Growing up, I was always the girl who looked 5 years younger than everyone else. And I hated it. In high school, no matter how hard I tried to look older, whether I was masking my face with makeup or dressing in all black attire, I clearly wasn't fooling anyone. My face resembled that of a prepubescent 8th grader — rosy cheeks and all. Even when I turned 21, bouncers would tell me I would be carded for the rest of my life. It wasn't until a few years ago, though, that I finally stopped trying to fake an older face and started to worry about protecting the one I had. By no means had I developed a ton of wrinkles or fine lines (I still look a lot younger than I am), but I definitely could see some differences in my pigmentation. Which of course made me FREAK OUT.
People always tell you how important it is to take care of your skin, but it isn't until we reach our mid-twenties that we really start to listen. While the skin we have right now may look supple and serene, most everyone agrees it's in its "glory years," and if we don't start caring for it now, it's going to be all downhill from here. But a lot of us don't really understand what we should be doing. So many 20-somethings treat their skin as if it was invincible, when the truth is far from it.
In attempts to solve all my new skin-centric woes, I decided to go to the experts to see what they had to say about skincare in our twenties. Board Certified Dermatologist and Co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi and celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas gave us a list of the most important things we should know when it comes to our skin.
When It Comes to Skincare, It’s Important to Start Young
It's never too early to start taking care of your skin. "Imagine someone who never works out and at 44 starts trying to go to the gym. It's really impossible to get results at that point without a huge effort and months with no change," said Vargas. "It's the same with skin. If you keep it healthy with a good routine from a young age you will be ageless."
Do Not Sleep with Your Makeup On
Here's yet another reason to drop that bad habit. Not only will it be harder to break later in life, Vargas said, "Sleeping with makeup on decreases the body's ability to repair itself."
Good Genes Can Help, But Environmental Factors are More Important
While your family may have good genes, it may not save your skin in the long run if you don't take care of it. "The way the skin ages depends a lot on genetics, but especially environmental factors such as excessive sun exposure and smoking," said Dr. Tanzi. Vargas agreed, saying, "If a 20-year-old is tanning and smoking, she will age sooner and faster than a 30-year-old who takes better care of her skin." We have more control over our bodies than we think.
It’s Highly Important to Wear SPF Every Single Day. Seriously. Do It.
"It is most important to wear the SPF daily because sun damage is cumulative," said Dr. Tanzi. If you forget to wear sunscreen one day, it doesn't mean you can repair it by wearing it the next. The damage has already been done. "The sun you get from daily activities in our 20s will affect the skin for years to come."
A Three-Step Morning and Bedtime Routine is Key
Dr. Tanzi recommends maintaining a simple, but effective morning and bedtime routine to ensure you're doing everything you can to take care of your skin. Step 1: Cleanse. Step 2: Treat — with an antioxidant in the morning and either retinol or glycolic acid at night. Step 3: Protect — Moisturize with SPF in the morning and a basic moisturizer at night.
Don’t Forget to Exfoliate
In addition to the above daily routine, Joanna Vargas suggests exfoliating your face twice a week. This will help remove any dead skin cells and keep your face smooth and shiny.
Avoid Too Much Sun On Your Face, Even If You Applied That SPF
Dr. Tanzi says the number one rule when it comes to skincare is "Avoid too much sun on your face." A tan may look good now, but the sun "will rob you of youthful skin in the future." Tanzi suggests skipping the beach or the tanning salon and using a sunless tanner instead. "In your twenties, the most important thing is to protect the skin by not subjecting it to excessive sun exposure and tanning salons. Over one million people visit a tanning salon in the US on a daily basis; the vast majority being Caucasian women under 35. Many of them are trying to “get a base tan” but they are increasing their risk of skin cancer dramatically, accelerating the aging process and causing wrinkles. So just don’t do it."
What You Eat and Drink Affects Your Skin
Skincare doesn't just end at SPF and moisturizer. What you drink and eat has a lot to do with it, too. "Skin and diet are linked, so the better you eat, the better your skin will look," says Vargas. "Drink green juices daily instead of an afternoon coffee. Your skin will look great and you will have more energy."