A good share of the population deems your 20s as the “golden years” — the time when your skin may be at its peak, you don’t have to worry about fine lines and wrinkles all too much and, whether you’re fresh out of school or nearing the big 3-0, you may even have a “baby face.”
However, solidifying an effective skincare routine is just as important when you’re in your 20s as it is in your 60s. From dry skin and oily skin to sensitive skin and unwanted acne-prone skin (or, a combination of a few of these), we turned to a team of board-certified dermatologists to reveal the best skincare products to pick up when you’re a twenty-something.
“Taking care of your skin in your 20s is crucial for prevention and long-term skin health,” Marina Peredo, MD, board-certified dermatologist who specializes in aesthetic dermatology with a primary focus on non-surgical rejuvenation and pre-juvenation treatments, told the New York Post. “Establishing a skincare routine early on helps prevent premature aging, protects against sun damage, boosts collagen production and addresses issues such as acne. Protecting your skin in your 20s will start a habit for your skin to ensure you stay hydrated and are protected in the future.”
Below, find all the expert-recommended products that have A+ ratings from our team of derms and our editors. You’ll also want to check out our in-depth FAQ section for the 411 on navigating skincare in your 20s.
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Best Cleansers to Use in Your 20s
Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser
As seen on plenty of dermatologists’ it-lists, the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser is a less-than-$15 option that has a wonderful foaming application and contains essential vitamins, including B3 and B5. We love it to cleanse first thing in the morning and then to take the day away before bedtime.
“I like this because it is suitable for all skin types and will balance the skin’s pH levels,” Dr. Peredo told The Post, recommending the product.
“The alpyn beauty Creamy Bubbling Cleanser with Fruit Enzymes & AHAs is one I can say with confidence that I swear by (if the full review on the brand isn’t proof enough). I’ve been using this for three years straight and it’s one of the first skincare products I’ve tried that noticeably made a difference in both the texture and radiance of my skin.” — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser
If you haven’t yet tried the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser — it’s time. We love how refreshing it feels on the skin, akin to how your skin feels in the ocean. It removes debris from the skin beautifully, too.
“This facial cleanser is infused with prebiotic thermal water, ceramide-3, niacinamide and glycerin,” Azadeh Shirazi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in surgical and cosmetic dermatology and founder of La Jolla Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center, told The Post. “It’s suitable for most skin types and does a nice job of removing impurities without over-stripping the skin. It’s fragrance-free and readily available at drugstores, too.
“For my money, Milky Jelly is the GOAT of cleaners. Even when I try other cleaners (like Drunk Elephant’s, which I also do really like), I always find my way back to Milky Jelly. It’s gentle and creamy without foaming up, but still removes all of my makeup and makes me feel clean and refreshed after using it.” — Angela Tricarico, writer/reporter, Decider.com
For more, check out our full brand reviews of Drunk Elephant and Glossier.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
One of the best face washes for sensitive skin — one that we’ve tried and have been using for years — is the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.
“This is a great cleanser for daily use that cleanses the skin without stripping natural moisture,” Lauren Penzi, MD, board-certified dermatologist, told The Post. Peredo also recommends this cleanser because “it’s rich in both hyaluronic acid and ceramides to keep your skin hydrated” and “is great on all skin types.”
“I have complicated skin, sometimes dry and sometimes oily (depending on season). Kiehl’s has always seemed to work well as a cleanser, and leaves my skin feeling very elastic and refreshed.” — Miska Salemann, commerce writer/reporter
Neutrogena Skin Balancing Milky Cleanser with 2% Polyhydroxy Acid
The Neutrogena Skin Balancing Milky Cleanser with 2% Polyhydroxy Acid is applauded by nearly 2,000 satisfied shoppers on Amazon alone, thanks. to its appeal for dry and sensitive skin alike.
“It has polyhydroxy acid as its main ingredients and gently exfoliates without causing irritation,” Dr. Penzi makes note of. Additionally, it’s paraben-free, soap-free and sulfate-free.
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
“I have über-sensitive skin so when it comes to what I put on it I don’t like to experiment with harsh products. This CeraVe cleanser is the only one I will use and I swear by it! It does dry your skin so make sure to pair it with a nice moisturizer.” — Julia Remillard, senior social media manager
Best Toners to Use in Your 20s
Though a splurge, the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is worth a try and expert-recommended, thanks to its anti-aging focus, efficacy for helping to treat dark spots and formulation that is said to work well on dry, normal and combination skin, especially.
