Your 30s is a special time. You’re wiser, more confident and more conscious of how your choices affect your health, yet young enough to make changes that will benefit you into your golden years. That’s why it’s an important time to focus on the health of your skin, the body’s largest organ and the one that’s most exposed to the outside world.
Even if you’ve taken good care of your skin, you’ll probably begin to notice some changes. As cell turnover slows down, your complexion dulls. Collagen, a fibrous protein that gives skin its strength and firmness, begins to break down. Fine lines and wrinkles start forming around your eyes and mouth. Sunspots and broken blood vessels may appear on your face. And even if you haven’t battled it before, hormone-driven acne may make unwanted appearances before or during your period.
Here are some tips for keeping your skin healthy and maintaining that youthful glow.
Hydrate. As we age, our skin begins to dry out, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The amount of water you need each day depends on a number of factors, including your health, your activity level and where you live. According to the Institute of Medicine, men generally need about 125 ounces or 3.7 liters of fluid each day and women need about 91 ounces or 2.7 liters. (By comparison, the oft-advised eight glasses per day yields about 64 ounces or 1.9 liters.) But it doesn’t all have to come from plain water — beverages and foods that contain water count, too.
Load up on antioxidants. Antioxidants — essential nutrients that include vitamins C, D and E, beta-carotene and selenium — protect the skin from free radicals, unstable molecules that damage healthy cells as a result of exposure to pollutants and radiation. For best protection, eat fruits and veggies high in antioxidant nutrients every day. Many moisturizers also include such antioxidants as vitamins C and E, green tea and selenium.
Use sunscreen daily. Unprotected sun exposure is a major cause of premature aging, and its cumulative effects worsen as we age. Wear a broadband (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Some moisturizers and cosmetics already contain sunscreen. If yours doesn’t, apply a separate one.
Use a retinoid. Retinoid products, made with derivatives of vitamin A, unclog pores, boost collagen and speed cell turnover to fight wrinkles, uneven texture and acne. Just make sure to use sunscreen because retinoids can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage if worn during the day. If your skin is sensitive, use a gentle exfoliator instead. (Caveat: Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use retinoids.) Ask your health care provider to prescribe one that’s right for your skin.
Exfoliate and peel. Chemical peels — particularly those with alpha and beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, retinoic acid or resorcinol — encourage new cell turnover, revealing fresher, brighter skin. If you’re not a fan of peels, slough off dead skin cells and stimulate collagen production with a gentler microdermabrasion or try an at-home treatment with glycolic or lactic acid. Ask your health care provider which peels or products are right for you.