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Preemptive Strike: Should You Use Anti-Aging Products in Your Early 20s?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,
First, I want to tell you that I absolutely love your blog and everything else you write, and I often laugh out loud in my silent, empty apartment and scare my cat and make her duck to her hiding spot under my bed.
I’ve read some of your articles on skin care, but none of them specifically answered my question. I just turned 22, and have pretty good skin, with the occasional PMS breakout and such, but nothing major. I know that I eventually need to start using products to help with future wrinkles around my eyes and in my face and such (I would love to be that woman that looks years younger than what she actually is).
Problem is, I don’t know when to start using what. I’d been using something that my ex-boyfriend’s grandma gave me ages ago (Anew something I think) twice a day and I liked the way it made my skin look, but I finally used it up. I just bought the Olay complete all day moisture lotion with SPF 15, which I’ve been using in the mornings (or whenever I happen to wake up and get ready). I wash my face twice a day with facial cleanser. When do I need to add eye cream to the list? Or anything else? I wear Covergirl foundation and NYC powder (shut up, it’s cheap) and eventually I would like to use higher-quality make up, but right now I think my routine works fairly well.
I know that right now the best thing I can do for my skin is protect it from sun damage (I have red hair and a fair complexion that I inherited from my dad, who has had skin cancer cells removed from his face, so I know that’s a big risk for me), and at the moment I don’t have a ton of money to spend (I’m a student who bartends at a local restaurant a few days a week). Within the next year that shouldn’t be an issue (yay graduation from college and real money!) So I guess my question is, at what age should I start using what products to help me look younger and have healthy skin and blah blah blah? Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

Honestly, I think you can keep on doing what you’re doing. At 22, the fact that you even have the future health of your skin on the radar puts you ahead of the game. And the fact that you recognize the sun damage thing and are dutifully using that SPF everyday, rain or shine, well…that puts you light years ahead of ME, as I really only put that one into practice after I noticed the first lines around my eyes.
However, with your complexion and family history (same here, on both), it would be a good move to bump the protection from SPF 15 to 30. Everyday, rain or shine. You can either continue to use a combo moisturizer/sunblock (, since you like the one you have now) or you can use a stand-alone sunblock like the (I’ve always found that one good for breakout-prone skin, although I’ve become less enamored with it recently). (Fragrance; tendency to separate and get all gross long before its time, etc.)
Upping the SPF will help with wrinkles and freckles and sun spots. And trust me, you do NOT want sun spots. You know how very old ladies have all those brown liver spots on their hands? Yeah. They look just as lovely and attractive on your face. (Shakes angry fist at pregnancy, even though it was my own damn fault for not wearing sunscreen.)
So. At 22, this is really the only thing I would worry about. ENJOY your nice skin. Take care of it, but don’t obsess over taking care of it, you know? In a couple years, on your 25th birthday or so, take a look at your budget and see if you can afford to upgrade some of your skincare products and/or add a few new items. Like an eye cream and a separate moisturizer for nighttime. (ONLY if you continue to go with a combo SPF one. I do NOT approve of wearing SPF to bed, for anyone.)
Your mid-20s is a good time to start slowly ramping up the defenses. Toss any product with “fragrance” in the ingredients list. Banish the harsh scrubs and astringents. Pay attention to how old stuff is and replace it as needed. Consider a weekly mask or exfoliating peel. Apply an eye cream both morning and night. (While my experience with eye creams is limited because I’ve been using the same Philosophy one for ages and ages, I use it because it WORKS. Noticeable increased firmness around the eye area, and all my fine lines are laugh lines. Shut up. THEY TOTALLY ARE. I LAUGH A LOT.)
When you do decide to go the full anti-aging route, tread carefully, as there is MUCH BS to be found. Every few years there’s a new trendy miracle ingredient of dubious effectiveness, and everybody markets the hell out of it. Green tea! Citrus! Electrolytes! Dioxoribopeptides! Look for stuff with vitamin c and/or retinol, since these have actually been shown to do…something. Anything.
I was about 25 or 26 when I decided to get Very Serious about my skin and started viewing the stuff I put on it as more of an investment. I drastically cut back on my clothing/shoe budget, swapped Victoria’s Secret underwear for Target, quit with the “look at this cute top! I’m so buying it even though I have 14 million zillion cute tops already!” and suddenly WHAT DO YOU KNOW, I realized I could get six months’ worth of quality moisturizer for the price of a sweater on the Banana Republic sale rack. And considering I’ll be wearing my face for…oh, hopefully quite a few more seasons than I’d probably wear that sweater, it’s a tradeoff I’m happy to make. I certainly don’t look in the mirror and see a 22-year-old or anything, but I CAN report that 1) I still get carded sometimes and 2) I’ve yet to have anyone guess my age and overshoot it — most people seem to shave a couple years off.
Good. Freaking. Enough.

