The Vital Skincare Habits To Grow & Ingredients To Use In Your 30s

Maybe you escaped your teens and 20s without ever touching an apricot scrub or pulling an all-nighter. If you're anything like the rest of us, though, you likely engaged in more than one skincare sin during your formative years. In the 1990s and 2000s, skipping sunscreen wasn't nearly as blasphemous as it is today, magazine columns led us to believe that a dollop of toothpaste was a perfectly acceptable acne spot treatment, and we didn't think twice about caking on a hefty layer of Dream Mousse foundation without a smidgen of moisturizer underneath. True, we weren't quite as bad as earlier generations may have been — baby oil in direct sunlight, anyone? — yet it's a miracle that we escaped with our complexions relatively unscathed.


Whether you're one of the lucky ones who began your skincare journey early in life or not, there's always room for improvement in your routine as you enter your thirties. It's an oft-repeated fact that your body produces less collagen by your third decade, and making time for a self-care ritual can be increasingly difficult the older you get, but don't let that discourage you when it comes to caring for your skin. Today, there are more proven strategies than ever for maintaining a beautiful complexion as you age. Ahead, we'll uncover everything you need to know to keep your skin looking its best in your 30s and beyond.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day

It may not be the most exciting skincare hack, but it can't be overstated: proper hydration is key to good skin health. Although drinking enough water sounds like a simple enough task, many of us tend to miss the mark. "Anywhere from 60%-70% [of adults] in the United States is dehydrated daily," urologist Dr. Craig Gillard tells CBS News Boston. The health of your skin is directly affected by your water-drinking habits. Research published in "The International Journal of Cosmetic Science" found that participants who increased their daily water consumption to 2 liters or more experienced significantly thicker skin by the study's end.


If you aren't sure whether you're getting enough fluids, experts say there's an easy way to check. "If your urine is pale yellow like lemonade, you're probably getting adequate hydration. But darker urine, like apple cider, can be an indication that you need to increase your fluid intake," registered dietitian nutritionist Sherri Hoyt tells Forbes. Other signs of dehydration to look out for include chapped lips, dry skin, headaches, and brain fog.

Include probiotics and fermented skincare

By now, you've probably heard about the advantages of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria in fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Today, many skincare lines incorporate popular probiotic strains to enhance the potency of other ingredients and improve product absorption. Furthermore, findings published in "The British Journal of Dermatology" suggest that oral and topical probiotic usage can yield positive effects for several skin conditions. That said, experts remain divided on the efficacy of probiotic skincare usage alone. "Live bacteria require certain conditions to ensure they stay alive, for example, adequate nutrients, correct oxygen levels, and temperature. These are not generally easy to provide in the context of a skincare product," scientific adviser Laura Marinelli, Ph.D., tells Refinery29.


Thus, diet is the most reliable method to increase your body's good bacteria. But if you're not a huge fan of fermented veggies, don't fret. There are endless ways to add probiotics into your diet, from supplements to sodas. Beyond the traditional capsules, probiotic supplements come in easy-to-swallow mini softgels, like Acidophilus Pearls, to delicious, drinkable yogurts like Bio-K. Ingesting probiotics is one of the best ways to improve your gut flora, but you can also increase good bacteria and aid digestion through lifestyle changes.

Apply vitamin C serum in the morning

Whether you're looking to brighten hyperpigmentation spots or reduce the signs of aging, vitamin C is considered a must-have ingredient in your skincare regimen — especially as you approach your thirties. "Vitamin C eradicates free radicals that have hidden within our skin cells that start to diminish our healthy cells, turning them into unhealthy, broken ones. It basically eats free radicals up like Pacman," celebrity facialist Michaella Bolder tells Who What Wear.


Want to make sure you're picking the right vitamin C serum? With so many products containing the skin-brightening ingredient on the market, it's never been easier to find the perfect vitamin C product for your skin type. Hyper Skin Mini Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum is an excellent choice for combination skin, boasting clean ingredients and brightening add-ins like kojic acid and licorice extract. Those with sensitive skin may prefer to use Banish Serum, a glycerin-based vitamin C formula that provides noticeable brightening effects without irritation. If your skin tends to be on the oilier side, consider Skinceuticals Silymarin CF, made with milk thistle extract and salicylic acid to soothe blemish-prone complexions.


Eat a rainbow of foods

We already know about the benefits of vitamin C, but what about other antioxidants? Applying nutrient-rich serums is a step in the right direction, but there's no better way to reap the benefits of antioxidants than through diet. As it turns out, eating the rainbow is more than just a saying — colorful foods can actually protect you from the physical signs of aging. Research published in "The Journal of Investigative Dermatology" took a closer look at adults who consumed greater amounts of antioxidants than their peers over a period of 15 years, and the results were staggering. The group who ate a diet rich in antioxidants demonstrated "approximately 10% less photoaging" compared to those with lower antioxidant intake.


