Yes, You Should Worry About Aging While You’re Still in Your 20s

Don’t flatter yourself--you’re not “too young” for wrinkles.

When I was 16, my friend and I spent two weeks on the beach, competing to see who could end the trip with a darker tan. That was the vacation that my forehead got so severely burned that the upper right quadrant of my face was simultaneously red from burn, brown from tan, and white from peeling. It looked, according to my sister, like a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream.

I told myself at the time that when I finally started to show the sun damage–presumably sometime in my 40s–anti-aging technology would have advanced far enough that I would just rub some cream on it and bada-bing-bada-boom, my forehead would be smooth and ageless once more.

But in the past few years, that summer of reckless fun in the sun has already come back to haunt me. Like a museum exhibit dedicated to my teenage stupidity, three lines run across my 20-something-year-old forehead–a mocking reminder of the fact that my mother was right about sunscreen.

One night, while washing my face with the same $5 drugstore scrub I’ve used since high school, it occurred to me that even if I feel like I’m too young to worry about wrinkles, I’m old enough to be an adult about my skincare.

I reached out to Dr. Soheila Rostami, oculofacial plastic surgeon and owner of Sanctuary Cosmetic Center, and Dr. Maryam Nazemzadeh, oculofacial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Sanctuary Cosmetic Center, to get their tips on how the savvy 20-something can be smarter with her skin.

Women in their 20s and early 30s usually don’t have many wrinkles to speak of. How urgent is it to start a damage-control beauty routine?

Starting early is imperative in the fight against aging. Anti-aging is a fight that we can all win, yet many women lose this battle as they start the process too late. In order to win the battle against aging, we must train our skin for the fight and train well. This should begin when a woman is in her 20s. Simple steps such as applying sun protection (SPF 30 and above) every morning to the entire face and neck is a guaranteed and proven way to prevent aging.

Okay, we admit that our moms were right about needing to wear sunscreen. But what other products should we start slathering ourselves in, ASAP?

Be on the look-out for products containing Vitamin C. Vitamin C’s benefits to the skin are largely attributed to its anti-oxidant properties which plays a major role in supporting healthy collagen. Collagen works hand in hand with elastin, and the combination of both produces firm and healthy skin early on. A small percentage of patients may demonstrate an adverse reaction to Vitamin C, therefore we recommend consulting your doctor if you experience any type of skin reaction.

We’ve heard that we should be looking for products that contain retinols.

Yes, retinols can be a beneficial addition to a woman’s skin care regimen. Retinoids, or products derived from Vitamin A, are naturally occurring compounds. [They] increase cell turnover in the skin, thereby allowing younger skin cells to continually replace older ones. Different products contain different amounts (dosages) of retinol. Determining whether you need a low dose or high dose retinol is best done under the guidance of a physician.

Anti-aging products aren’t cheap. Is it a waste of money to start using them before real wrinkles have formed?

Anti-aging products don’t need to be expensive. It is the active ingredient in the product that consumers need to be looking for and not the embellished packaging. There are many reasonably priced, effective, anti-aging products on the market. Look for ingredients such as, Vitamin C, Retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, Resveratrol, all of which are ingredients that prevent premature skin aging.

As much as we hate to admit it, we do see the sun damage starting to show. What can we do to start combatting the discoloration, wrinkles, or spots?

First, we recommend light chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments. The treatments act by gently removing the superficial layer of the skin. “Vampire facials” are an excellent way to replenish your skin with your growth factors. This facial requires a small blood draw from the patient. The growth factors are isolated from the patient’s own blood then replaced into the skin. As for products, we recommend products containing Alpha Hydroxy, which has beneficial exfoliative and anti-oxidants properties. We also recommend Hydroquinone-free lightening products, containing Arbutin, for dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Besides products and treatments, what else can we do to keep our skin healthy and bright?

Ensuring a healthy balanced diet and good sleeping hygiene can do wonders for your skin. Eating foods that are high in anti-oxidants and full nutrients can give your skin a natural glow. Sleeping at least six to seven hours per night places your body and skin in restoration mode and prevents dark circles and bags under your eyes. Drinking plenty of water to ensure proper hydration giving your skin the necessary moisture to maintain its glow.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.