Skincare Advice For Your 20s – From People You Should Actually Listen To

During your 20s, your skin rarely factors into your top priorities, because damn, girl. At 20, it has the suppleness of a Russian gymnast, but by the time you’re pushing 30, both your priorities – and skin – have started changing. So to keep things looking fine, we spoke to renowned skin specialists to find out the best ways to look after that visage throughout your 20s.

It’s scary to think that the things we do now often have dramatic effects on our future selves, especially when it comes to our bodies. And while you might get into sipping away at that superfood sprinkled kale juice, something many people seem to skim over – even when it comes to living #clean – is proper skin care.

So what should you be doing now to save yourself from a lifetime of regret?

#1 Sunshine: friend and foe

We live in Australia. Sun is not only an intrinsic part of our lives; it’s also bloody strong. The ‘slip, slop, slap’ slogan is embedded in our collective memory forever and despite knowing the dangers of prolonged sun exposure, we relish nothing more than long days spent in the sunshine.

If you really want #noregrets later in life, know that prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to sun spots, premature aging, and of course, skin cancer. That’s not to mention textural changes and discolouration of your skin, as well as the general destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue (which causes wrinkles, lines and saggy skin).

While a little sun is great for us because it’s a source of Vitamin D (essential for healthy skin), getting burnt is literally the worst thing you could do to your skin. Dr Natasha Cook is a pioneer dermatologist at Darlinghurst Dermatology, and her biggest skin regret from her 20s was getting sunburnt, “result[ing] in pigment and freckles.” She says to treat sunscreen like an everyday habit, just like brushing your teeth or showering. Her mantra? “Layer upon layer religiously.”

Kaye Scott, anti-ageing master and co-director of Sydney favourite, The Clinic, (which has clientele including Pip Edwards, Nadia Fairfax and Kate Waterhouse) has exactly the same regret, that is: “not wearing sunblock everyday!” Now, she even recommends you keep two sun blocks in your cosmetic wardrobe: an SPF 15+ for everyday use and a dry-touch 50+ for when you know you’ll be heading out in the sun for longer.

This doesn’t just apply to your face, either. Your arms and legs, and the super delicate skin on your chest and the back of your hands – basically anywhere the sun hits – needs lathering up.

#2 Think inside out

So much talk about skincare is usually focussed around what goes on our skin, but as Carla Oates of cult skin nutrition label, The Beauty Chef, puts it, “beauty begins in your belly.” Sugary, fatty and processed foods can cause inflammation, accelerate aging and compromise your overall gut health.

Carla says you should be eating “lots of fermented foods full of nutrients and natural probiotics” and also a lot of “low HI food” (that’s low human intervention food). This includes “lots of wholefoods and clean protein; an abundance of plants, grass fed meats, wild fish, organic nuts and seeds.”

She also recommends drinking lots of filtered water as it’s “important for every biological function in the body,” – like calorie control, energising muscles, regulating your kidneys and bowels as well as keeping your skin hydrated and looking fresh.

#3 Get off the booze train

Remember those mornings after a big night when you wake up with sandpaper mouth and bloodshot eyes? Well, think of how your skin is feeling.

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you wee more, and weeing more without replacing lost fluids = dehydration. Dehydration is the source of those delightful hangover headaches, and dehydrated skin is prone to fine lines, dullness and enlarged pores. “Think of a prune compared to a hydrated plum!” says Carla.

Easy, girl.

Now, despite Mike Baird’s best efforts, you’re obviously not going to stop drinking. To minimise the damage from excess boozing, Carla advises that for every glass of alcohol (or other diuretics like coffee) you throw back, to drink a glass of filtered water to match. This is in addition to your usual six to eight glasses a day, by the way.

You should also make sure you remove your make up, cleanse your face and moisturise your skin before you flop into bed – it’ll need the support.

#4 Put out your ciggies

Straight up: if you haven’t already, quit smoking. Among the millions of unhealthy things it’s doing to your insides, smoking also reduces blood and nutrient supplies which – you guessed it – accelerates aging.

Melanie Grant is one of Sydney’s most sought-after celebrity facialists and smoking is her biggest regret. She says, “it’s probably the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life.” 

#5 Beauty sleep is real  

“When we sleep we release hormones that act as skin and health protective anti-oxidants in the body,” says Carla. “Lack of sleep means less of these, as well as raised cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which is detrimental to skin and overall health.”

And if getting more sleep feels like a pipe dream, try this or this.

The takeaways 

As you age, “your skin needs more nutrients, protein and antioxidants to function at its best,” says Carla. Melanie advises to “be clever and take a preventative approach to skincare. Wear an antioxidant serum to prevent free radical damage from pollution underneath a good quality broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from UV damage.”

It all comes down to being smart about what you’re putting on your body, as well as what’s going in it.

Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.