How to take care of your skin in your 20s
The best-kept age-defying secret is less a secret and more a fact of life: You don’t typically focus on "anti-aging" until you perceive yourself to be aging. By the time your laugh lines and sunspots are visible, a lot of the damage has already been done.
The truth is, minor changes to the face often start to occur in your mid-twenties (depending on how well you cared for your skin in your teens). Around 25 is when you begin to lose “baby fat,” sun spots or other areas of hyperpigmentation may appear or darken, and you may even start to develop “crow's feet” around the eyes from squinting at your computer screen, for example.
Fear not! If you’re still in your 20s (or a young 36 like me), there are plenty of treatments you can pursue early (and sometimes often) to lessen the impact of time on your face:
1. Sunscreen and moisturizer
This one may seem obvious, but there’s a reason your dermatologist asks about your sunscreen routine the same way your dentist asks how often you floss. There’s no better way to delay the impact of aging (and years of sun exposure) on your face than to protect it with sunscreen. Use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater and apply it every day — regardless of the season and even if the only time you’re spending outside is in your car (the sun can reach you through the windows!). You don’t need to go overboard with products, but you should moisturize, too. Doctors recommend a light moisturizer, especially if you’re still young enough to be prone to breakouts.
Having your dead skin cells “buffed” off your face might sound intense. Still, it’s easy and common enough that you can add microdermabrasion onto most facials, and there’s almost no recovery time (avoiding working out for a day to two if you don’t want your sweating to sting). Microdermabrasion brightens the skin and can very subtly reduce fine lines. This treatment can make other treatments, like peels and extractions, more effective.
3. Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL)
It’s great to do a series of IPL treatments (experts recommend a series of three to five treatments once a year) before really committing to your skincare (and sunscreen) routine as you age. While they are different types of IPL lasers, the treatment involves using intense flashes of light to reduce mild sun damage (including brown spots), broken capillaries, and irregular pigmentation on the face, neck, and chest. This treatment is best for undoing some of the sun damage you may have let sneak through in your young and reckless years. One caveat: IPL is only recommended for those with fairer skin types.
4. Clear + Brilliant laser facial
You may have heard of Fraxel lasers or have friends who have tried them. If the latter is the case, they likely told you about their incredible results but accompanying pain and downtime. There are a range of Fraxel lasers, but they are most commonly used to completely resurface the skin and rid of acne scars, for example. They can require time off work and significant time out of the sun, making them an investment and a commitment. That’s why Clear + Brilliant is so, well, brilliant. Described as a “mini Fraxel”, Clear + Brilliant is a fractional laser that rejuvenates skin by creating micro-injuries that catalyze the production of collagen and cellular repair. The best part is minimal discomfort and downtime (your face may be red for a couple of hours and “sandpapery” for a couple of days). It’s a great treatment to reverse damage but also slow aging and can be done regularly to see even more impressive results. This is a great treatment to keep up until that Fraxel laser is necessary (if ever!).
Ah yes, Botox — the miracle drug that can be injected to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles, address migraines and curtail sweating. While it’s most commonly used to smooth existing wrinkles, there is a recent trend to use Botox preventively. Widely dubbed “Baby Botox,” this involves a small injection of Botox to reduce movements that crease the skin (e.g., frowning, furrowing your brow, etc.). Softening these movements early can prevent wrinkles later in life. That said, it’s important to assess whether or not this treatment is right for you and to recognize that it’s a commitment; Botox typically lasts several months and not years.
But remember, aging is natural, and everyone does it — so the most important thing you can do to feel great about yourself is to embrace it!
Khalid El Khatib is a Brooklyn-based writer and marketer who tweets too much.