“The hydrating toner formulated with pitera is a bio-ingredient rich in vitamins, organic acids, minerals and amino acids that work together to support skin’s natural cell renewal process,” Dr. Shirazi notes.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Balancing Toner
“The Dr. Barbara Sturm Balancing Toner is my all-time favorite toner (and that’s a tall order!)” It’s gentle yet hydrating on my dry and sensitive skin and, the best part? It doubles as a makeup remover.” — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner
The Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner is gentle enough for daily use, a vegan skincare brand (should that be a priority for you as a shopper) and a budget-friendly pick as well.
“It helps to calm inflammation and provide a clean foundation for application of other skincare products,” Dr. Penzi notes, recommending the product.
“This soothing toner is designed for sensitive skin and delivers antioxidants while removing any residual skin impurity,” Shirazi says. “It’s designed to calm and hydrate the skin while offering anti-aging benefits delivering ingredients like anthocyanin-rich elderberry extract.”
In other words, this alcohol-free toner is a blessing to dry, sensitive skin — offering nutrient-rich hydration either in the morning or at night (or both!)
If you’re looking for a relatively quick fix for your skin health, shop Murad (seriously, the brand is some of the most effective we’ve tried, with hydrating ingredients that put the R in Refresh.
“The Murad Clarifying Toner helps shrink the appearance of pores and soothes the skin of any redness or irritation,” Penzi says. Not to mention, the brand’s Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment ($26) is a pretty excellent find, too.
Best Serums to Use in Your 20s
Though a splurge, the ALASTIN HA (Hyaluronic Acid) Immerse Serum focuses on not only the hydration of the skin but its radiance — something that sets its formulation apart from some other hyaluronic acid products on the market. Even better, it provides both instant and long-term results with consistent use.
“This product has Octapeptide-45 which supports the skin’s natural ability to increase its hyaluronic acid production, offering long-term benefits like plumping, anti-aging effects and sustained hydration,” Peredo explains.
“The Glossier Super Glow Vitamin C Brightening Face Serum is my serum of choice from glossy beauty brand Glossier — and it’s the real deal. You’ll feel oh-so-luxurious each time you apply this on (and you’ll be in disbelief that it’s no more than $30!) — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum
For a budget-friendly hyaluronic acid serum to use in your 20s, shop the L’Oreal Paris Revitalift 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum. We’ve tried the brand’s Revitalift line (and yes, the formulation is just as glamorous as its packaging).
“This hydrating serum combines low-molecular and high-molecular weight for intense hydration,” Shinazi says. “It’s fragrance-free and absorbs quickly.” Accordng to Shinazi, this serum is best to apply to damp skin to maximize benefits.
“Combat eye puffiness with The Ordinary’s caffeine serum, which is the jolt of energy I need when I wake up every morning. It’s lightweight, absorbs quickly, and a little goes a long way.” — Angela Tricarico, writer/reporter, Decider.com
Invest in the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid for a luxury skincare serum to make your 20s the most immaculate of times. Notably, this serum provides environmental protection, helps lighten fine lines, firms the skin and brightens the complexion — a holistic, 360-degree skincare agent.
“This gold-standing vitamin C serum fights signs of aging and brightens overall complexion,” Penzi backs up, recommending the product.
CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum
Retinol is dubbed the superstar anti-aging agent for a reason — it’s one of the most impactful, but you don’t want to use *too* much as a beginner (but, more of that in our guide to the best retinol creams and serums). For that reason, this less-than-$25 product is a winner.
“The CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum is a gentle yet effective using encapsulated retinol to reduce irritation,” Shinazi highlights, recommending the formula. ” This nightly serum helps improve skin texture, fine lines while brightening the skin. It’s also formulated with ceramides to restore and strengthen the skin barrier.”
La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum
Quench your skin’s thirst with the La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum. With more than 22,000 Amazon shoppers singing its praises, this moisture-locking potion is said to help repair and re-plump the skin in four hours. Plus, Penzi recommends the serum, alongside her SkinCeuticals serum recommendation, should you prefer an affordable option that’s still derm-approved.
Best Eye Creams to Use in Your 20s
Impressively, not one but two of our dermatologist experts recommend the RoC Retinol Correction Line Smoothing Eye Cream if you’re in the market for a new and improved eye cream to add to your twenty-something skincare regimen.
“This eye cream works well at targeting puffiness, dark circles, and wrinkles,” Peredo notes. “It’s great on all skin types.”
Additionally, Shinazi likes how this is a drugstore alternative to “help target fine lines, dark circles and under-eye puffiness.”
