Gen Z vs. Millennial vs. Boomer Skincare Routines: We Ask a Derm to Weigh In

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Much has been said about Gen Z’s skincare savvy. This, after all, is a generation that has grown up on YouTube tutorials and skinfluencers on TikTok. But what about the millennials and baby boomers who came before them? How do they approach their skincare and is it all that different? (TL;DR: Yes, mainly in the number of products that are used.)

To see how they compare, we asked one woman from each age group to share their routines with us and had Dr. Lucy Chen, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami weigh in with her professional opinions on what they’re doing well and where they can improve.

5 Millennial Beauty Trends That Gen Z Can't Get Behind (and The One Thing They Both Agree On)

gen z skincare routine
Stephanie Meraz/Kaitlyn Collins for PureWow

Gen Z: Multi-product Approach

Morning Routine:

  1. “After rolling out of bed and wiping away any eye crusties, I add one pump of the Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser to the center of my Tao Clean Facial Brush. This facial brush is a godsend and has drastically helped clear the persistent acne that popped up during the pandemic."
  2. “Next, I dispense a pump and a half of the Summer Fridays CC Me Serum on my fingertips, making sure to warm up the product by rubbing my hands together, before applying it over my face and neck evenly."
  3. "I spray my face generously with a few spritzes of Mario Badescu’s Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater and let it semi-soak into my face for a few seconds before I apply two pumps of Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer Balance to my face and neck. The moisturizer acts as a seal for the spray."
  4. “Then, I apply two to three pumps of Glossier’s Futuredew to my face and neck. This oil serum hybrid not only adds another layer of moisture, but it also gives me an unreal shine, and when I say unreal, I mean it. It seems almost too dramatic at first, but it provides the best base to my foundation. If I’m not wearing makeup that day, I’ll either skip this step or use one pump for a natural glow."
  5. “Last but not least, I slather on a thick layer of Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask in Vanilla and let it absorb while I apply my face makeup, but I wipe most of it off before I put on lipstick. It is the only product that has successfully prevented my lips from cracking and shriveling up.”

Night Routine:

  1. “After removing my makeup with Neutrogena’s Ultra-Soft Makeup Remover Wipes, I put one pump of Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser on the same Tao Clean Facial Brush I use in the morning. This cleanser is extremely light, especially in fragrance, so I prefer to use it at night so I don’t irritate my skin before bed.
  2. “Once a week, I like to use the Malin+Goetz Detox Face Mask in place of my cleanser. It’s an oxygenating mask, so you have to act fast. I quickly cover my face with a thin layer and wait for five minutes while it works its magic. This is the most satisfying face mask because it puffs up, expands, and makes crackling noises as it oxygenates. It leaves my face feeling so moisturized and calms the redness in my skin. I swear my face looks clearer the next morning!"
  3. “I like to switch between two toners every night. If my skin is acting up or I have hormonal acne at that time of the month, I will use Murad’s Clarifying Toner. I instantly feel my skin tingling when I apply it. On the days where I skip makeup, I like to use two or three pumps of Glossier’s Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector. This has a nice tingle to it too, and I know it does wonders for breakouts because of the AHA/BHA/PHA and salicylic acid. It does feel less intense than the Murad toner, which is why I like to alternate between the two. (Luckily, I have tough skin that doesn’t irritate easily.)"
  4. “My grandmother had the most beautiful skin. Her secret was Estee Lauder’s Anti-Aging products. I tried the Advanced Night Repair Serum about a year ago and have been using it since. I will add one generous squeeze of the product to my forehead and rub it all over my face and neck. Thankfully, I don’t have too many signs of aging yet, but if this product can do what it says and repair damage, then I want this everywhere please."
  5. “Just like in my morning routine, I generously mist my face with the Mario Badescu’s Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater before locking that hydration in with Belif’s The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb. I adore using this moisturizer at night because it acts almost like a mask; the product soaks into my face but acts as a big moisture shield that continues to work while I’m sleeping."
  6. “Lastly, I’ll dab my ring finger very lightly in Youth to the People’s Superberry Dream Eye Cream and tap the product in under my eyes. A little goes a long way here, so I use the tiniest amount. After taking care of the lower half of my eyes, I turn to focus on the lids and apply a Stye Sterile Lubricant Eye Ointment. I have Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, which means that I don’t produce enough tears to lubricate the eye, so I had my fair share of styes due to clogged and dry follicles. This ointment is essentially petroleum jelly, so I like to use it as my eyelid moisturizer (especially during the winter months). Last but not least, I rub Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask (the same one from my morning routine) on my lips and I’m ready for bed!”

