You’re 30-something, so it’s probably been a while since anyone gave you a lesson in body transformation and skin changes. That’s so middle school, right? But your skin woes don’t end with puberty. As you age, your skin continues to change and right about now, you may be wondering what happened to the fresh, dewy skin of your youth.
Not to fear! This new skin you’re in is entirely natural, even if it’s a little disconcerting at times. As you age, it’s normal to lose the nutrients that used to keep your skin soft and glowing. You may begin to notice discoloration, unusual blemishes, and, wait, are those wrinkles? These and more changes are all common in maturing skin.
You don’t have to throw up the white flag and surrender to less-than-great skin just because you’re over 30. There are plenty of healthy habits and over-the-counter products that you can add to your grown-up skin care routine to help rejuvenate your skin and fight the signs of aging.
Let’s look at a few reasons your skin is looking a little worse for wear these days and how you can perk it back up.
You probably know the source of all your adolescent zits (which you can revisit any time you look at your senior prom pictures) was overactive hormones. Well, you may be seeing your old friend acne reappear — and now they’re accompanied by some new skin conditions.
This time, it’s because your hormone levels are decreasing. As women age, their estrogen levels drop. Estrogen helps regulate your skin’s natural oils, but it can’t do that task as well as it used to when its levels were steady in your youth. Fluctuating hormones due to birth control medication, pregnancy, or plain old stress can contribute to skin issues at this age, too.
If you have one of the following skin conditions, you probably have hormones to thank:
Your 30s may be the first time you get cystic acne — those red, painful pimples that seem impossible to treat. Like all acne, cystic acne appears when clogged pores get infected, thanks in large part to dead skin cells and excess oil. Scientists and doctors aren’t sure why cystic acne is more common in adults, but it’s definitely connected to the hormone changes you see at this age.
Acne may be the one way 30-year-old skin will make you look younger, but in a “Is she still in high school?” way, not a “Wow, she looks amazing!” way. Prevent acne by keeping your skin clean and moisturized and treating blemishes when they appear.
Use a gentle, hydrating cleanser to wash away dead skin cells, oils, and grime; it will also add moisture back into your skin. When acne does appear, don’t turn to the astringent stuff you used in high school. Look for an acne medication that contains retinol, which will help improve skin cell turnover and has anti-inflammatory properties. You can also look into alternative birth control medications and practice stress relief techniques.
Whatever you do, don’t try popping your zits, especially the cystic kind. The infection beneath them is too deep to release at the surface and you’ll only end up spreading it around and damaging the surrounding skin tissue. Stick with acne medication and a good cosmetic cover-up instead.
Does your skin flush easily and stay red? You might have rosacea. It tends to show up in your 30s and can be triggered by a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, stress, spicy foods, hot drinks, caffeine, or even warm weather.
If you suspect you’re suffering from rosacea, see a doctor for a diagnosis and advice to treat it. Rosacea is very sensitive and intolerant of many products so you’ll want to simplify your usual skin care regimen and consider prescription treatments if it’s really bad.
Slow Cell Turnover
Skin cell turnover — it doesn’t occur as frequently in your 30s. Cell turnover is the process of new cells growing and replacing old dead ones, and before you hit 30 this cycle probably happened every 14-20 days or so. This natural process gave your skin a beautiful natural glow. But as you age, cell turnover slows down. By the time you hit your 30s, your skin cells are replaced every 30-40 days. Those old, dead cells are accumulating and showing in your skin for longer. This contributes to a number of visible skin changes you may be experiencing, including:
If your skin is looking dull, it’s probably because dead skin cells don’t reflect light the way new cells do. The best way to slough off dead skin cells is with an exfoliator. This will help dispose of dead cells and reveal fresh ones sooner, restoring a healthy glow to your skin.
But be careful that you don’t exfoliate too often! Your new cells need a chance to develop and prepare to be your body’s protective outer layer. Once a week should be an ample amount of exfoliation. Be sure to follow exfoliating with a good moisturizer, as exfoliating can exacerbate dryness.
