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12 best skincare products for your 20s and 30s: From anti-ageing serums to SPF

Tackle blemishes, pollution and sun damage with these essentials

Olivia Petter@oliviapetter1
Monday 27 July 2020 12:00
From your mid twenties, your skin starts to produce less collagen (the protein that helps with your skin’s elasticity)
From your mid twenties, your skin starts to produce less collagen (the protein that helps with your skin’s elasticity)

Investing in anti-ageing skincare might not seem like a priority in your twenties, but as your skin goes through significant changes in between then and 30, it’s important to do the prep work before it comes around.

From your mid twenties, your skin starts to produce less collagen (the protein that helps with your skin’s elasticity), and when you hit 30, signs of ageing and sun damage start to manifest.

Your skin also produces less sebum as you get older, so you may experience drier skin as you age.

Luckily, there’s a whole labyrinth of skincare ingredients to target specific concerns, so you can tailor your beauty regimen to suit your age and needs.

From brands that specialise in organic products to anti-pollution, it’s difficult to know where to start, but we’ve covered the essentials in our round-up.

We’ve covered all of your key bases here, with the basic staples like moisturiser, toner and cleanser, but we’ve also included some speciality products to give your skin an extra boost.

Some have specific benefits, like preventing blemishes, while others are wonderful for simply brightening your complexion. The below list consists of hero products from emerging brands and cult classics from established ones.

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Aesop purifying facial exfoliant paste

It’s tough to choose just one product from Aesop. The Australian skincare brand is renowned for its gorgeously scented products and Instagram-worthy packaging. Everything smells like it’s just been stolen from a spa, and this exfoliator is no different. The creamy paste has been formulated with quartz and lactic acid to slough away dead skin cells while leaving skin soft. Lactic acid is part of the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) group and not only works to exfoliate but also tackles acne and signs of ageing, including wrinkles. We loved the way this left our skin feeling afterwards: super smooth and thoroughly cleansed.. Use it once or twice a week for a quick exfoliation job, or leave it on for a few minutes while you soak in the bath and enjoy its divine rosemary leaf scent.

Drunk Elephant lip balm

This nifty lip balm by coveted skincare brand Drunk Elephant is the perfect pocket size product. Packed with skin-loving ingredients such as mongongo nut oil for UV-protection, vitamins, peptides, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, this unassuming balm keeps lips soft while protecting from environmental aggressors. You also don’t need to apply it every 10 minutes for consistent moisture, like you do with cheaper lip balms, which makes this one a worthy investment for those who might be concerned about the price tag for such a small product. This buttery lip balm is rich enough to relieve seriously dry lips but light enough that you can wear it under lipstick. It can also be applied as an overnight lip treatment if your pout is in dire need of some TLC. It leaves our lips soft and supple after just one swipe.

Glossier futuredew

Like everything Glossier produces, this product has received a lot of hype. It’s an oil serum hybrid that adds a dewy shine to the skin in a similar way to a highlighter, but with far more skincare benefits. Just like the rest of the brand’s line, this is designed with natural looks in mind,, but we love the healthy glow it gives to bare skin. We’d recommend applying it as a last step in your skincare routine, after a moisturiser and SPF, to make the most of the dewy look it offers. You can use it on targeted areas, like the cheekbones to reflect where the light naturally hits your face, or all over for a seriously glowy look. If you’re naturally oily we’d approach this with caution, but the dewyness lasts all day and doesn’t appear greasy on the skin. It’s vegan, cruelty free and is infused with plant-based extracts that work to brighten your complexion. The perfect pick-me-up for tired and dull skin.

Charlotte Tilbury goddess mask

Founded by the queen of celebrity make-up, this brand is also renowned for its skincare line. We love this clay mask for its rich texture and the glow it leaves after application. It contains almond oil and frangipani flower extract, both of which leave the skin feeling deeply moisturiser, and kaolin clay is renowned for its nourishing properties. Perfect for firming the skin and adding radiance, we love to use this after a long week at work or when hungover for a restorative pick-me-up. You don’t need a huge amount to cover your face either, so the mask should last you several applications. If you use this three times a week, you should notice a difference in your overall complexion after about two weeks.

Liz Earle balancing botanical drops

Don’t let this teeny tiny bottle deceive you. Liz Earle is renowned for its natural, balancing skin products, and this recent addition is no different. There are a range of botanical drops in the collection, but we love the balancing drops because they immediately seem to reduce any redness and provide a firmer complexion. It also prevents blemishes and helps mattify shiny skin. We suggest using it just before your moisturiser in the morning, but allow it to dry fully first. We really noticed the difference with using this product for several weeks and find we get much fewer blemishes now. It’s particularly useful to combat sporadic flare-ups on the skin too.

