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The Skin-Care Products You Need Before You're 30

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    Aging gracefully is the goal of hopeful, optimistic millennials everywhere, isn’t it? We know that wrinkle-free isn’t an option — unless you’re a Real Housewife — but we’d like to look healthy, and damn good, as the decades go by. Well, as professionals (and capitalism!) tell us, the key to a beautiful complexion is daily care and smart prevention.

    We get it: You already knew that! But, don't you get confused about how exactly you should be “preventing” things? (Is Botox preventative?) How can we weave anti-aging products into our routines without prompting an onslaught of clogged pores and acne? And, more importantly, at what point do we need to get Olivia-Pope levels of serious about fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation?

    To answer these very important questions (and help phase you into real adulthood), we consulted one prominent dermatologist and two aestheticians. Here, they take us through the early, middle, and late chapters of our 20s, and then give us a sneak peek at our 30s. But, before you start clicking, we want you to note: At no point is it too late to start taking good care of your skin. And, if you have any questions about what you see here, feel free to leave a message in the comments, and we’ll be sure to get back to you.

    You've never seen beauty quite like this before. Check out our Beauty Innovator Awards for the smartest, funkiest, most fresh to death products of the year.


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    The Early 20s
    Adulthood is just beginning for you, children of the future! Unfortunately, while life speeds up, your body does the opposite. “Skin-repair replacement mechanisms begin to slow by age 20,” says celebrity dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD. “In women, there are hormonal shifts — estrogen declines, and testosterone increases.” This might come as a surprise for someone who’s just beginning to enjoy the best skin of their lives: “Your skin, right now, looks like it's in its prime,” says Caroline Hirons, a London-based aesthetician. “But, what you do right now will determine how it looks later on.”

    So, your early 20s are kind of like facial bootcamp: It's the time to build up the proper discipline and habits that will help you age gracefully — without going totally overboard and causing your face to become a red, irritated mess.

    Swap the Acne Wash
    “Americans treat their skin like it’s the enemy," says Hirons. "It’s not! Get rid of any foaming acne cleansers, because they’re too stripping.” Unless you’re under specific instructions from your derm to use a medicated daily wash, choose a gentler alternative. “A cleansing milk will balance the complexion and remove the day’s grime,” she says.

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    Pick Up A Cleansing Oil
    And, of course, washing twice daily is absolutely necessary. “I always tell my clients that cleansing before bed is non-negotiable. Now is the time to be responsible,” says celebrity aesthetician Joanna Vargas. And don’t try to be sneaky after you’ve had a few too many cocktails at happy hour: “Cleansing wipes absolutely don’t count as washing your face!” Hirons says.

    Caudalie
    Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil, $28, available at Sephora.

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    A cleansing balm is another excellent choice. Many formulas, like this one, are loaded with oils that dissolve makeup in a matter of seconds. Unlike cleaning oils, balms are solid at room temperature, making them a great mess-free options for travel.

    Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, $29, available at Clinique.

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    Start Exfoliating Three Times a Week
    “You have to stimulate your skin in order for it to repair itself,” explains Dr. Lancer. “It’s just like exercise — you have to get the muscles burning in order to promote cardiovascular muscular growth. Make sure to use a scrub at night, so your skin has time to recover.” Since you’re still young and beautiful (as Lana Del Rey sings), you’ll want something gentle with just the right amount of grit: You don't want to rub your face raw. This product should do the trick.

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    Swap Your Toner
    That’s right: It doesn’t always have to sting! “I always recommend my younger clients stay away from astringent toning products [in favor of] something more balancing,” Vargas says. “Rose is incredibly hydrating and good for circulation — it works on any skin type.”