“If you want noticeably brighter under eyes — especially to start your day in the morning — then the OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright+ Vitamin C Brightening Eye Crème is the one I’d give to you on a silver platter. This is also the brand’s new-and-improved formulation that your skin will want to soak up (and then, radiate).” — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
CeraVe Eye Repair Cream
As one of the best and gentlest formulations we’ve tested, the CeraVe Eye Repair Cream is a budget-friendly no-brainer that’s suitable for 20-year-olds and everyone who’s looking for a sensitive skin-friendly option.
“This is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin’s moisture and niacinamide to help soothe skin,” Shinazi explains. “With CeraVe’s patented MVE ingredient-delivery technology to continually release ingredients and provide lasting hydration, it’s a wonderful product.”
Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35
The Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35 is a multi-purpose eye product that not only helps bring hydration to the most sensitive area on your face but also infuses SPF into your routine, almost akin to your best SPF moisturizer.
“This is a creamy formula that goes on seamlessly and helps combat dullness, pigmentation, dark hollows and fine lines,” Penzi shares.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Eye Cream
We sound like a broken record highlighting La Roche-Posay by now but, if you couldn’t tell, the brand is sworn-in by our dermatology experts (and so many more we’ve consulted in the past).
“The La Roche-Posay Hydrating Eye Cream is free of common irritants that are harmful to people in their 20s with sensitive skin,” Peredo notes.
“The SENTÉ Illumine Eye Cream helps promote deep hydration and minimizes appearance of dark under-eyes,” Penzi says. Just shy of $100, it contains a wealth of ingredients: heparan sulfate analog (HSA) to deliver ultimate skin hydration and renewal, niacinamide to help support the skin’s barrier, jojoba butter to moisturize and peptides to help inhibit expression lines.
Best Face Masks to Use in Your 20s
The Kiehl’s Since 1851 Calendula Petal-Infused Calming Mask with Aloe Vera is next on our must-try list — and it looks divine.
“This mask helps calm breakouts and renew your skin,” Peredo explains, recommending this mask when we asked about the best ones for your 20s. Simply put, its the soothing, self-care night addition we’re ready to passionately add to our carts.
For more options, check out our expert-backed guide to the best face masks we’ve reviewed.
“All I need to say is this — if you have dry skin, the Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask is an answered prayer. After cleansing and serum-ing, this is the next best step in my routine, hands down.” — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
Another Kiehl’s Since 1851 made the cut on behalf our dermatology experts — and this one is one of our favorites, too (its emollient consistency absorbs into your skin like butter, and we love it for any day of the week).
“The Kiehl’s Since 1851 Ultra Facial Overnight Rehydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane is great for an overnight reset when your skin is super dry and in need of intense moisture, Penzi notes.
Best Moisturizers to Use in Your 20s
Cetaphil Gentle Clear Mattifying Acne Moisturizer
For acne-prone skin, the Cetaphil Gentle Clear Mattifying Acne Moisturizer is a top option to pick up that won’t cost you more than $15. The best part? It contains salicylic acid — a warrior in the fight against blemishes.
“I love this product because the ingredients will not clog pores and is lightweight to help with oily and acne-prone skin alike,” Peredo notes.
“After nearly a year of use, I can happily recommend this moisturizer! It’s one of the only options on the market that keeps my skin hydrated and blemish-free. Although a bottle of this costs a pretty penny, it’s a skincare essential worth adding to your budget.” — Camryn La Sala, commerce editor, New York Post, Page Six & Decider
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Meet one of the calmest moisturizers we’ve tried. This formulation applies just like a hand cream and doesn’t cause any irritation to sensitive skin (trust us, we’ve unfortunately been through the ringer in this regard). It’s also recommended by two of our experts.
“The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer is formulated with ceramides, niacinamide, glycerin and prebiotic thermal water,” Shinazi lists. “It’s lightweight yet hydrating and absorbs quickly to restore and repair the skin’s skin barrier.” It’s also suitable for most skin types and readily available at most drugstores.
“The ceramides, niacinamide and glycerin in this helps restore the skin’s natural protective and provides 48-hour hydration,” Penzi offers.
“I use this after shaving and basically every day during the winter to combat the dry and overheated air in my apartment. A little goes a long way, so a single bottle will last me six months or more.
In addition to preventing my skin from drying out, this moisturizer soothes and cools when I use it after shaving (I shave with a safety razor, which can be a little rough at times), and it doesn’t leave any oily residue. My wife first got it for me years ago and I’ve been using it ever since.” — Nic Dobija-Nootens, commerce writer/editor
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Water Gel Moisturizer
You can say this product gives you a bit of a *boost*, hands down.
“The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Water Gel Moisturizer is a lightweight gel formula that feels super light on the skin, is oil-free and won’t clog pores.” Penzi. The best part? It truly provides all-day moisturization — something Penzi notes and an observation we can back up.