Dr Barbara Sturm anti pollution drops

This product is expensive, but we swear it’s worth it. Although pollution can impact the skin wherever you are in the form of irritation, breakouts and clogged pores, the effects are all the more prevalent if you live in a city. If you’re a regular commuter, tackling pollution in your skincare should definitely be on your radar, and if you’re going to buy something from anyone, it should be the German beauty legend that is Dr Sturm, whose products are a hit among celebrities.

Working to protect the skin from environmental aggressors while hydrating it at the same time, this serum contains hyaluronic acid, which works to lock moisture into the skin as it can hold 1000 times its weight in water, as well as an active ingredient obtained from cocoa seeds to help combat blue light damage from screens on your phone and laptop.

It’s packed full of antioxidants too, which are the main players in the fight against pollution, and will strengthen the skin and provide a brighter complexion. It can leave your skin feeling a bit dry after applying, though, so be sure to follow-up with something moisturising, like an oil, perhaps.

Malin and Goetz resurfacing serum

If your skin feels a bit drab and in need of a boost, this serum will perk it up instantly. It’s a great product to use after a late night, but long-term use will significantly improve the general appearance of your skin too. The exfoliating formula contains both AHAS and vitamin C, which work to brighten the complexion and fight the effects of pollution. This serum also improves the skin’s texture and helps reduce the appearance of blemishes. To make the most of its anti-pollution properties, use this in the morning, but always follow up with an SPF.

Kiehl's vital skin strengthening super serum 

This is a brilliant anti-ageing product, as it penetrates the skin’s surface layers to help strengthen the skin’s natural barrier from external aggressors like pollution. If you apply it before moisturiser in the mornings, you’ll notice it makes your skin feel instantly more hydrated, firmer and softer. With consistent use, dullness and signs of ageing will look reduced too. It contains the deeply moisturising hyaluronic acid, which helps to strengthen and hydrate the skin, leaving it supple and soft. We love the post-facial glow this gives without the need to splash out at a spa or salon, and a little goes a long way, so this should last.

Skyn Iceland Nordic skin peel

We’re obsessed with the way these pads make our skin feel. Peels might sound intense and scary, but these are very gentle and are a great way of exfoliating, clearing, and toning your pores all at once. Each peel contains lactic acid and papaya fruit extract, both of which combine to give a real brightening effect, and white willow bark to ease irritation and strengthen the skin’s antibacterial properties. Lactic acid is particularly brilliant for evening the skin tone and tackling breakouts, so if you’re in the market for a gentle exfoliating product, try these. If you have sensitive skin, start by using this once a week and build up to 2-3 times a week. Those who are non-sensitive and are experienced in exfoliation can use them three times a week from the get-go.

Pai sensitive sunscreen

Pai is a great brand to invest in if you want to champion sustainable skincare, which is something all of us should really be doing more of. This facial sunscreen is formulated with sensitive skin in mind, using 99 per cent natural ingredients including minerals and plant extracts to gently nourish the skin while protecting it from sun damage. With an SPF of 30, it works well underneath make-up and dries down quickly without any residue. The broad spectrum SPF works to filter both UVA and UVB rays to prevent damage. Apply this vegan and cruelty free product after your moisturiser every day, all year round.

Crystal Clear revitalising tonic

This is everything you want from a toner. It’s light and makes your skin feel firmer and cleaner with just one spritz, but it’s also so easy and quick to apply. Toners are traditionally applied to the skin with a cotton wool pad, but these are terrible for the environment as they are non-recyclable and non-compostable. This spray formula eliminates the need for cotton wool, and saves you time in the mornings too. The powerhouse formula is infused with vitamin C, vitamin B, cucumber extract and algae extract to aid moisture retention and soothe the skin. This tonic lasts a long time too, making it great value for money.

Clarins cleansing milk

This no-frills cleanser is light and simple. It gently foams when you mix it with warm water and wash it over your face and instantly leaves your skin feeling fresher and brighter than before. It also smells lovely, thanks to the moringa and Alpine herbs that it’s formulated with, adding to that wonderful fresh sensation after use. Other plant extracts including gentian and sage work to rebalance the natural oils in your skin while adding radiance. You don’t need more than one small squirt to cleanse your face, meaning this bottle will last you quite a while, so it’s worth the slightly higher price tag.

The verdict: Skincare for your 20s and 30s

There are so many wonderful products here, but our all-time favourite has to be Aesop’s exfoliating paste. Not just because of how cleansed it makes your skin feel after using it, but because of the sumptuous scent it leaves too. It’s the perfect combination of a serious scrub that sloughs away dead skin cells without feeling irritating or harsh. It’s a real treat to use.

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