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Skincare Ingredients You Need By Age

No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to take better care of your skin. After all, it’s better to start somewhere than to never start at all! Whether you’re 21 and looking for new self-care strategies or 57 and hoping to reverse sun damage from tanning, you’re in the right place!

Below, I’ve laid out a “skincare roadmap” highlighting one vital thing to add to your routine for every decade. You’ll be amazed by how one ingredient can change the course of your skin. Of course, you can start anywhere, but feel free to skip around to see how your current beauty routine stacks up against my recommendations!

Skincare Ingredients By the Decade

  • 20s – Sunscreen
  • 30s – Vitamin C
  • 40s – Retinol
  • 50s – Antioxidants
  • 60s – Ceramides
  • 70s – Occlusives and Oils


20s – Sunscreen

In my opinion, everyone should be wearing sunscreen or UV protective clothing regardless of age. Still, your 20s are the perfect time to pick up the habit if you haven’t yet.

The best trick for aging gracefully is preserving your skin before it gets damaged (it’s harder to reverse sun damage than prevent it!). There are dozens of elegantly formulated sunscreens that leave no white cast or heavy, gross feeling, so start experimenting!

Here are two great starting points:

Missha All-Around Safe Block SPF50, $17


Black Girl Sunscreen SPF50, $9.99


30s – Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerhouse that everyone should have in their skincare routine. It boosts collagen production*, removes damaging free radicals, brightens skin tone and can even help hydrate skin*! You can find it in gel, cream, serum, and powder form.

I recommend vitamin C from late 20s onward because natural collagen production starts to decline after 25*, and this is what gives your skin a plump, youthful appearance.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Ordinary L-AA Powder (to mix into other skincare), $5.80

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (contains supporting antioxidants plus vitamin C), $169

CosRx Vitamin C 23, $22.50


40s – Retinol

Retinol and its derivatives (called retinoids) are the gold standard for anti-aging skincare. It’s best to add low-dose retinol to your beauty routine before you notice significant sagging, wrinkles or dullness. This is why late 30s-early 40s is a great starting point. (Remember: Prevention is easier than reversal).

Tretinoin is one of the most popular topical retinoids. You can get an affordable prescription for it from your doctor or dermatologist. For an OTC option, Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment is highly effective.

Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment, $60


50s – Antioxidants

By now, if you’re following my skincare roadmap, you already have a strong beauty regimen. Aging is an inevitable part of life, so I’m not going to recommend cosmetic surgery or fillers (though there’s nothing wrong with either of those!).

Instead, you can build on the base of your routine by adding more antioxidant-rich products. There are hundreds of peptide and antioxidant serums, creams, and gels that support healthy, elastic, glowing skin at any age.

Finding the perfect product will depend on your skin type and goals, but here are two products I love:

NIOD CAIS3 (contains copper peptides and moisturizers to boost radiance), $90

Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum with Retinol, $38


60s – Ceramides

As we age, our skin’s natural moisture barrier needs extra support. The moisture barrier is what prevents dull, dry, wrinkled, flaky skin, and it also plays a role in protecting skin from eczema flares and rashes.

Ceramides are one of the best ingredients to strengthen and maintain a healthy moisture barrier. They can be found in watery serums, medium-weight lotions and heavy, emollient sleep masks.

Again, the right product will depend on your natural skin type and what your overall beauty goals are, but here are a few options to help you get started:

Kikumasamune Moisturizing Toner, $15.99

Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer, $14

CeraVe Healing Ointment, $9.99


70s – Occlusives and Oils

For most people, the biggest challenge for aging skin is keeping it comfortably moisturized. Even if you’ve spent most of your life with oily skin, by this stage, you’ll probably have considerably drier, thinner skin on your face and body.

Now is the time to pick up nourishing creams, rich oils, and thick, occlusive lotions.

Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream, $260

Beautypie Overnight Miracle Face Oil, $17

Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream, $58

So remember! Skincare ingredients do matter. What someone swears by in their 20s might not be something that works for someone in their 40s and vice versa. As we age, our skin concerns change and we have to be adaptable to those changes. We hope you get to try some of our product recommendation in this round up!

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Nicole Hopkins

Nicole Hopkins is a freelance writer for hire that has been sharing her passion for health, wellness and yoga since 2014. When she's not working on getting into crow pose or petting every cat in sight, you can find her writing about science, skincare and mental health at and Kalista Edit. Visit her at or on Instagram at @msmerriam.

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