10 Healthy Skin Habits All 20-Somethings Should Master Now To Have Better Skin At 30 - Iffie Okoronkwo MD

10 Healthy Skin Habits All 20-Somethings Should Master Now To Have Better Skin At 30

Article Published by: self.com

At 20 years old, my skincare routine consisted of nothing but makeup wipes, Vaseline for dry lips, and the occasional acne treatment.

Now, I never leave home without applying my antioxidant serum and a SPF 30 sunscreen (but the makeup wipes are still on my bedside stand because I’m lazy AF some nights). Preserving the best skin of your life starts with learning good habits and filling your bathroom with the right products. And I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have time or money for a lengthy, 10-step skincare routine. But taking care of your complexion doesn’t have to be complicated. Committing to these 10 healthy skin habits in your 20s will keep you looking forever young. You can thank me later when you’re still getting carded at the bar long after age 35.

1. Wash your face instead of using makeup wipes all the time.

While face wipes are a good quick fix, nothing is better than washing your face with soap and water. It may seem like a simple request, but it’s important to cleanse your skin every day. “We shed 50 million skin cells a day,” Mona Gohara, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, tells SELF. “If you don’t wash and exfoliate, then all of the other stuff you’re doing to help your skin is not going to penetrate in. It’s going to sit on there like a layer of dust.” Make sure when you’re choosing a cleanser, you turn over the bottle to look at the ingredients. Some products have the same bubbly sulfates as dish soap, which can strip the skin. Look for natural surfactants and moisturizing ingredients.

2. Get in the habit of wearing sunscreen every day—seriously.

We’re beginning to sound like a broken record with the whole sunscreen thing. But it really is the most important step in a skincare routine. According to Gohara, 90 percent of the signs of aging come from unprotected UV exposure. Spending time in the sun unprotected also increases your risk for skin cancer. So, it’s important to find a product that fits into your daily routine.
“I use the online dating analogy. If you use the first sunscreen that looks good or smells good, then the relationship is not going to last,” says Gohara. “You have to date the sunscreen to make sure it fits into your lifestyle and your budget.” One easy way to work in daily SPF 30 is to find a makeup product with sunscreen built in like Bobbi Brown BB Cream SPF 35 ($46, sephora.com). Gohara also recommends powder formulas like the mineral one from Colorescience ($57, colorescience.com) for re-application throughout the day.

3. Apply an antioxidant serum every morning to protect skin from pollution and free radicals.

“Like all antioxidants, vitamin C can help fight free radicals from all environmental aggressors, like pollution and sun damage,” dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. tells SELF. Try applying a serum with vitamin C underneath your sunscreen. Not only will it boost the protection of your SPF, but it also has skin-brightening properties. Try Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Antiaging Collagen Booster ($48; sephora.com).

4. Invest in a retinol.

A vitamin A derivative (a.k.a. retinol) is a dermatologist favorite for fighting the signs of aging. Using one every night can increase collagen production and decrease collagen breakdown. “Retinoids teach aging cells how to behave like younger, healthier cells by encouraging them to turnover more rapidly. This makes way for new cell growth,” says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf advisor.
In prescription form, retin-A is known as tretinoan and retinoic acid. But you can also get gentler retinols in the beauty aisle. These products are balanced out with ingredients like shea butter and niacinimide to decrease the chances of irritation. Try Pestle & Mortar Retinol Night Oil ($109; pestleandmortar.com).

5. Learn to resist the urge to pop every pimple.

The satisfaction you get from obliterating a whitehead is not worth the potential for permanent scarring. “In your 20s, you may recognize that some of the things that used to fade down, like freckles or discoloration, doesn’t,” says Gohara. So, popping pimples could lead to long-lasting dark spots. Instead, Gohara recommends applying cortisone cream and Visine (yes, the same liquid you use on your eyes) to help minimize redness and pain. Then, treat the acne with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment like Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment ($5; target.com).

6.Attempt to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Sleep is something we could all use more of, and seven to eight hours a night will help you achieve clear skin—among other amazing benefits. “If you don’t sleep, your cortisol levels can go up,” says Gohara. “And when your cortisol levels go up that promotes inflammation in your skin.” When you do finally hit the sheets, remember to boost the skin benefits by applying an antiaging product like retinol.

7. Eat with your skin in mind.
Your diet can affect the appearance of your skin (ever have a pizza binge only to wake up with the beginnings of a breakout?). So, packing your diet with foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (wild-caught salmon), vitamin E (seeds and nuts), and zinc (oysters) can help keep your face clear and glowing.

8. Acknowledge that your face isn’t the only area that needs attention. Your hands and neck deserve love, too.

Dermatologists think of the face, neck, and décolletage as a skincare unit—and you should, too. Make sure to extend all your serums, creams, masks, and sunscreen down past your throat. It’s also important to pay attention to the skin on your hands, especially when you’re applying sunscreen. “The first thing I see women in their 40s come in and say: ‘What is this spot on my hands?'” says Gohara. “It’s [a result of] the UV light that comes through the window of the car.” So, make sure to apply (and reapply) SPF on your hands. A few other spots that get overlooked: the scalp, the tops of the ears, and the lips.

9. Exfoliate on a regular basis.
Exfoliation doesn’t have to be a laborious skincare step. You can use something as simple as a microfiber towel (yes, the same one used to clean cars) to get rid of dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliants with ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid can also brighten the complexion. “Chemical exfoliants remove the top layers of the skin by weakening the lipids that bond them together, thus removing dull and dead skin cells and revealing healthy skin cells,” Dendy Engelman, M.D. tells SELF. Try Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial ($80, sephora.com).

10. Bonus: Use a product with hyaluronic acid to soothe tired eyes.

“Hyaluronic acid has the ability to hold water,” says Engelman. “It’s a great hydrator for the skin, so it’s definitely going to give superficial plumping to help with fine lines.” So when your eyes are looking a little tired after a long night working (or partying), dab on an eye cream with this powerful ingredient. A lot of face moisturizers are packed with hyaluronic acid as well, so you don’t necessarily need to buy a separate product—because no one needs more bottles in the bathroom.


Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.

Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.