Antioxidants are present in everything from black coffee and tea to dark chocolate. Still, you should strive to incorporate a wide variety of foods and drinks to get the full spectrum of perks from these powerful nutrients. For example, berries and citrus fruits contain polyphenols and resveratrol, compounds known for their rejuvenating effects on the skin. "Polyphenols like resveratrol, flavonoids, and green tea extract actives are very potent antioxidants that help with reducing the signs of aging and inflammation, as well as protecting the skin against cancer and photodamage," Dr. Julia Tzu tells Live Science. Even drinking a glass of wine has benefits for your skin.

Start your day with sun protection

At any age, the most effective way to maintain a healthy complexion is to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Basking in the summer sun may be one of life's greatest pleasures, but direct exposure to UV rays is one of the leading causes of skin damage. Even if you've never worn sunscreen regularly or already have some signs of photoaging, avid sunscreen use can help to mitigate existing imperfections and protect against further harm to your skin. 


Applying sunscreen each morning is essential to keep your complexion looking its best, even on the cloudiest days. Dermatologists consider SPF 30 to be the bare minimum of defense against UV damage, and choosing a sunscreen you like enough to wear consistently is important. Cosmetically elegant sunscreens like Shiseido Urban Environment Vita-Clear Sunscreen SPF 42 can provide weightless protection with added antioxidants like vitamin C. As an alternative, consider Trader Joe's Daily Facial Sunscreen SPF 40, said to be a dupe for Supergoop! at a fraction of the cost, retailing for only $8.99 per 1.7 oz tube. 

Consider using epidermal growth factors

Ever heard of epidermal growth factors? Just as their name implies, these collagen-boosting proteins are found throughout the body, and medical professionals have researched their regenerative effects for decades. They may not be as well-known as ingredients like retinoids or vitamin C — yet — but experts claim they can provide a host of promising anti-aging benefits. Findings published in the "Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery" suggest that topical products with skincare ingredient EGF may improve the appearance of ailments commonly associated with aging skin, from loss of firmness to hyperpigmentation.


Interested in giving epidermal growth factors a go? Check out DHC EGF Cream, a highly-rated evening moisturizer that contains epidermal growth factors as well as antioxidant extracts and organic olive oil for added hydration that lasts for hours. According to fans of the K-beauty night cream, a little goes a long way to provide skin with a youthful glow.

Exercise regularly

If you're guilty of neglecting your gym membership, it may be time to turn over a new leaf. It's a well-known fact that consistently working out can enhance your overall state of health, but exercise can also significantly improve your skin, promoting elasticity and reducing breakouts. According to research published in the scientific journal "Aging Cell," aerobic exercise was even found to have protective benefits against some of the physical signs of aging. 


Whether you prefer low-impact yoga or high-intensity strength training, consistency is the most important part of your workout routine. By engaging in regular exercise, you can increase blood flow to the skin, cultivating a healthier complexion. Exercise can help balance your hormones, such as cortisol levels which can lessen the occurrence of acne. Even if you don't have time to dust off your gym key card, there are always quick and easy home at-home workouts worth trying.

Double cleanse

Of all the steps in your skincare regimen, proper cleansing is paramount to prevent acne, fine lines, and other troublesome ailments. To effectively remove stubborn products like makeup and sunscreen, you should be double cleansing your skin each night. Double cleansing means using an oil-based cleanser to emulsify and rinse off your daily skincare products, followed by a foaming cleanser to wash away any remaining residue. The result? Your skin will feel super soft and clean, plus, it can help clear your pores and remove troublesome blackheads and sebaceous filaments.


If you aren't already double cleansing, getting started is a snap. You may be hesitant to use an oil-based cleanser at first, especially if you were raised on the idea that oil is bad for the skin. However, you can rest assured knowing these types of cleansers are designed to be non-comedogenic. Popular oil-based cleansers include Banila Clean It Zero 3-in-1 Cleansing Balm, a K-beauty favorite that instantly melts away makeup and leaves skin feeling smooth and refreshed. If you prefer a pump dispenser, look no further than Kose Softymo Deep Treatment Oil, beloved for its ability to gently remove debris and pesky whiteheads.

Add retinol, a must-have in your routine

By the time you enter your 30s, you should be familiar with retinoids and retinol. Retinols are a type of retinoid, but the two vitamin-A derivatives perform a bit differently on the skin. Full-strength retinoids, like Retin-A or tretinoin, must be prescribed by dermatologists and tend to have more substantial effects. Retinols, on the other hand, refer to a milder type of retinoid found in various over-the-counter skincare products.


