We Ask a Derm: What Are the Most Important Skin-Care Tips for Women in Their 30s?

Speaking as a fellow woman in her 30s, I can definitely see a difference in my skin since entering this new 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 Dr. Lesley Rabach, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and co-founder of LM Medical for a handy list of things we can do to take better care of our skin starting now.

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

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Krave Beauty

Cleanse Smarter

Remember those late nights of rubbing a makeup wipe over your face before passing out? Yeah, that’s not going to cut it anymore. Using a gentle cleanser, massage it over wet skin in small, circular motions to really break down any makeup or surface oils that are sitting on the surface. You’ve got to be thorough when washing your face if you want any of your other skin-care products to absorb properly.

Some of our favorites: Krave Beauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser ($16); Elta MD Foaming Facial Cleanser ($22); Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser ($33)

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Then I Met You

Tone Up

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 will 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.

Some of our favorites: Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Facial Toner ($6); Then I Met You Birch Milk Refining Toner ($32); PCA Skin Nutrient Toner ($40)

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Bump Up The Exfoliation

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.

Some of our favorites: Peter Thomas Roth Complexion Cleansing Correction Pads ($25); Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant ($30); Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant ($39)

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Try (and Stick With) A Retinol

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 (we’re talking three to four months for full results) so stick with it and you’ll be grateful you did when you enter your 40s and beyond.

Some of our favorites: Neutrogena Anti-Aging Retinol Face Serum ($16); Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Serum ($29); Differin Acne Treatment Gel ($29); Revision Skincare Retinol Complete ($59)

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Practice Sun Safety

Ideally, you’ll have already established the habit of wearing sunscreen every day in your 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.” On that note, “you should use an SPF of at least 30 with a physical blocker like zinc or titanium dioxide daily,” advises Rabach. “I also prefer a dual-task sunscreen that has antioxidants or niacinamide in it to provide additional protection.”

Some of our favorites: Elta MD Tinted UV Daily Broad-Spectrum Facial Sunscreen ($24); SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair SPF 50+ ($68)

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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 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.

Some of our favorites: 100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream ($29); Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask ($42); Neocutis Lumiére Illuminating Eye Cream ($97); SkinCeuticals A.G.E Eye Complex ($98)