“Don’t sleep on Olay — the brand may not cost upwards of $100 but it’s good stuff. I like to switch up my moisturizers often, and the brand’s Hyaluronic + Peptide 24 Hydrating Gel Cream is my signature favorite. Prior, I love its Collagen Peptide 24 Eye Cream ($30) for extra hydration. — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
Best SPF to Use in Your 20s
CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Among a roster of facial sunscreens we’ve tried, the CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 holds a constant spot in our beach bags, on our bathroom sinks and in our drawers (because we never want to run out).
“This SPF is great for sensitive skin which is common with people in their 20s and has a formula to moisturize as it protects your skin from UV rays,” Peredo notes, recommending this particular formulation. Not to mention, it contains three essential ceramides — as do all the brand’s products — which help nourish the skin even more.
“One of my favorite facial sunscreens that doesn’t irritate my skin or leave a white cast is the Peter Thomas Roth Max Vitamin D-Fense Sunscreen SPF 50. Simply put, it’s a staple in my beach bag in the summertime and a must-have on my bathroom counter well, every other time. Not to mention, it glides on like silk.” — Victoria Giardina, commerce journalist and content strategist
EltaMD Skincare UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Face Sunscreen
Whenever we have conversations with board-certified dermatologists about facial sunscreen, we can bet our bottom dollar that EltaMD is mentioned at least once.
“The EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 is an oil-free sunscreen made with zinc oxide,” Shinazi says. “The formula is lightweight with a silky texture that goes on without leaving a white cast.”
More, it’s formulated with niacinamide to help calm and protect sensitive skin types prone to acne, rosacea and discoloration, something both Shinazi and Penzi noted during our conversations.
If you’re always abuzz with the latest Instagram and TikTok trends, you’ve likely heard of Supergoop! Something we learned: the PA+++ means it features high UV protection (the more plus signs, the better protection you’ll find in a formulation, BTW).
“This is a fabulous two-in-one product that acts as a makeup primer and SPF 40 for all day protection,” Penzi notes, commenting on this formulation’s versatility.
Our senior social media manager, Julia Remillard also loves her Supergoop! “The brand’s Glowscreen ($38) is by far the one product I would take with me to a desert island,” she passionately says. “It gives my skin moisture and glow without irritating it.”
ALASTIN HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36
If you love the feel of lightweight SPF products that don’t compromise sun protection in the process, the ALASTIN HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 is a lovely choice. From the elegant bottle to its easily absorbable formulation, we love it, too.
“I love this sunscreen because it evens out your skin tone and gives it a radiant appearance while protecting you against harmful UV rays,” Peredo comments.
An FAQ on Skincare in Your 20s
Ahead, our team of dermatologist experts unveil exactly what to know about using skincare in your 20s — including what to use, what order to use them in, how to apply them and more.
Why is it important to take care of your skin in your 20s?
Your 20s is a time of transition for the skin, so the most important step you can make is finding a custom, curated collection of products that work well for your skin type and lifestyle.
“You may no longer be getting the same breakouts that you were as a teen, and are likely not yet seeing the onset of signs of aging,” Penzi told The Post. “For some lucky patients, the 20s can be an ideal time for the condition of their skin, but for other they may have some specific concerns.”
Since human beings are habitual — how Shinazi puts it — good habits (aka, starting to become consistent with a skincare routine) are most effective when they are started at an early age.
“A solid skincare routine helps prevent early signs of aging, reduces sun damage and lowers your chances of developing skin cancer,” Shinazi adds. “Staying consistent with your skincare routine also helps strengthen your skin barrier thereby protecting you from breakouts and reducing flare-ups of skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea.
Furthermore, collagen production starts to decline in our 20s. “Incorporating products that help protect and stimulate your collagen early on will have a greater impact long term,” Shinazi says.
The benefits? Starting skincare at a young age gives you the opportunity to better understand your skin type, thereby tailoring your routine with products that work best for you.
What skincare concerns do most people experience in their 20s?
According to Peredo, the most common skin type in your 20s is oily or acne-prone skin. “At this age, your skin may still have teenage tendencies due to hormones not being balanced and other life stressors,” she explains.
It’s important to note that everyone’s skin is different, and skincare is surely not a one-size-fits-all topic. “Some may struggle with acne and others may start to show early signs of rosacea or skin sensitivity, while some may even start to notice fine lines or dark spots,” Shinazi explains.
