Coming Of Age: The Best Skincare Routine For Your 20s

With prevention top of mind, the AEDITION spoke with board certified dermatologists and a cosmetic chemist to find out exactly what your A.M. and P.M. skincare regimen should look like.
Written by Jeannine Morris Lombardi
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Coming Of Age: The Best Skincare Routine For Your 20sBrooke Cagle/Unsplash

When should I start getting Botox®? Is it time to incorporate retinol into my skincare routine? What is a “mommy makeover”? How about a “daddy do-over”? Do I really need to, as the saying goes, sacrifice my ass for my face? Should I swap my hyaluronic acid fillers for something a bit more permanent?

When it comes to beauty and aesthetics, there is no such thing as one -size -fits-all. But there are some tried and true principles that will keep you looking and feeling your best. In this series, Coming of Age, The AEDITION answers your most pressing questions about the best treatments, procedures, and practices — from surgery and skincare to health and wellness and everything in between — to consider at any age.

Ah, your twenties! If you haven’t already, it’s time to get serious about having a daily morning and nighttime skincare regimen. It’s not hyperbole to say that the way you do or don’t care for your skin in your twenties will have a direct effect on how your skin ages in your thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond.

While you may not see wrinkles and age spots — yet — other skin concerns, like acne and dullness, may be a bother. By the latter part of the decade, fine lines may begin to crop up on the forehead and around the eyes, too. “My patients in their twenties know something is off about their skin, but can’t quite pin-point what the issue is,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a NYC-based board certified dermatologist. “It’s the loss of radiance and luminosity due to the slowdown of cellular turnover.”

That’s right, the aging process is already underway. But, since it is far easier to prevent skin concerns than it is to treat them, it’s the ideal time to start maintaining your skin and slowing down the aging process. With a focus on prevention and brightening, we spoke with top skincare experts to create a comprehensive and uncomplicated guide to skincare in your twenties.

The Best Skincare Routine for Your 20s

“Skincare in your twenties doesn’t need to be complicated,” says Julie Russak, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic in NYC. “But it’s imperative that it’s consistent.” With that in mind, here’s what your skincare regimen should look like:

Morning Routine:

  • Cleanser
  • Vitamin C Serum
  • Eye Cream
  • Lightweight Moisturizer
  • SPF

Nighttime Routine:

  • Cleanser
  • Eye Cream
  • Lightweight Moisturizer

If it seems like a lot of products to invest in, it doesn’t have to be. In most cases, you can use the same formulas twice a day, so you’ll only need to purchase about five products in total.

The Best Skincare Ingredients for Your 20s

Now that you know the steps your routine should include, you might be wondering what should be in the products. Using formulas with the right active ingredients for your skin type and concern(s) is key to making sure you are getting the most out of your regimen. Here are some tips on what to look for on the label:


The sky’s the limit when it comes to what type of cleanser you can use to refresh your skin in the morning and wash the day away at night, and our dermatologists recommend choosing one for your skin type. If you have acne-prone skin, for example, look for one with salicylic acid or sulfur (like the Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment). Those concerned with dullness, meanwhile, may opt for a formula with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) (our pick: Sobel Skin Rx 27% Glycolic Acid Facial Cleanser). It should be noted that, if you are wearing makeup, you may want to consider a separate makeup remover step.


Thanks to their relative weightlessness, serums are meant to deliver potent active ingredients deep into the skin. In your twenties, a multitasking antioxidant like vitamin C can be used to address a myriad of skin concerns in a single step. “A vitamin C serum has lifelong benefits, as it’s a potent antioxidant,” says Shuting Hu, PhD, a cosmetic scientist and founder of Acaderma. While it’s notoriously unstable, a well-formulated vitamin C serum protects skin from free radical damage caused by the sun’s UV rays, lightens dark spots, and brightens the skin. “If a patient has acne lesions, textural issues from acne scars, or brown spots from birth control, vitamin C addresses those concerns,” Dr. Engelman shares. Our picks? BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner and SkinCeuticals CE Feurlic.

Eye Cream

The skin around the eyes is 10 times thinner than the rest of the face, and is among the first to show signs of aging. Whether your concern is crow’s feet or dark circles, there are different types of eye creams and serums to address everything from smoothing and firming to hydrating and brightening.

In your twenties, Dr. Hu recommends choosing an antioxidant-rich eye cream with vitamin C (we’re fans of the Saint Jane Beauty Bright Repair Eye Cream). Lightly tap it onto your skin A.M. and P.M. with your ring finger to avoid any pulling or tugging.


Like your cleanser, choose a moisturizer that’s best suited for your skin type. Dr. Russak recommends looking for a lightweight formula that is oil-free to avoid clogging your pores (especially if you’re dealing with breakouts). Looking for added hydration? A cream or lotion with hyaluronic acid (HA) can provide nourishment.


The final and, perhaps, most important step of your morning regimen is sunscreen. Both Dr. Russak and Dr. Engelman agree that regular use and reapplication are necessary in order to prevent premature aging and avoid long-term sun damage. Choose a formula (it can be chemical or physical) that has an SPF of 30 or higher with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. Supergoop Glow Screen SPF 40 is a great illuminating sunscreen that doubles as a dewy makeup primer. “Besides blocking the sun’s rays, it also helps to protect you from the blue light that’s emitted from your computer, phones, and other screens,” Dr. Russak shares.

If You’re in the Market for a Professional Treatment...

“Ironically, my most aggressive demographic are the 20 year olds who come in ready for injections and more aggressive lasers like Fraxel®,” Dr. Engelman notes. “I tell them less is more and to lean into skincare at this age.” The professional treatment she will recommend to patients with congested pores or skin texture concerns? Chemical peels, which also make our list of the best cosmetic procedures to consider in your twenties. They’re not one-size-fits all and not everybody needs them, but a customized series can address uneven skin tone and texture, fine lines, acne, and more.

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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JEANNINE MORRIS LOMBARDIis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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