If you're still young and want your skin to stay that way as long as possible, you owe it to yourself to know what's helpful and what's not.
Prevention in Your 20s
A hefty body of research shows that the most important steps people in their 20s and early 30s can take to maintain their skin is avoid smoking and wear sunscreen faithfully.
"I can’t stress enough that the No.1 thing young adults can do to limit the signs of aging is use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF 30 or higher every single day," says Adam Friedman, MD, director of dermatologic research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Robin Ashinoff, MD, the chief of dermatologic surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, agrees. "Prevention," Ashinoff says, "is absolutely the best medicine against skin aging. And that means staying out of the sun."
As for smoking, studies show that it hampers the body's ability to make collagen and also leads to premature wrinkling. Combine a heavy cigarette habit with a lot of sun exposure and you’re more than 10 times more likely to develop wrinkles than people your same age who don’t smoke and who do stay out of the sun.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center, says, "Control the environmental causes of aging and, while you might see fine lines in your early 30s, you can minimize dilated blood vessels, deeper wrinkles, and loss of elasticity into your late 40s or 50s.”
The Downside of Anti-Aging Products
Dermatologists say that with a few good skincare habits, there’s little reason to invest in anti-aging creams that promise to speed cell turnover and build elasticity.
For starters, there’s scant evidence that these creams work. Because these products are cosmetics and not drugs, they don’t need to go through the rigorous clinical studies that the FDA requires of drugs, Zeichner explains. "You have to take the claims that beauty companies make with a very large grain of salt," he says.
Secondly, using these products in your 20s may be unnecessary. "Some skin care products claim to increase cell turnover or to repair collagen breakdown," Zeichner says. "In your 20s, you have excellent turnover without any help, and your skin is fully capable of repairing itself. The downside is that these products may irritate your skin or make it more sensitive to the sun."
Claire Duplantier, a YouTube beauty vlogger from Atlanta in her early 20s, discovered the toll of pricey skincare creams on both her wallet and her complexion. She was bothered by forehead crinkles and the beginning of crow’s feet. "It was nothing major," she says, "but enough to notice in pictures and when I’m tired." She says she has spent over a thousand dollars on her "proactive" anti-aging skin care regimen in the past nine months, including three purchases of a $195 "skin defense cream."