Dr. Chen’s Thoughts:

“Facial brushes may be good for some individuals, but I’d be cautious about using them if you have dry, sensitive, allergy-prone or rosacea-prone skin. I would also love to see a moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF as the last step of her daytime routine. Glossier Invisible Shield is a good choice for her because it won't clog her pores and goes on without leaving a white cast. She's definitely right about using chemical exfoliants to help with acne-prone skin. I like hydroxy-acids for oil-control and chemical exfoliation and recommend avoiding physical scrubs with beads. And since the Estee Lauder serum has antioxidants in it, it would be good to use morning and evening.”

millennial skincare routine
Erica Alfeche/Kaitlyn Collins for PureWow

Millennials: Sunscreen Savvy

Morning Routine:

  1. “I wash my face with Krave Beauty’s Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser, which I like because it’s light and hydrating.
  2. “Next, I tone with Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow PHA +BHA Pore-Tight Toner. This stuff smells so good and I like how my face feels moisturized and soft after putting this on.
  3. “Then, I moisturize with either the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer or the Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre. I switch between the two depending on how my skin feels in the morning. The Embroylisse is a little heavier, so I use that whenever my skin is on the drier side.
  4. “For eye cream, I use Ole Henriksen’s Banana Bright Eye Crème. I've been using this for years now because I love how there's a brightening component to it. I also appreciate that it wears well under my concealer.
  5. “The final step of my routine is always sunscreen! I use Supergoop Glow Screen every single day. I love that it gives a little glow even on days I want to be makeup free.”

  1. “I cleanse my face with the Krave Beauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser.
  2. “I tone my skin with Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow PHA +BHA Pore-Tight Toner.
  3. “Three times a week, I use the Beautycounter Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel to try and keep my skin youthful. I really like this because it doesn't feel dehydrating on my skin. On nights where I don't use the peel, I just apply a few drops of the Drunk Elephant Marula Facial Oil for extra moisture.
  4. “For eye cream, I use the Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask at night.
  5. “For the final step, I moisturize with either Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre or Weleda Skin Food because I like a thicker formula at night. Whenever I use the Beautycounter peel, I moisturize with the Weleda Skin Food for the extra moisture.”

Dr. Chen’s Thoughts:

“I agree with Erica on Supergoop. It’s one of my favorite sunscreens and it’s great that she uses it daily. Sunscreen is definitely a must for anti-aging and protection from pigmentation. In her morning regimen, I would recommend adding a topical antioxidant such as Glow Recipe’s Pineapple -C Bright Serum. This would be used right after the toner. On that note, it may not be necessary to tone twice a day, especially on the nights she’s using the peel. I’d also recommend starting a retinol in your 30s to start protecting against future signs of aging. There are so many to choose from, but I especially like the SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.25 to start.”

boomer skincare routine
Kyu Jin/Kaitlyn Collins for PureWow

Boomers: Streamlined

Morning Routine:

  1. “I typically just rinse my face with water in the mornings.
  2. “Next, I put a few drops of the Iope Super Vital Softener in my palms and pat it onto my face and neck for a few seconds until it’s fully absorbed.
  3. “Then comes the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which I also pat onto my face and neck until absorbed (just like the softener).
  4. “After that, I massage two pumps of Iope’s Super Vital Emulsion over my face and neck.
  5. “I top things off with a few pumps of the Lancôme Renergie Lift Multi Action Ultra Face Cream SPF 30 and make sure to spread it evenly over my skin.
  6. “Last step is eye cream. I use the Tatcha Silk Peony Eye Cream and apply one small dab under each eye, and lightly tap it in using my ring fingers, bringing it up and around the outer corners to finish.”

Night Routine:

  1. “I always wash my face in the shower, where I either use Cerave’s Hydrating Cream-to- Foam Cleanser or the Bioré Brightening Exfoliating Scrub once every three days. I love this scrub because it smells really fresh and makes my skin feel really clean.
  2. “The next few steps are the same as my morning routine. I put a few drops of the Iope Super Vital Softener in my palms and pat it onto my face and neck for a few seconds until it’s fully absorbed.
  3. “Then comes the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which I also pat onto my face and neck until absorbed.
  4. “After that, I massage two pumps of Iope’s Super Vital Emulsion over my face and neck.
  5. “At night, I’ll use one scoop of the Sisley Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream. I dot onto my cheeks and forehead, and massage it into my skin using upward strokes before adding another smaller scoop just for my neck.
  6. “For more moisture, I’ll gently pat in two to three drops of Sisley Black Rose Face Oil over the cream.
  7. “The final step is the Tatcha Silk Peony Eye Cream. Again, I apply one small dab under each eye, and lightly tap it in using my ring fingers, bringing it up and around the outer corners to finish.”

Dr. Chen’s Thoughts:

“In the mornings, I’d recommend using a hydrating cleanser like Sente Daily Soothing Cleanser, which would be more effective than just plain water. I’d also add SkinMedica TNS Advanced Serum twice daily, which you’d apply after the SK-II essence. This serum is full of antioxidants and growth factors to really combat signs of aging in a more significant way than any cream or facial oil can. In this age group, we are really looking to repair and rejuvenate skin. That said, you may also consider adding a topical retinoid to the mix like Emepelle Night Cream.”

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...