Beauty Rx: Your Foolproof Skin Insurance Plan For 20-Somethings

In this decade, it doesn't take much to look your best. Here's a concise (yet comprehensive) skincare syllabus.

Model in her 20s
Photo: Paul Westlake

Your complexion is at its most cooperative during this decade. You've probably (mostly) outgrown pesky teen pimples and are not yet shouldering the stress or hormonal imbalances (due to pregnancy or perimenopause) that can trigger adult acne in your 30s or 40s. You are also producing plenty of collagen, so your skin is plump and smooth, and any sun damage that you've suffered is probably still concealed well beneath your skin's surface.

But this is the time to lay the groundwork for the future. And remember: What you don't do in your 20s is as important as what you do, says Gervaise Gerstner, a Manhattan dermatologist. That means no sunning, no smoking, and no falling into bed without washing your face.

Morning Skincare Strategy

Exfoliating Cleanser

Although persistent acne may have subsided, your skin still has active oil glands, says Susan Taylor, a Philadelphia dermatologist, who recommends picking a cleanser with a chemical exfoliant, such as salicylic or glycolic acid, to clear away excess sebum and prevent clogged pores. Try Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam ($23,

Oil-Free Sunscreen

Daily application is a must. It is the single most effective way to prevent sun spots, says Gerstner—and preventing them is far easier (and cheaper) than removing them. To ensure that you're getting adequate protection, most dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. And a friendly reminder: Reapply frequently if you're in direct sunlight, such as at the beach. Try Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42 ($35,

Evening Skincare Strategy

Gentle Cleanser

To avoid stripping skin of too much oil, which could trigger breakouts and irritation, Taylor suggests a hydroxy acid–free gel cleanser. Try Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser ($9,

Exfoliating Treatment

Look for a serum or a night cream with skin-sloughing ingredients to promote collagen production and help keep pores clear and your complexion radiant. Try SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream ($80,, BeautyRx Daily Exfoliating Therapy Serum with glycolic acid ($65,, or a prescription retinoid, such as Retin-A.

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