If you've never tried products containing retinol before, ease into them using over-the-counter formulas first. One of the most widely used serums, The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane, is a good "moderate-strength" product for retinol newbies. To treat targeted problem areas such as crow's feet, consider trying RoC Retinol Correxion Under Eye Cream, expertly crafted to reduce the appearance of fine lines around the eyes.

Initially, retinoids and retinol can be quite harsh on the skin, so a slow introduction is best to minimize any side effects that may arise during the adjustment phase.

Use bakuchiol as an alternative to retinol

Despite retinol's many advantages, it can be challenging to incorporate into your routine if you have sensitive skin. The downsides to consistent retinol usage can include redness, peeling, and persistent dryness for some users. But never fear — if your skin can't tolerate retinol, a rising-star ingredient known as bakuchiol can serve as a viable alternative.


Derived from the seeds of Psoralea corylifolia, a flowering herb grown in India, bakuchiol extract is prized for its ability to treat the signs of aging without irritating sensitive skin. Per findings published in the "International Journal of Cosmetic Science," consistent bakuchiol use may deliver smoothing and brightening effects similar to those achieved with retinol treatments. "Bakuchiol functions similar to a retinol, increasing cell turnover, thereby stimulating collagen production and diminishing signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and overall photodamage," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah tells Allure.

The increasing popularity of this renowned retinol alternative has led to an influx of bakuchiol skincare products, making it easy to incorporate it into your routine. For a straightforward treatment with clinically proven results, try Sephora Collection Targeted Anti-Aging Bakuchiol Serum. The beauty brand's bakuchiol blend has a limited ingredient list, meaning it's an excellent choice for those with delicate complexions.


Opt for emollient evening moisturizers

You may have gotten away without regularly moisturizing during your teens and twenties, but skipping moisturizer in your thirties isn't something we'd recommend. Without a proper moisturizing routine in place, your skin can quickly become dull, dry, or rough. Therefore, it's essential to ensure you're treating each part of your face with the right product for the job.


The right facial moisturizer for your skin type should be emollient enough to leave the skin feeling hydrated without leading to clogged pores. Products containing snail mucin, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid are great for extra hydration. A widely-used K-beauty cream that includes all three ingredients mentioned above is Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream, an unscented lotion that can be used day or night.

Though it may be tempting to let your moisturizer multitask, we suggest investing in a good eye cream formulated to treat the delicate skin of the orbital region. Furthermore, a sufficient décolletage skincare routine includes using heavier emollients to support hydration levels and maintain a healthy skin barrier from the neck down.


Try ceramides and peptides for plumper skin

Noticing anything different about your complexion? Around our thirties, even the oiliest skin types can display signs of dryness due to natural processes like decreased collagen production. The loss of collagen is accompanied by diminishing production of peptides and ceramides, essential compounds that help maintain moisture levels on the skin's surface. "The lack of peptides can lead to increased signs of aging," double board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Alexander Zuriarrain tells USA Today. "The skin can begin to function differently regarding its ability to regenerate cells and fight UV radiation. This leads to an increase in fine lines and wrinkles and a loss of skin elasticity."


Whether you suffer from dry skin or just need a boost of hydration, consider adding skincare products containing ceramides or peptides into your routine. Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum is a popular product featuring the powerhouse lipid. In addition to ceramides, the pearly, biodegradable capsules contain a blend of complementary anti-aging ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid. If it's peptides you're after, consider Peach & Lily Peptide Pro Firming Moisturizer. The cruelty-free moisturizer utilizes a whopping 12 peptides to soothe and nourish the skin, and it's a veritable hit with beauty fans.

Don't skimp on sleep hygiene

Even the most well-rounded skincare routine can be derailed by a lack of sleep. Poor sleep quality can lead to myriad health problems — and spell trouble for your skin. "Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin surrounding your face. Skin becomes dull, and you don't get those rosy cheeks anymore," board-certified sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., tells WebMD. Lackluster sleep is associated with higher cortisol levels, leading to breakouts, premature signs of aging, and inflammation. That said, it's important to fine-tune your bedtime routine to attain quality rest and optimal skin health.


Creating a relaxing sleep environment requires thoughtful planning, especially if you struggle with restlessness or insomnia. While many of us are guilty of scrolling our phones to the point of exhaustion before bed, it's a habit that should be broken to achieve a good night's sleep. Instead, try practicing some relaxing bedtime rituals, like listening to a guided sleep meditation or writing thoughts down in a journal. 

