In Your 30s...
Even if you've taken good care of your skin, you'll probably start noticing fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and mouth, says Susan Taylor, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University. Dark-skinned women might notice discoloration and uneven skin tone; fair-skinned women might see some hyperpigmentation (brown spots) and ruddiness. Skin becomes thinner and finer, there's some loss of collagen, and cell turnover has begun to slow down, making your complexion look a little dull. You'll see an immediate improvement if you exfoliate. You're getting enough exfoliation if you're using a retinoid at night, says Hirsch. But if you're not, or if your skin isn't too sensitive to handle it, add a cleanser, moisturizer, or night cream with glycolic or salicylic acid. Avoid harsh scrubs, says Taylor. Look for one with synthetic microbeads (indicated on the label), which are gentler than those containing larger, irregularly shaped ones.
Your No-Fail Plan
Cleanser: In the morning, use a cleanser with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to encourage exfoliation. In the evening, wash with a creamy cleanser.
Moisturizer: In addition to SPF 15 or 20 with UVA/UVB protection, your moisturizer should contain antioxidants, like green or white tea, pomegranate, or vitamin C, which will protect your skin from damaging free radicals. Start wearing an eye cream daily. For dark circles, use one with hydroquinone, vitamin C, or botanicals that brighten, like kojic acid, soy, or licorice; for puffiness, look for one containing caffeine; for extra moisturization, use one with hyaluronic acid, says Taylor.
Nighttime treatment: "Once you're in your 30s, a retinoid or retinol isn't optional anymore," says Hirsch. So if you're not on a prescription retinoid, choose a night cream or serum with retinol.