Prevent Premature Skin Aging: What Every 26- to 29-Year-Old Needs to Know

Things you can do in your 20s and beyond to protect your skin.

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As you age, so does your skin. After age 30, it may become a bit dryer and duller in color. Fine lines may begin to form around the eyes and mouth, and the proteins collagen and elastin—which are responsible for the structure, strength, and elasticity of the skin—begin to weaken.

Some of this is a natural part of getting older, but there are also lifestyle factors such as sun damage that can accelerate the process.

To help protect your skin and keep it as healthy and lively as possible, Rachel Nazarian, MD, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group, recommended a few helpful tips, products, and vital ingredients.

Retinoids To Slow Aging Signs

Retinoids are compounds that are either derived from vitamin A or have a structure or function that's similar to vitamin A. They always make the list, and for good reason. Retinoids are known for their ability to improve skin texture and minimize wrinkles, according to a 2019 paper published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology.

Retinoids, like retinol, can help to strengthen the protective function of the epidermis (outermost layer of skin) and its cells, limit water loss, and protect collagen—a protein that offers structural support to the skin. This may ease fine lines, wrinkles, and even darker sun spots, according to the 2019 paper, but it doesn't happen overnight. It may take at least several weeks to notice any changes.

Prevent Damage With Eye Creams

The delicate area under the eyes starts to show major wear around your late 20s and early 30s. A good eye cream like Lumiere by Neocuts or Cerave's Eye Repair Cream applied daily may help minimize darkening, decrease puffiness, and rejuvenate this sensitive skin.

Sunscreen Is a Must

It's better late than never. Get on this bandwagon if you're not already. Despite what you're thinking, sunscreen is for year-round use, not just summertime.

Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which protects against both UVB and UVA rays) with a minimum of SPF 30, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). This helps protect you from daily radiation that causes cumulative damage and accelerates skin aging.

Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside and remember to reapply at least every two hours, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). You'll need it even more often if you are swimming or sweating, so try to carry it with you when you head out.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Hydrate both inside and out by drinking plenty of water and applying moisturizer to your skin regularly. Water intake is incredibly important to keep skin healthy—water maintains the elasticity and plumpness that makes skin glow. If you don't drink enough fluids, your skin can develop dry patches, according to the NIA.

Additionally, moisturizing is vastly overlooked. Every time you shower, some of the natural oils and moisturizers from the skin are stripped off, and ideally, you should moisturize with a cream or lotion containing ceramides—lipids or fats that are similar in structure to those found in the skin's own moisture barrier—to help maintain a healthy skin barrier. The brand Aveeno is an example of a moisturizer that contains ceramides.

Glycolic, Salicyclic, or Other Topical Peel

Dead skin cells sit on the skin and dull it, aging the skin's appearance and enhancing fine lines and pores. As you age, the natural cell-renewal process slows down.

Using a topical peel can help to exfoliate, or remove dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. Be sure to apply the product gently using small, circular motions and rinse with lukewarm (not hot) water, according to the AAD.

The AAD also says not to use a topical peel if you have any open cuts or are sunburned. Additionally, combining an exfoliator with retinoid creams or products containing retinol or benzoyl peroxide, may worsen dry skin or lead to acne breakouts

Exercise and Skin Aging

Research suggests that vigorous exercise (think hard, not long) at least a couple of times a week may help protect your skin.

A study published in 2015 in Aging Cell took sedentary volunteers and had them cycle at a moderately strenuous pace for 30 minutes twice a week. After three months, samples of their skin showed that the inner and outer layers looked years younger compared to samples of their skin taken prior to the exercise program.

In addition, the researchers found that skin samples from habitual exercisers (those who exercised at a high intensity at least four times a week) had fewer age-associated changes than the samples from adults who exercised once a week or less.

This research is preliminary, but there are plenty of studies to show that exercise is good for your overall health, too.

Cut Down on Added Sugar (and Wine)

High levels of added sugar and alcohol in your diet may enhance the inflammation of your skin and potentially make conditions like rosacea (a skin condition that causes redness and bumps) worse in some cases, according to the National Rosacea Society.

Limit your intake of sugar and alcohol; aim to replace these items with antioxidant-rich foods and healthy fats to help support healthy skin—like salmon, pomegranate, and green tea.

Cut Out Harsh Cleansers

Skin loses the ability to retain moisture with age. Rather than using harsh foaming soaps to wash your face, switch to a hydrating cleanser like Cetaphil. Keep the water lukewarm and gently pat your face dry with a soft towel to help prevent excess irritation and loss of natural oils, according to the AAD.

A Quick Review

It's never too early to start taking care of your skin to help slow the aging process. Incorporating products like retinols, creams, sunscreen, moisturizers, and topical peels will support the structure, strength, and elasticity of your skin. As importantly, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and include anti-oxidant rich foods and healthy fats in your daily food plan to support your skin from the inside. If you're unsure which products are best for your skin, talk with a dermatologist or other healthcare provider.

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  1. Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatmentsPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443

  2. Crane JD, MacNeil LG, Lally JS, et al. Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and agingAging Cell. 2015;14(4):625-634. doi:10.1111/acel.12341

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