Many of Penzi’s patients in their 20s are concerned about the general health and appearance of their skin, she tells us. “They are concerned about pore size, texture, and maintaining overall smoothness and brightness,” Penzi shares. “Some patients are concerned about acne, which is largely hormonal in this age group. Others are concerned about wrinkles, which are usually minor and dynamic (present with movement) at this stage, and not yet static (present at rest) or deep-set.”
What skincare ingredients should people in their 20s use?
“People in their 20s should use serums that are multitaskers — a combination of acne and anti-aging ingredients like vitamin C and retinol to reduce wrinkles and dark spots,” Peredo advises. “If they’re looking to simply hydrate their skin, a serum with hyaluronic acid is a good choice.”
Penzi also recommends using moisturizers — especially ones with majorly recommended hyaluronic acid, along with ceramides and glycerin — “to help lock in moisture and prevent drying out of the skin that accelerates aging.”
Sunscreen — and using mineral-based SPF ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — is something to prioritize, too. “Protecting your collagen, elastin and other vital structures from being broken down by UV rays is critical,” Shinazi stresses. “Look for a broad-spectrum sun protective cream with an SPF 30 or higher to apply every morning regardless if your day is planned indoors or outdoors.” And, an important note — UVA rays are present all day, go through windows and penetrate the skin deeper than UVBs to break down our collagen and elastin, so you’ll want to use SPF even on a cloudy day.
Exfoliation also plays a big role in boosting our skin’s renewal process. “They work by removing dead skin cells on the outer surface to improve skin tone and texture, fine lines, pores, and wrinkles while allowing our other skincare products to penetrate more effectively boosting their efficacy,” Shinazi explains.
However, the type of exfoliant depends on skin type and concern:
- Glycolic acid: works best for hyperpigmentation and skin prone to sun damage whereas lactic acid is best for dry skin types. If you have sensitive skin look for polyhydroxy acid (PHAs) such as gluconolactone, galactose, and lactobionic acid (since the molecules of PHAs are larger, they can’t penetrate as deep as AHAs and BHAs so they work more superficially, without disturbing the deeper delicate layers; this means they offer less irritation than other exfoliating acids).
- Salicylic acid: works best if you suffer from breakouts or have oily skin. It’s oil-soluble and helps unclog pores by dissolving and removing buildup of dead skin cells and excess oil (Related: Best salicylic acid products).
- Azelaic acid: works best for acne-prone skin and if you experience rosacea. It’s a naturally occurring acid found in grains and has both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a gentle exfoliant, an antioxidant and reduces hyperpigmentation.
- Niacinamide: works best if you’re experiencing redness or would like to brighten the skin. It’s also an antioxidant to help fight sun damage (Related: Best niacinamide serums we reviewed).
What skincare ingredients should people in their 20s avoid?
Because most people in their 20s have oily or acne-prone skin, they should avoid using heavy creams, ointments and oils on their faces and in their hair products as they can cause clogged pores and acne breakouts, per Peredo.
“Using oil-based makeup that gives heavy coverage can also lead to acne breakouts,” she adds. “Lastly, using too many products in large quantities at once can irritate your skin and make it very sensitive, like using too much retinol or too many AHAs.” Editor’s tip: start off with a low percentage of retinol every other day, and work your way up as your skin becomes used to the ingredient.
Shizani also suggests avoiding or limiting fragrances and dyes like Red40 in skincare, as it can be rather sensitizing over time. “The more your skin is exposed to fragrances the more likely it is to form a memory to it,” she adds. “Eventually it may start to react with rashes and breakouts, so it’s best to limit the amount of exposure.”
Sulfates, which are responsible for the sudsy effect in shampoo, can be drying or irritating to your skin and hair — according to Shizani — so we recommend checking out our expert-backed guide to the best sulfate-free shampoos we reviewed for a gentle cleanse.
Another ingredient to be wary of is oxybenzone, as studies suggest they have higher absorption rates into the blood and can cause irritation in the skin. “I prefer mineral-based SPF ingredients like zinc or titanium dioxide,” Shizani notes. “Essential oils are another ingredient subset to limit as even in small doses, it can be extremely irritating to your skin — causing redness, sensitivity and breakouts.”
What a skincare routine in your 20s may look like, according to experts
Ahead, Penzi explains a beginner’s guide to skincare to begin safely and effectively:
In the morning: Wash your face gently with cleanser, apply vitamin C (or another antioxidant) serum, apply hyaluronic acid serum, apply moisturizer and apply sunscreen.
In the evening: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply retinol and apply moisturizer.
You can also incorporate a toner (following your cleanser), an eye cream (right before your moisturizer) and a face mask (about once or twice a week, depending on the type) as you continue to develop your routine.
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