Slow cell turnover is also a factor in dry skin. Those old cells lose moisture but stick around longer, creating a dry exterior layer. Exfoliants can help with this issue as well. They remove the oldest cells and a moisturizer will rehydrate your skin.
For maximum hydration, use an anti-aging serum on skin that has been washed and thoroughly dried. Serums are water-based and seep extra deep into your skin for complete hydration. Creams, oils, and lotions are great options too.
Mature skin gets irritated more easily from things like weather extremes, cheap cosmetics, and harsh soaps. This is because slow cell turnover hinders your skin’s ability to repair itself.
Prevent skin irritation by switching to gentle cleansing products. Also, discontinue use of any product that causes irritation and dress appropriately for the weather and outdoor activities.
Decreasing Hyaluronic Acid
Your skin’s production of hyaluronic acid begins to slow down as you age. Hyaluronic acid is a carbohydrate that attracts and holds water molecules in your skin to keep its collagen hydrated, making your skin look tight and plump. However, as you lose hyaluronic acid, your collagen weakens and becomes brittle, leading to these common signs of aging:
While weight gain may become more common elsewhere in your mature body, you might start feeling a little thinner in the face. This could be due to the breakdown of collagen and other skin proteins that hyaluronic acid supports. Your skin loses its elasticity and begins to sag.
Your skin cells aren’t retaining moisture — basically water weight for your skin — as well, either. To fight this, look for moisturizing creams and lotions that contain hyaluronic acid, so you can add it back into your skin and restore your collagen and rehydrate your cells.
Lines and wrinkles
Along with lost volume comes the puckered, loose skin of lines and wrinkles. You’re probably JUST beginning to see the expression lines around your eyes and mouth at this age, but they’re there and they’re only going to get worse quickly unless you take steps to repair them now.
Another tool to add to your anti-aging arsenal is any cream or moisturizer that contains retinoids. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that both fight the free radicals that attack collagen and stimulate new collagen production. Most often you’ll see the ingredient “retinol” in anti-aging skin products. Use an eye cream or overnight moisturizer with retinol in it for a proven way to fight the lines, bags, and wrinkles that come with aging.
Old Sun Damage
Sun damage isn’t more likely in your 30s, but the results of it begin appearing during this time. All those hours spent at the pool or in tanning salons may really start to catch up with you now. Your aging skin is less able to repair the damage done to it now or hide previous damage as cell turnover slows and moisturizing compounds in your skin decrease, and discoloration and changes of texture like these may occur:
Years of low-grade sun exposure can stimulate pigment-producing cells into overdrive, giving you unsightly dark spots. To fight these, try a brightening product that contains hydroquinone. This is the proven ingredient for lightening dark spots and can be found in creams sold at your local drugstore or in higher concentrations in prescription creams prescribed by your dermatologist.
Also, start using proper protection from UV rays and sun damage if you aren’t already doing so. Utilize a daily moisturizer that contains at least SPF 15 and a higher SPF sunblock with proper clothing for an extended time in the sun, to prevent further UV damage to your skin.
Long-term sun exposure causes skin cells to collect around the edges of your pores, stretching them and generally thickening your skin. By the time you reach 30, you may be noticing how huge your pores look. The best fix for this is to use a daily sunscreen to prevent further damage and in the meantime keep your skin clean, as dirt and oils clinging to your pores will only make them look bigger. Simple!
Your 30s are a great time to enjoy the prime of life, but you may be feeling that your days of great skin are over. They don’t have to be! Your skin needs have merely changed, and with them, your skin care routine should change and mature too. Toss the teenage products and replace them with revitalizing anti-aging products that will help your skin heal and maintain itself for many years to come.
And while plenty of over-the-counter and prescription skin care products can nourish and revitalize your skin, don’t forget the basics of good health like good hydration, nutrition, sleep, and stress management that you’ve learned over the years. All of these will help your aging skin stay young and healthy too. You don’t have to give up on good skin now. Take good care of yourself, pick up a little help from the drug store when you need it, and show the younger ladies what they have to look forward to!