Best Skin Care for Your 20’s 30s and 40s

A 40-year-old patient with beautiful skin said to me:

Everyone I know that has good skin wears sunscreen every day. My mom told me when I was young that I should wear sunscreen daily and I’m so glad I listened. She said, “I don’t tell you a lot of things, but you’ll regret lying in the sun. You should wear sunscreen and stay out of the sun for your skin.”

Since then, I’ve worn sunscreen every day and people are always curious how old I am. I just turned 40 and just recently someone at my son’s new school was surprised at my age. Also, my girlfriend, who is an aesthetician in the city, is stunning and she wears sunscreen every day – aestheticians know what to do for their skin.”

This patient’s skin really is beautiful, and she doesn’t look anywhere near 40. She was raised in California, which can really age fair skin, but she has sun protected her skin for years. It shows.

If you only do one thing for anti-aging skin care, it needs to be sun protection!

To understand why, you need to understand how the sun ages and breaks down your skin. 

UVA rays are the longest of the aging sun rays; they’re out intensely from sun up to sun down all year round, AND they penetrate deeply into the second layer of your skin (the dermis).

When UVA rays shine into this layer of your skin they permanently damage the main cells of your dermis that make your collagen and elastin (cells called fibroblasts).

Your UVA-damaged fibroblasts:

  • Don’t work right.
  • Start making funky collagen and elastin, which gives your complexion a sallow-gray look instead of a healthy warm hue.
  • Can’t keep your dermis healthy and it becomes thin, fragile and wrinkled.

Both the UVA and UVB exposure (UVB is the mid-day sunburn rays) causes brown age spots, uneven skin color and red “broken” capillaries that show through your skin too.

Both UVA and UVB rays also damage the top living cells of your skin (called keratinocytes), which makes your skin texture dry and leather-like, yet thin. This causes the sallow-colored collagen and elastin layer to show through even more.

Most people who have had sun exposure in their childhood and teen years start to show the early signs of these changes in their 20s. You may think it’s too late, but it can always get worse! Sun protection NOW is important. Plus, there are products you can use to help reverse the changes. The sooner you make these changes the better.

There are things you can do to protect your skin and reverse sun damage now.

First, use sun protection.

Wear broad spectrum sunscreen every day, all year. Be sure to:

  • Choose a mineral zinc oxide sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
  • Apply your sunscreen after your therapeutic skin care products and before makeup, if you wear it.  Don’t ever miss a day – seriously.

When you’re really out in the sun, add a hat, sunglasses and sun protective clothing – yes it takes planning, but it will be huge for your skin.

Second, use anti-aging skin care products.

Find a product regimen that fits your skin type, budget and degree of “maintenance energy.”

Choose products that have:

  • Antioxidant protective benefit.
  • Collagen and elastin producing benefit. (Merely having these ingredients in a product adds NO benefit because they can’t penetrate your skin from the outside. Be sure to use products that tell your fibroblasts to make some new and normal collagen and elastin.)

Click the blue links below for some of my favorite anti aging and sunscreen products.

My Facial Anti-Aging Antioxidant Skin Care Kits and Glycolic Acid Anti-Aging Kits

My Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit

Anti Aging Body Skin Care Products

My Dermatologist Recommended Sun Screen Kits

dermatologist recommended zinc oxide sunscreens

My other sun protection products

natural ewg rated zinc oxide sunscreen

This strategy works and I, too, am a evidence of it. I’ve sun protected my skin since I was 28, and before that my skin was extremely sun damaged for my years. 5 years ago when we moved into our new office, my staff found my old dermatology residency application photo in a file. I was about 27 years old and my skin looked worse than it does now at 53! It’s never too late. I’ve seen patients in their 30s and 40s transform their skin and take a decade off the wear and tear with good sun protection and the right anti-aging skin care regimen.

Photo thanks and gratitude to Tommerton2012

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18 Responses to “Best Skin Care for Your 20’s 30s and 40s”

  1. Gina C April 25, 2012 at 9:17 am #


    I am sensitive to glycolic acid. For some reason, glycolic acid tends to produce hyerpigmentation in my ethnic skin (fair-medium skin tone), even though I am extremely diligent in sunscreen application and practice sun avoidance.

    I am forever searching for a good alternative for gentle body exfoliation and care. What about BHA, lactic acid, or fruit enzyme type of body exfoliation products? Are they effective?

