), but every doctor I’ve consulted agrees: all the Juvaderm and neurotoxins in the world can only do so much. In the end, it all comes down to taking care of your skin. So, to fine-tune the best routine to take you through your 30s, I tapped four board-certified dermatologists—Dr. Elyse Love, Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, and Dr. Marnie Nussbaum.
“You should absolutely step up your skincare game in your 30s,” Dr. Geddes-Bruce says. “Exfoliate more frequently to encourage skin cell turnover—aim for at least two to three times a week. Moisturize and hydrate daily. Add an antioxidant in the morning and be religious about sun protection and sunscreen—you should grab your hat along with your sunglasses. And finally, commit to using an evening retinoid at least a few nights a week.”
We polled the experts to discover what skin changes to anticipate in the defining decade, and the best ways how to treat them.
A Fine Line
In our teens, we could raise our brows with total abandon. But at some point, we discover the forehead lines remain even after our face relaxes. “That’s one of the first things people start to notice,” Geddes-Bruce shares. “You may also notice more visible blood vessels around your nostrils, a slight drooping of the skin at the corners of your mouth, and an increase in depth of the nasolabial folds.”
Neurotoxins like Botox and Dysport can temporarily smooth out crow’s feet or the “11 lines” between our brows, but the experts all agree that the first solution you can easily commit to right now is religious sunscreen use.
A skincare ingredient hero like hyaluronic acid can also help boost collagen production, which begins to slow down in our 30s, leaving skin more vulnerable to fine lines, larger pores, and dullness. Spread it on before your moisturizer and makeup in the morning for a dewier look that works hard for your skin.
Another key ingredient for effectively fighting fine lines: vitamin C or other antioxidant-packed serums. Used in the morning (on clean skin before your moisturizer and sunscreen), the anti-aging skincare staple works to protect your skin from pollution, heal damaging free radicals, and promote collagen. The SkinCeuticals’ CE Ferulic serum has won countless beauty awards (for good reason), while Hyper Skin offers a dermatologist-approved option at a drugstore-friendly price, but there are so many good Vitamin C formulations to discover.
A Little Dull
The idea that skin doesn’t “bounce back” quite as easily as it did in our teens and 20s has a lot to do with cell turnover. Dead cells sticking around prevent our skin from looking radiant, and slow turnover leads to longer healing time for scars and hormonal acne (another fun thing many women trying to get pregnant will deal with in their 30s).
The best way to address dull skin and slow cell turnover in your 30s: an exfoliant. But not the microbead formulas you see on acne commercials. “Those can cause tears to in the skin barrier,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. “Rather, chemical exfoliation with glycolic acids or lactic acid is much safer for aging skin.”
The answer: a good retinol or retinoid is a 30-something’s best friend. A dermatologist may prescribe a specific product to be used a couple of nights a week, but there are excellent over-the-counter options that can be used every night to promote cell turnover and keep skin glowing.
Another fun epiphany you have when you ease into your 30s: fully appreciating why your mom, your dermatologist, and that one Baz Luhrmann song from the ’90s were always stressing the importance of sunscreen.
“Skin changes a lot throughout our lives, but your 30s is when you will see the biggest changes,” Nussbaum explains. “This is when you will start to see signs of aging, like fine lines slowly settling into wrinkles and all those days spent baking in the sun in your 20s now turning into hyperpigmentation.”
The answer: brightening treatments and serums, with or without hydroquinone. (Visit here for the best products to soothe and solve hyperpigmentation, including Dr. Nussbaum’s pick below.) Retinol and retinoids can also be extremely helpful in the sun spot department.
Protect Your Neck
In addition to noticing just how fragile and thin the skin around our eyes is, I started paying a lot more attention to my neck and décolletage area when I turned 30, to which Dr. Love replied, “You and me both.” Fortunately, many medical-grade skincare companies have recently developed products that finally address the often overlooked area.
How to Laser Through Your 30s
If you’re looking for something a bit more potent to address skin concerns, Dr. Robinson recommends investing in laser treatments. To take preventative action your late 20s and early 30s, start with Clear + Brilliant (aka “baby Fraxel”).
“Once you enter your late 30s, I like to recommend getting treated with Fraxel,” Dr. Robinson continues. “The original non-invasive fractional resurfacing treatment addresses a variety of concerns, including fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, acne scars, surgical scars, age spots, sunspots, melasma, and Actinic Keratoses.”