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When you’re young, it seems like your skin can take care of itself. Even after the longest nights, you wake up looking fresh-faced—without a pimple or wrinkle in sight.
It’s tempting to skip skincare when you can’t see any damage.
But your 20s are actually the perfect time to start incorporating preventive steps that will keep your skin youthful for years to come.
If you’re wondering why this is the case—or don’t know where to start—this article is for you.
We’ve put together this article to help you understand what happens to your skin in your 20s so that you can take the right steps to protect it from premature aging.
One of the primary reasons skin aging becomes more noticeable over time is that the skin’s cell turnover process begins to slow down as we get older.
During the normal, natural cell turnover process, the skin produces and pushes new cells from deeper layers of your skin to the surface, while dead skin cells, bacteria, and impurities are elevated and removed as skin cells shed.
This process helps combat fine lines and wrinkles while keeping your complexion radiant.
As we get older the body also starts producing less collagen, which is one of the main building blocks of the skin responsible for resiliency and “bounce.” By keeping the skin’s muscles and ligaments together, collagen is responsible for maintaining the skin’s elasticity and firmness.
Due to a decrease in collagen and elastin production alongside new skin cells, subtle signs of aging may already start to appear during your 20s.
These may include:
Although a decline in the skin’s cell turnover process is largely to blame, there are a variety of other factors that contribute to premature aging.
“If I could tell every young person in America to do one thing for their skin, it would be to apply sun protection daily,” says Dr. Lilliana Ramírez García, a board-certified dermatologist and director of skincare success at Nava MD.
“It’s so fast and simple, and it makes such a difference in the long run for anti-aging and great-looking skin”
Without the protection of a quality sun protectant, UV (ultraviolet) radiation can damage essential cell components—like collagen—when the skin is exposed to the sun. SPF, or sun protection factor, is a rating system for how well a sun protectant works. At Nava MD, our dermatologists generally recommend SPF of 30 or higher any time you expect to be in the sun––even if it’s just during your daily commute.
The bonds that keep collagen molecules together can be split when UV radiation enters the skin—causing them to lose their elasticity.
This contributes to the appearance of fine lines, dark spots, and sagging skin to become more noticeable as we get older.
Furthermore, all those blissful rays can lead to early skin cancer, which is now the leading cancer in the U.S. One sobering statistic? Experiencing 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
High levels of stress trigger the release of a hormone called cortisol.
This hormone causes collagen to break down and leads to an increase in inflammation in the body—two factors that reduce the skin’s ability to repair external damage.
Our bodies normally regulate and decrease cortisol levels when we get enough sleep.
However, when we don’t get enough rest our cortisol levels can remain high and collagen production can be affected.
This makes fine lines and wrinkles, dark circles, and sagging skin more noticeable.
Nicotine reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that travel to and through the skin.
Not only does this cause fine lines and wrinkles, but it can also give the skin an uneven or gray appearance.
Smoking contributes to free radical formation in your body. These are unstable atoms that can damage many of your body’s natural physiological processes and contribute to fine line and wrinkle formation.
The repetitive movements of smoking (sucking a cigarette, squinting from wafting smoke) also contribute to smoker-specific wrinkles or lines around the mouth and eyes.
Studies have also linked excessive alcohol consumption to premature aging.
Alcohol can also increase free radicals in your body, damaging collagen and causing fine lines and dark spots.
As mentioned before, using anti-aging products in your 20s is an effective way to combat signs of premature aging and prevent their formation later in life.
Establishing good skincare habits while you’re young will help you protect and nourish your complexion for years to come.
The first step is to establish a healthy skincare routine and stick with it.
To make sure that your skin is protected and nourished, follow a skincare routine in the mornings and at night before bed.
Some skincare products are best for protecting your skin from damage during the day, while others restore and repair your skin while you sleep.
Your morning routine should focus on preparing your skin for the day by protecting it from UV radiation and environmental factors.
A typical morning skincare routine can include a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and an SPF before or with makeup application.
Some dermatologists also recommend using a serum or toner in the morning to give your skin an extra hydration boost.
With a nighttime routine, you have the opportunity to replenish and heal your skin while you sleep. It’s an ideal time for healing because your skin isn’t exposed to harsh external factors like sunlight or stress, and your body can focus on “rebuilding” overnight.
Since the skin won’t be exposed to damaging external factors after application, a nighttime routine can include ingredients like tretinoin that are more targeted and powerful.
Tretinoin is a prescription retinoid, similar to over-the-countert retinoids like retinol and retinal, that works by speeding up the skin cell turnover process. It’s one of the most effective and safe skincare medications used by dermatologists.
You might also consider detoxifying face masks, spot treatments, or exfoliators. For most people, these products are too harsh for daily use. However, they can still be beneficial if used in moderation.
Now that you know a bit more about skincare in your 20s, let's take a look at some dermatologically approved anti-aging products to get you started.
Nava MD offers personalized treatment plans for various skin concerns and sensitivities.
