In my teenage years, I was pretty blessed skin-wise. Aside from the occasional breakout, my skin was generally clear and bright. The only consistent step in my routine was step one: Wash my face. And if I'm being honest, sometimes I didn’t even do that! (Don't judge the young me.) Then college happened, and I experienced my first bout of acne, along with some other unexpected skin changes that caught me totally off guard. Suddenly, my skin was more reactive to changing weather, I started to see under-eye bags, and was even afflicted with some hyperpigmentation. For the first time, I had to figure out an actual skincare routine that worked for me.
Things leveled out for a while, but just when I thought I'd gotten things totally figured out, my late twenties hit, and, again, my skin changed. Seemingly overnight, it was dryer, I was seeing the formation of fine lines, and my skin was just dull. Thankfully, I knew the drill this time around and since then, I've nailed down a skincare routine that's kept my skin clear and glowy as I've crossed over into my 30s. I'm laying it all out ahead, so keep scrolling for some of the best products to try in your 30s.
1. Retinol or Retinoid
As we age, we produce less collagen. In fact, a derm recently explained that production starts waning as early as age 22. While that might sound like a scary statistic, ingredients like retinol (or stronger retinoids) help to stimulate collagen production and cell turnover to keep the skin firmer longer. You'd be hard-pressed to find a skin expert who doesn't recommend incorporating one into your routine if you're in your 30s. Just make sure to follow directions for use—the stuff makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Especially if you're new to using retinol, you'll want to start slow since it can cause some irritation.
RoC is credited as the first drugstore brand to stabilize retinol, so it kind of knows a thing or two about getting the most out of the ingredient. This night cream is a favorite among many—and it's easy to see why. Those who use it claim very fast results, and it averages an impressive 4.4/5 stars from its 10,644 ratings on Amazon.
I think the Pond's Rejuveness line, which also features a serum, eye cream, night cream, daily moisturizer, and anti-wrinkle cream, is one of the best in terms of bang for your buck. It's a new line, but compared to others I've used, I can say it's one of my favorites that I've tried. It's got similar retinol content to some luxury brands and is so well priced, which is a major win in my book.
Cult-favorite skincare line The Ordinary is well known for its pared-back yet effective skincare formulations, at shockingly affordable prices. This retinol is no different. Reviewers remark that it left their skin glow, and I agree. It's pure retinol that's easy to incorporate into your routine.
This hydrating formula is highly concentrated to target fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, breakouts, and uneven skin tone. Basically, it's going to change your complexion from parched and textured to dewy and bright. If you're new to retinol or retinoids, only use it a couple of times a week. This stuff is strong.
2. Hydrating Toner
While some would argue that toner is an unnecessary skincare product, personal experience has taught me that wearing makeup regularly, using sunscreen regularly (hello, that'd better be everyone!), and having oily or acne-prone skin are all great reasons to start using one, like, now. And don't worry—formulation technology has caught up from yesteryear, so there are a ton of toners on the market that aren't too harsh and won't strip your skin and make it sad. Instead, you can reach for hydrating toners that soothe the skin while helping to purify it.
This toner is one of my favorites, and that's because it's jam-packed with skin-nourishing antioxidants that protect, brighten, and hydrate all at once. It's also fragrance-free, so irritation isn't a factor.
Made with purified water, coconut water, and algae, this moisturizing essence is a drugstore win that will leave your skin hydrated and happy before serums or moisturizers.
Your skin will drink this refreshing toner right up. The concentrated liquid easily wipes away impurities from the day, and with a majority of the nearly 1000 reviews on Sephora being positive ones, it looks like others are on board, too.
This one is a true multitasking tool. Use it as a makeup remover or hydrating toner, and it erases makeup, residue, and any other grime your face has collected. It's a mainstay in my routine after I cleanse and before any other products.
3. Chemical Exfoliant
Chemical exfoliants in the form of alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) loosen grime within the pores and slough away dead skin cells. Unlike physical exfoliants, like scrubs, you won't have to exert any elbow grease to get a thorough exfoliation. Integrating one into my routine on a regular basis has changed my skin for the better, especially when it comes to dullness. Hello, brighter skin!
This salicylic acid-based toner helps you shed those extra layers and unclog pores. It's a cult favorite (seriously, everyone uses it) and one of mine as well.
I love pretty much all Summer Fridays products, and this one isn't exempt. It's a toner solution with 16% AHA and niacinamide, meaning it'll brighten your skin in no time.
This treatment has gotten all the good reviews, and for very good reason: It's a game changer. As an alpha-hydroxy acid (lactic) serum, it reduces the appearance of pores, works on hyperpigmentation, and dark spots, and is clinically shown to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It's pricey, but it'll last.
With a mix of AHAs and BHAs, this nighttime wonder dramatically improves skin texture while you sleep. I can't get enough of it, and neither can my face.
If you're not wearing sunscreen, then what are you even doing? Experts agree that, particularly as we age, sunscreen is the number one product we can use to protect our skin and keep it living its best, healthiest life. The fact that it also helps to maintain a more youthful and vibrant dermis is just a bonus.
This lotion-meets-primer is the perfect base for any look and has an SPF of 40, so it'll help to keep you looking radiant as the years go on. It's got a shimmery tinge that makes it look almost like a highlighter, but don't worry—it's not overly glittery. Instead, it simply imparts a bit of glowy filter. It's my favorite!
This famous French pharmacy formula is a must for me. It does exactly what it says—melts into your skin quickly, leaving no residue behind.
If you have acne-prone skin, consider this your new go-to face sunscreen. As the self-proclaimed number one dermatologist-recommended sun care brand, Neutrogena formulated this lotion with SPF 55, without potentially irritating fragrances, and without comedogenic ingredients that could cause breakouts.
I've been using this product for years and I don't see that changing anytime soon. It's super lightweight, smells like a dream, and it actually becomes stronger, not weaker, when exposed to heat, water, and sweat.
5. Lip Masks
If you're thinking, "Huh?" hear me out. Lips are often neglected in our skincare routines, and they should not be—especially as we get older. Aging affects the volume of the lips, meaning they get thinner as the years pass (whom), but the skin around the lips also starts to show age in the form of marionette lines. There's nothing wrong with a line here or there, but I'm taking action now to keep my lips in tip-top shape. I started applying a lip mask pretty much every night, and my lips feel better than they have in a long, long time.
Pretty much the gold standard of lip masks with thousands of five-star reviews, this is the one I always have multiples of ready-to-go.
This clean formula uses organic ingredients like sea succulent, which is said to improve hydration by up to 6000%. Uh, wow.
This super-hydrating formula features shea butter and hyaluronic acid that each work to help lips retain moisture. It reduces the look of fine lines on the lips, which is definitely a bonus.
Tatcha is beloved for its superb skincare offerings, so it makes sense that its lip mask also lives up to the hype. With Japanese peach and olive-derived squalane, it softens and smooths for fuller lips. I'm not going to lie, applying it with the little applicator also makes me feel very chic, like a lady of luxury.