    I own a Clarisonic and use the body brush on thicker parts of my body. Does your office carry any alternatives?



  2. Devra April 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Thank you Dr Bailey for the great Blog-we really enjoyed meeting Kara while visiting
    in Honolulu! I just tried Solbar and love how the product goes on, immediately
    absorbed, and non-greasy feeling!! Listen up ladies to what the good Dr is saying I will be turning 58 this year and get compliments on my skin all the time. I have followed Dr Bailey’s blog for a year now. Good daily skin care habits, quality products, and avoiding sun exposure is key especially if you are doing treatments such as IPL, Fraxel, or chemical peels to reverse sun damage.
    You might not think about it but most of us get the sun from driving in our cars! You wouldn’t lay in the sun for 10-20 hours every month would you? That is the average of how much UVA/UVB exposure you get just driving to work or doing your daily errands. I always cover up with great clothes by Coolibar and of course always wear my ETSIS Hat-You will be able to soon get the ETSIS Hat when you visit Dr. Bailey for your anti-aging treatments. Be Sunsational when Escaping The Sun In Style-Devra

  3. Cynthia Bailey MD April 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Glycolic acid can irritate skin. So can all the AHAs and BHAs. Irritation can lead to inflammation which can trigger hyperpigmentation (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation). Higher concentrations are more irritating. Thus, one strategy is to dilute the products with another bland (non-acid containing) cream and use it once or twice a week. As the skin improves and adjusts then the concentration and frequency of application is slowly increased. Also important is to NOT exfoliate with a brush or shower sponge or cloth before the application of the AHA or BHA product as this creates little scratches is the skin and more irritation by the products. Lastly, urea is another nice hydrating ingredient that is keratolytic too and so looking for a product with a low level is another strategic option. Remember too to look for broad spectrum sun protection because UVA is not what the SPF protection has traditionally informed you about on products and UVA can cause hyperpigmentation of inflamed skin. FDA label changes will go into effect in June and SPF will proportionally indicate both UVA and UVB protection if a product is labeled broad spectrum once the labeling changes are made.

  4. Diane April 27, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    Wow, thanks for the detailed information in this blog! It really broadens my horizon on proper skincare.

    I am interested in the Citrix CRS serum. I am curious as to how Citrix sets itself apart.

    1. How stable is the L-Ascorbic acid in Citrix?
    2. Is there a shelf life on Citrix?
    3. How much is needed to apply on a whole face?

    The reason why I ask these questions is: in the past, the medical grade Vitamin C products purchased from doctors’ offices are packaged in a liquid base and tend to oxidize quickly before I finished them. I dislike using dropper bottles.

    Thank you.


  5. Cynthia Bailey MD April 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Hello Diane,
    You bring up THE most important point about Vitamin C serums, they oxidize readily. That is the reason Citrix CRS is the only product I recommend. It is stable and in an airtight container so it does not oxidize in there. Topix has stability data going over 2 years for CRS. The product has a very acid pH because of the vitamin C and is thus very stable and naturally preserved by the high concentration of vitamin C. Also the vitamin C is liposome encapsulated which means it’s slowly released onto your skin after you apply CRS. I appreciate Topix’s level of detail with CRS because I think topical vitamin C is one of the most useful antioxidants we can add to our skin care regimen, along with the combo of ingredients in Replenix CF or Power of Three.

  6. Rohit May 3, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    I have a simple question. I am a 26 years old male. You have written that tretinoin should not be used with Glycolic acid. I want to know what is the better skin care among these – Treinoin, Glycolic Acid or Vitamin C is I use only one of them at night. Thanks

  7. Stefanie May 4, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Hi Dr. Bailey,
    I follow your blog religiously and trust your advice. Recently a friend old me she was using Vivexin and AuraVie skincare through a free trial offer. I was instantly skeptical and wanted to know what your thoughts were on these products. Are they effective? Is it a scam? Thanks for any information you could share on these skincare lines.

  8. Muttermal Entfernen May 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Dr. Bailey, first of all, thank you for sharing these wonder tips! I’m in my 30’s and let me be honest, I use sunscreen daily! It has helped me a lot. Even though I’ve to stay in sun for like an hour, my skin remains healthy and natural!

    Your 40-year old patient is absolutely right! Starting the use of sunscreen at a young age proves to be efficient later on!