Our products are formulated with some of the most effective, clinically proven ingredients to improve the appearance of aging skin. These include:
Not only are our custom formulas blended to reduce and fight the appearance of aging, but you’ll also get skincare advice directly from our board-certified dermatologists as part of your order.
Our experts specialize in creating unique treatment plans for your skin’s needs and are available to help with any of your concerns through the Nava MD member portal.
Benefits of Nava MD:
If you aren’t ready to use prescription products just yet, here are a few OTC options to help you manage the signs of aging in your 20s.
La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Cleanser
This milky cleanser is intended to remove dirt and bacteria from the surface of your skin without stripping it of essential oils.
It’s formulated with salicylic acid and niacinamide to reduce the appearance of blemishes while soothing skin irritation.
Salicylic acid also combats fine lines by promoting the production of collagen—a protein essential for firm and healthy skin.
At the same time, niacinamide is included to hydrate the skin by boosting moisture levels.
This cleanser is gentle enough to use twice a day without irritating the skin, making it a good option for most skin types.
Aveeno Absolutely Ageless Cleanser
This Aveeno cleanser is formulated with antioxidants to help fight free radicals while removing impurities, dirt, excess oil, and makeup from the skin.
Due to its hydrating formulation, this cleanser is intended to maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier for a firmer-looking complexion.
The blueberry extract contains vitamins A and C, which act as antioxidants.
Vitamin C brightens dull skin and evens out skin tone, while vitamin A can help promote collagen production.
This cleanser is also non-comedogenic (meaning that it won’t clog your pores) which makes it a good option for acne-prone skin.
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser
The Kiehl’s cleanser is intended to dissolve dirt and impurities from your skin without leaving it feeling dehydrated.
This cleanser’s pH balance mimics the skin's natural acidity, which helps maintain the skin barrier without irritating it.
The skin barrier is the first line of defense that protects the complexion from environmental damage.
This cleanser is also formulated with squalane and glycolic acid—two good options for combating aging. Squalane moisturizes and smoothes the skin, keeping it free from fine lines, while glycolic acid exfoliates and removes dead cells from the surface.
Drunk Elephant Peptide Moisturizer
This moisturizer contains peptides—a protein with effective anti-aging benefits—to help replenish and restore your skin.
Peptides reduce the appearance of fine lines by stimulating collagen production and decreasing inflammation. They also soothe skin irritation and redness.
The amino acids and waterlily extract are intended to work with the peptides to improve skin texture and firmness by binding moisture to the skin. This is to help keep the skin hydrated, youthful-looking and healthy.
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
This lightweight product includes essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid to moisturize your skin.
Ceramides are fatty acids that help the skin’s cells retain moisture and protect it from environmental damage.
Together with hyaluronic acid, ceramides help keep the skin hydrated and revitalized.
This moisturizer is non-comedogenic, which means that it won’t clog your pores and cause breakouts. As a gentle formulation, this product is a good option for all skin types.
Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF 50
This moisturizer is formulated with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from UV radiation.
As mentioned before, applying an SPF is an important part of any skincare routine to help keep the skin healthy.
This moisturizer is also formulated with soy. This is intended to boost collagen production and help protect the skin from free radicals.
Not only is this to help strengthen the skin, but it can also prevent it from becoming vulnerable to external damage, fine lines and sagging.
Summer Fridays CC Me Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C is intended to combat signs of aging by brightening the skin and reducing the appearance of dark spots.
It also protects the skin from sun damage, which makes it most effective as part of a morning skincare routine.
This serum also includes niacinamide to help revitalize dull and dry skin.
Research shows that when vitamin C and niacinamide are used together, the skin appears firmer and more radiant in a shorter amount of time.
Versed Gentle Retinol Serum
As a vitamin A derivative, retinol is an anti-aging ingredient that helps boost the production of new skin cells.
This retinol serum has been formulated for sensitive skin and first-time retinol users.
It also contains anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce any signs of skin redness or irritation. The retinol in this product is intended to smooth fine lines and even out skin tone while keeping the complexion clear and healthy.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid Serum
A hyaluronic acid serum is an effective way to keep your skin moisturized while staying away from harsh ingredients or creams.
Hyaluronic acid improves the skin barrier’s function and promotes the growth of stronger skin tissue. This serum also includes vitamin B5 to help create a visibly firmer and more moisturized appearance.
For millennials and anyone wondering whether it’s necessary to establish an anti-aging skincare routine during their 20s, the answer is a resounding yes.
It’s much easier to fight the signs of aging proactively and preventively rather than after those wrinkles have set in.
Your best best is preventive help from quality sun protection daily (SPF 30+), regular cleansing and moisturizing, and avoiding lifestyle factors that contribute to premature aging, like smoking and alcohol abuse.
If you’re dealing with acne or more specific skin conditions, the dermatologists at Nava MD can create custom prescription solutions tailored to your skin’s needs and sensitivities, too. It begins with a free online skin consultation, and if prescribed, medications shipped direct from the pharmacy to your door.
Invest in your skin’s future with Nava MD today.