6 Essential Skin-Care Tips for Women in Their 30s, According to Derms

Keep it simple, y'all.

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Speaking as a fellow woman in her 30s, I can definitely see a difference in my skin since entering this decade. Fine lines have appeared where they once weren’t and that perma-glow (or was it grease?) that lit up my face has dulled considerably.

And hey, I am happy to be aging. Seriously, I’ll swap a few sun spots for lessened anxiety about my future any day, but I would like to age well. For those of you who are with me, I’ve consulted an All-Star roster for a handy list of things we can do to take better care of our skin starting now.

Meet the Experts

  • Dr. Lesley Rabach is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and co-founder of LM Medical in New York. She is an Ivy League trained expert facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in both facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Her surgical training included a fellowship sponsored by the American Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery, and a residency and internship in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital. She received her Medical Degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and her undergraduate degree from Brown University.
  • Brendan Camp, MD, is double board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology. His expertise is managing medical conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, warts, psoriasis, moles, and skin cancer, as well as cosmetic concerns and treatments with Botox®, fillers, lasers, and other skin rejuvenation devices.
  • David Petrillo is a cosmetic chemist with over 12 years of experience in the lab. He graduated in 2007 with a degree in Chemistry from Missouri University prior to working as a researcher in the cosmetics industry. His experiences in the lab led him to found his own company, Perfect Image, with a vision of making medical-grade peels and other cosmetic products more affordable.

What's Happening to Our Skin in Our 30s?

"As we reach our 30s, our skin goes through a transitional phase," explains Petrillo. "Skin cell production begins to slow down, and you might start to see more fine lines, a loss of volume and heavier pigmentation from sun damage as a result."

Not to be Debbie Downer, but this is also around the time when our levels of collagen and elastin (aka the structural proteins in our skin) start to decline. "A lack of collagen and elastin can predispose the skin to changes such as fine lines and skin laxity," adds Camp. "You may also notice lines becoming etched into the skin as a result of repeated facial movements and changes in skin quality."

How Should I Approach My Skincare Routine in My 30s?

Camp recommends consulting with a board-certified dermatologist to determine the best ingredients that suit your needs and can help you maintain healthy skin in the short and long term. In the meantime, we know it can take a while to actually get an appointment on the calendar, so we'll help get you started with a few essential tips (and product recommendations) ahead.

These Are the Skin-Care Ingredients You Need at Every Age

The Best Skincare Products for Your 30s at a Glance:

1. Don't Skip the Cleanser


Remember those late nights of rubbing a makeup wipe over your face before passing out? Yeah, that’s not going to cut it anymore. All of our experts were firm on this point and they recommend using a gentle cleanser every night (and morning, too, if you have oily skin). "A cleanser is crucial for removing any impurities, excess oil and makeup from your skin. It helps maintain a clean canvas for your other skincare products and prevents clogged pores, which can lead to breakouts," says Petrillo.

2. Add a Gentle Toner


Ah, the age-old question of whether or not you need to use a toner. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer but we’ll put it to you this way: If you have it in your budget to use one, it could give you that little extra boost that can level up your current regimen. The key is to use a gentle, hydrating formula (rather than an overly astringent one) to soothe your skin after cleansing. Simply pour a few drops of toner into the palms of your hands and pat, pat, pat it into your skin.

3. Bump Up The Exfoliation

Paula's Choice

If you haven’t been exfoliating until now, it’s time to start. And if you have, you might want to ramp things up to twice a week to help remove any accumulated skin cells (which are the main culprit behind that aforementioned loss of radiance). Rabach prefers a chemical exfoliator with alpha- or beta- hydroxy acids because they "affect changes under the skin." She also recommends getting a chemical peel every so often (ideally every six or so weeks) to really enhance cell turnover. 

4. Try (and Stick With) A Retinol

Skinbetter Science

It likely comes as no surprise that the number one ingredient that Dr. Rabach (and pretty much every other derm we’ve talked to throughout the years) agrees is the most effective at slowing down the clock is retinol or retinoids (the latter is the stronger, prescription-level form). This potent vitamin A derivative works two ways: It speeds up cell turnover and increases collagen production, so you get smoother, plumper skin with continued use. On that note, the effects of retinol are very slow and gradual, but stick with it and you’ll be grateful you did when you enter your 40s and beyond.

5. Be Vigilant About Your Sunscreen

Elta MD

Ideally, we would have all been wearing sunscreen every day throughout our teens or 20s, but hey, we’re talking about a different era here. (One where hitting up the tanning bed before the Homecoming dance was the norm.) But as Maya Angelou famously said, “When you know better, you do better.”

And now we know that sunscreen should be worn daily—rain, fog, snow or shine—to limit the UV exposure we get. "Sun damage can accelerate the rate at which skin ages and increase the risk of skin cancer," says Camp.

As for which type of sunscreen to use, “Go for a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30 with a physical blocker like zinc or titanium dioxide,” advises Rabach. “I also prefer a dual-task sunscreen that has antioxidants or niacinamide in it to provide additional protection.”

6. Use An Eye Cream


The eyes are the windows to your soul; they’re also one of the first places to show signs of aging, which is why Rabach recommends her 30+ patients use “a moisturizing eye cream that contains some combination of ingredients like retinol (that will boost collagen), hyaluronic acid (to hydrate and plump the skin) or caffeine (which constricts blood vessels to lighten up the appearance of puffiness and dark circles).”

And if you’re wanting something a bit more, shall we say, advanced, then there is the option for Botox. “Everyone is different, but a having a tiny bit sprinkled can keep skin youthful and smooth without looking unnatural,” assures Rabach.

What About Vitamin C and Peptides?

Here's the long and short of it: You don't need to use all of the different ingredients that are out there to get results. In fact, Camp recommends editing your skin care routine down to just the basics. "A routine with too many steps and too many products becomes burdensome, expensive and can potentially irritate skin," he explains.

So if you're deciding between adding a retinol, vitamin C or peptide to your lineup, Camp's advice is to target your first priority. "If your focus is on addressing fine lines and wrinkles, go with retinol. If your focus is overall skin brightening and treating dark spots, go with an antioxidant like vitamin C. And if you're mainly concerned with maintaining firmness and elasticity in your skin, peptides are your friend." (We're currently loving NEEL Skin Rejuvenating Gel, which features GHK-CU, a copper tripeptide that's used to stimulate collagen production.)

Any Last Advice For Us, Doc?

Don’t forget to tend to areas of skin that are often neglected, such as the neck, chest and backs of your hands.

My Skincare Routine Is Boring, But It Works

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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...