Related Articles:
How Often Should I Apply Sunscreen to My Face?
Slippery Sunblock and Burning Eyes
Wearing SPF to Bed = Do Not Want

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Georgia

    April 11, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    A fair-skinned friend recently pointed me towards CVS Sunscreen With Zinc Oxide SPF 45+ and I’m now devoted to it. I have oily and break-out prone skin, and not only does this stuff not make me break out, goes on super dry, and doesn’t make me oily at all, it’s under $5. I’d been using DHC White Sunscreen, and this is very much comparable…but costs about $25 less! I still love the Concentrated Eye Cream by DHC though, if yer looking for a good one.

  • qwyneth

    April 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    You’re having the problem with the Dry-Touch too? Oh whew. I went and got it after you recommended it and opened it up and this disgusting oil streamed out onto my hands. My search for a decent spf continues. Perhaps I will try the one Georgia recommended above. Currently my idiot massively-freckled self and I are just forgetting sunscreen, which is like placing an order for skin cancer and telling the waiter to hurry.

  • qwyneth

    April 11, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Perhaps I should write in and ask this, but if you have a separate spf and moisturizer, which should you put on first?

  • Lori12309

    April 11, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I just want you to know that I got carded yesterday and I am FORTY-FREAKING-SEVEN years old. I credit it to my slavish devotion to Amy’s Philosophy products (and perhaps the myopia of the cashier).
    And I second all the skincare advice you have received, as kind of an elder stateswoman, but I also HIGHLY suggest that you get a cute hat.
    A Nicole Kidmanny hat. You youngsters can wear them without looking like you’re trying too hard.


    April 11, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Neutrogena Radiance Boost is a nice brightening eye cream which is a little more friendly to the poor college student budget ($12ish?). Also? It’s a brightening cream and at 22 you’re much more likely to have dark circles from studying/paryting all night, than the creases us old ladies in our 30’s are battling

  • boofyq

    April 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    So if you buy a good eye cream, how much of it do you use? I mean, it comes out in a tiny little line on your fingertip — do I use a 1/4″ long little line of it, and dab on with my ring fingertips, or less, or more?? How much is enough, vs too much (ie, wasteful)?

  • Suzy Q

    April 12, 2008 at 12:06 am

    As a natural redhead with fair skin, I second Amalah’s strong suggestion of suncreen. I am 20+ years older than you, today being my actual 48th birthday (gah), and I can tell you from experience: don’t do what I did. What I did was get a tan. Not good.
    But! I have been really taking care of my skin, as opposed to *kinda* taking care of it, for about 7 years now. Most guess me for 10 years younger than I am. So, there is hope for me yet.
    However, if I had it to do all over again, at your age, I would apply the suncreen religiously and stay out of the damn sun!
    Also, the Philosphy eye cream rocks.

  • danagirl

    April 14, 2008 at 10:26 am

    ugh, lately i haven’t been all that impressed with neutrogena’s dry touch spf either! it leaves a white “film” at my hairline and takes a lot to rub it in (otherwise, i get clumps of it along my jawline). and it just seems too dry. damn philosophy not having spf in their moisturizer!

  • Jenn

    June 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I just wanted to say–I decided to try out Olay’s SPF 30 moisturizer, since I’ve been using the SPF 15 for years and loving it but semi-recently moved to a bright, sunny, hot place where I might need more serious SPF. It is NOT at all the same stuff–the SPF 30 burned my face and made me break out all over. Back to the SPF 15 stuff, which is the only face SPF-containing moisturizer I’ve ever been able to handle.