  9. Cynthia Bailey MD May 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Hello Stefanie,
    The Vivexin I’m skeptical about. The AuraVie should be a nice moisturizing line based on the ingredients. I have no experience with either and have not seen any patients using these products so I can’t comment on results matching claims.

  10. Cynthia Bailey MD May 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Hello Rohit,
    My first choice is always Tretinoin, second is glycolic acid and third is vitamin c. The order is based on the scientific evidence and clinical results for photo aging and skin health. That said, choice is also determined by skin tolerance to the ingredients and a person’s ability to sun protect during the day. Tretinoin makes skin more vulnerable to damage from sun exposure. Glycolic acid does too to a lesser extent. Vitamin C does not and in fact it helps neutralize free radical induced skin sun damage.

  11. Rohit May 10, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Thanks Dr. Bailey for taking the time out and replying to my query :)

  12. Cynthia Bailey MD May 11, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    Hello Gina,
    Yes they can all exfoliate and might give you that ‘sweet spot’ between results and skin tolerance. Could the hyperpigmentation be due to irritation from the glycolic acid and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation? If so, using less or using it less frequently might come in just under the level of irritation yet still give you the glycolic acid benefits. I often have my patients modify usage until we find just what their skin can tolerate.

  13. Brittany May 11, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    This is a great post! I think it is so essential to begin using anti aging skin care products as early as possible in life to ensure beautiful, healthy, young skin in your later years. Thanks for all the tips!!

  14. Gina May 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Thanks, Dr. Bailey for your response.

    Yes, I believe that the hyperpigmentation is probably due to irritation from the glycolic acid. I used to buy the other professional strength product (MD Forte) from other dermatologist’s office.

    I do have some freckle-like spots on my body, mainly on the back of my arms.that I’d like to get rid of.

    Is there any schedule I could follow initially with your Glytone Body Kit to get my skin acclimated? My current skincare for my body is Clarisonic Body Brush to exfoliate, and Coconut Oil, or Olive Oil as body moisturizer. I am definitely interested to give your Glytone Body care kit a try!

    Thank you.

    I will contact your office for the products.

  15. Cynthia Bailey MD May 12, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    Hello Gina,
    On the page for the Body Kit I have Use Instructions and Tips for Success. For my really sensitive skin patients I go even more slowly. I often have them start just once a week plus I have them apply the Lotion on a day that they did not exfoliate in the shower with the Salux Cloth or even the Clarisonic. I also have them avoid the more sensitive areas of their skin folds and chest/neck area. They can even dilute the lotion with another bland skin cream 50:50 to begin with if it stings too much and gradually increase the proportion of the Glytone Body Lotion relative to cream to work up to full strength. Slowly the skin usually adjusts to the glycolic acid because the skin is actually changed structurally in a way that makes it healthier. The trick is to come in under that application rate that causes irritation. I hope that helps.

  16. Dr. Val May 12, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Regular sunscreen application, mild glycolic acid, and vitamin C serum has markedly improved my skin. I’ve been using MD Forte II glycolic acid (the mildest formula) and Skinceuticals ferulic acid serum for a year now. I’m shocked/happy to report that two days ago I was asked to show my I.D. when making a purchase at a liquor store. I’m 40 years old. ;-) Other secrets: workout 5x/wk, eat clean, maintain low body fat, and wear t-shirts and a pony tail. Ha ha.

  17. Gina May 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Thank you very much, Dr. Bailey, for your response. I’ll be contacting your office for the Body Care Kit.

    I think to start out with –

    Once a week, I will do the Glytone scrub with the Salux Cloth. Then once a week I will dilute the Glytone lotion. I know that my body skin can tolerate glycolic acid treatment at least once a week due to my prior experience.

    One last question: as for the bland skin cream. Can I just use olive oil or coconut oil to dilute the Glytone lotion? Or, a bland OTC skin cream is better? What are the ingredients in the OTC skin cream I need to look for that won’t affect the efficacy of the Glytone Lotion? (I know that bland means no exfoliating agents at least :))

    Thanks again. I wish my current derm were more like you! Happy Mother’s Day!

  18. Cynthia Bailey MD May 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Hi Dr. Val, Carded, that’s fantastic! I totally agree with your formula for looking vital and young: the right skin care, exercise, weight maintenance and clean/healthy diet.