Rejuvenate your complexion with facial oils

Our skin changes as we age, with many of the first signs of dryness appearing in our early thirties. Occasionally, it can feel as though even your heaviest moisturizer isn't enough for your seriously parched complexion. That's where facial oils come into play. These slick essences are often made from nourishing bases like argan or jojoba oil — which can mimic the natural moisturizing properties of sebum. "They prevent the evaporation of water from the skin to keep it hydrated so that skin is plump and bouncy," dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp tells RealSimple. "Oils improve skin texture by smoothing out cracks and crevices."


Thinking of trying out facial oils for yourself? There are many options to choose from, like lightweight, non-comedogenic camellia seed oil or soothing blue azulene oil. Some swear by organic products, like Radha Rosehip Oil, a cold-pressed facial oil made from pure rosehip oil extract. Others prefer to use blended facial oils, such as Volition Hibiscus Unspottable Correcting Oil, a mix of hibiscus and sea buckthorn oils. The naturally occurring acids found in hibiscus oil can help diminish the appearance of dark spots while nourishing sea buckthorn oil works to minimize fine lines.

Support your skin through supplementation

Trendy collagen supplements are often promoted as a means to plump skin and boost collagen production, but there are many alternatives on the market to enhance your complexion. These include omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, found in supplements like HUM Red Carpet Skin & Hair Vitamins. Research published in the medical journal "Marine Drugs" suggests that omega-3 supplementation can alleviate inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and dry skin. Struggling with adult acne? Micronutrients, such as zinc, can help clear blemishes, speed wound healing, and even extend the life of Botox injections. Opt for a whole-food zinc supplement, like New Chapter Fermented Zinc Complex, for the best rate of absorption.


Furthermore, popular anti-aging formulas like SeroVital Advanced utilize a blend of ingredients, from B vitamins to herbs, to stimulate the body's production of human growth hormones to help you look and feel younger. Before starting any vitamin or supplement routine, however, be sure to consult with your doctor for personalized advice.

For softer skin, try chemical exfoliators

From time to time, everyone's skin can use a little boost. If you experience dullness, roughness, or hyperpigmentation that won't go away, it may be time to experiment with chemical exfoliation. Unlike the abrasive scrubs we abused in our teenage years, skincare professionals widely recommend chemical exfoliants to slough away dead cells without causing damage or microtears to the skin.


Chemical exfoliants like glycolic or lactic acids offer powerful results and often serve as the basis for many professional peels. Although it isn't advisable to experiment with full-strength exfoliant peels on your own, you can try many suitable alternatives at home. Products like Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Pads work to refine the skin's surface using safe dosages of glycolic, lactic, and malic acids. You may also be interested in exfoliating toners, like COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, which can reduce the appearance of clogged pores and blackheads.

Consider med spa treatments

Sometimes, topical treatments just aren't enough to treat fine lines and static wrinkles. Our thirties are considered the perfect time to begin exploring advanced interventions, such as injectable neurotoxins. Their effects may be temporary, but wrinkle-relaxing treatments like Botox and Dysport can produce dramatic results on everything from chin dimpling to persistent frown lines. "Basically, you're inhibiting the muscle contractions and decreasing the facial movement. And then, therefore, you're preventing or slowing the formation of wrinkles over time," Dr. Kristen Broderick, assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Medicine Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, tells The New York Times.


A common issue many thirty-somethings face is fat loss around the undereye area and cheeks. Hyaluronic acid facial fillers, like Restylane and Juvederm, can provide fullness to undereye hollows and a subtle lifting effect for the brows and cheekbones. Unlike Botox, fillers can last upwards of six months or more. As with any cosmetic procedure, there are risks involved with injectable fillers. Though rare, more serious complications include vascular occlusion or blindness, stroke, and infection. Thus, it's important to thoroughly research your provider and discuss any concerns you may have before committing to facial fillers.

Reap the benefits of facial massage

Is there anything quite as refreshing as a good massage? Well, maybe a massage that improves your complexion. Facial massage is a favorite treatment of countless celebs, from Madonna to Meghan Markle. Some massage specialists even offer facial acupuncture treatments, which can produce impressive skin-lifting effects. "Needling certain points on the face can help address fine lines and wrinkles, help increase elasticity, and improve overall skin health over time," esthetician and massage therapist Laura Conroy tells Women's Health.


Fortunately, you don't have to seek out professional treatments to experience the benefits of this relaxing skincare ritual. These days, ice rollers, gua sha tools, and microcurrent devices are available at a number of beauty retailers and can be used in the comfort of your home. Not only can facial massage improve your skin, but it may also help lower your stress levels — and that's something we'd consider a win-win at any age.