I've been pretty lucky in the skin department. For most of my life, it's been good, including during the notoriously skin-unfriendly teenage years. My skin is usually up there on the list of things people compliment me on, often using words like "peaches and cream" and "milkmaid." (If anybody's feeling resentful toward me right now, please recall that I have the metabolism of hibernating bear and also was blessed with a raging drug and alcohol addiction; please grant me this one happy genetic accident.)
Like a lot of people with good skin, I've never done much to it. It's only in the past few years that I've even started taking my makeup off at night. But since I recently entered a new section of the women's magazine by-decade charticle, I decided it's about time I get into some next-level shit when it comes to skincare.
I'm talking about products with a doctor's name on the bottle, maybe even a picture of a molecule. I'm talking about an office with a waiting room so fancy it makes you feel like you're in some all-white 80s movie version of heaven. A place where the doctors are all so glowing and authoritative that you know you totally would have let them give you Botox if they'd at all suggested it was a good idea, even though you previously thought it was sort of messed up to inject poison directly into your face.
I encountered all that and more when I visited the office of Dr. Dennis Gross, schmancy dermatologist and creator of the eponymous skincare line, in order to try to figure out what the hell I should be doing to my face in the third decade of my life. I saw medical aesthetician Courtney Brooks, with whom I immediately bonded over our mutual intention to never age. We both plan to just sort of politely decline, like aging is a pre-wedding canape. Wrinkles? No, thank you, I just ate.
(In all seriousness, as a recovering addict, I have a lot of dead friends, so I am super PRO-AGING even if it means getting wrinkly. But if there's any way I can have a long, healthy life WHILE looking like Julieanne Moore or Nigella Lawson when I'm in my 50s, I will take that option please.)
I told Dr. Courtney I had just turned 30 ("Congratulations!" she said) and that I felt overwhelmed and confused by all the options and ingredients in skincare products, and that I basically just wanted a professional to tell me exactly what to do. Courtney told me my skin looked "amazing" and "flawless," which totally startled me because I'm used to being upsold by spa facialists who make you feel like your face is positively FALLING APART before shaming you into buying a bunch of add-ons and products. (It's the upscale version of those mean manicurists who squint at your face and tell you how badly you need an upper lip wax.)
My experience at the dermatologist was the total opposite of that -- Courtney basically just wanted to do some in-office preventative stuff, get me some products with stronger ingredients and send me on my way. I didn't need Botox, I didn't need extractions, and she gave me the lowest levels and strengths of everything we did do. I was like, "Oh, cool, this is gonna be a super-boring article."
That said, if you have basically good skin that you would like to achieve greatness, I totally recommend the following, not least of all because you can go out that night and tell everyone you got lasers shot into your face earlier.
First we did the Alpha Beta Professional Peel (more on the at-home version later), which Dr. Courtney says improves "skin texture, firmness, and vibrancy" while "diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles." It tingled a little, but nothing too uncomfortable and my skin looked fucking ridic afterward and still does. Like, I don't even have pores anymore. The peel can also help with acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation, and again I'm sorry I don't have any of those problems, but please remember that I am kind of fat.
Next, lasers! Courtney rolled out this machine:
I had told her that my only major skin concern were the crow's feet I am starting to see form around my eyes and she recommended the Syneron Elos Plus Sublime laser, which stimulates the collagen under the skin to "reduce wrinkles, tighten, firm, and smooth skin’s texture overall." The laser itself just felt like little zap of heat (not painful), and we did it around the eyes, around mouth to give cheek definition, and on the jawline to tighten. It takes a few days to notice the effects, which I definitely did.
But even if you don't want to do any of this stuff, you can follow the simple skincare routine that Courtney laid out for me, broken down into basic components below. If you have major skin issues, you'll probably want to see your own fancy dermatologist and get a specialized regimen, but otherwise I think these steps are a pretty great start for anybody.
Emily's 30s Skincare Regime in 6 Easyish Steps
2. Moisturize and SPF
For moisturizer, Courtney gave me Age Erase Moisture with Mega 10 for Face. I didn't pay for the stuff, but I do think in your 30s it's worth investing in a higher-end moisturizer with anti-aging properties, whether you find it at the doctor's office, department store or drug store.
No matter what her age, every woman should be using an SPF of 18 or higher every day. Sunscreen is my religion. Courtney says to look for one that is zinc-based, as zinc oxide supplies UVA/UVB protection. I use the Neutrogena Age Shield Face Lotion in like 110 -- even though I know it doesn't really make a difference over 45 or whatever, that ridiculously high number on the bottle just makes me feel good.
3. Eye Cream
Eye creams are so freaking confusing to me, I guess cause there are just so many options. I asked Courtney what a woman in her 30s should look for in an eye cream and she said "powerful antioxidants such as Ferulic Acid, Retinol and deep hydration." She gave me Age Erase Moisture with Mega 10 for Eyes, to be followed up with a stronger eye serum in the PM.
OK, so Dr. Gross is obviously a huge deal and his products are amazing, but I want to be clear that you can use these guidelines to find other products that fit your lifestyle and budget. Except in this case, because there's really no substitute for the at-home Alpha Beta Peel, which is why every beauty editor and Oprah recommends it. The two-step facial is a weaker version of the peel that we did in office, and includes Alpha Beta Hydroxy Acids, Retinol, Ubiquinone, and Resveratrol. Courtney recommended I use it 3 times a week after cleansing (with a Neutrogena cleansing cloth) in the evening.
2. Face and Eye Serum
This is basically where you want to get in your Retinol, which is probably one of the most important ingredients you can add to your 30s skincare regimen. I'm using the Ferulic Acid & Retinol Brightening Solution all over and the Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correcton Eye Serum every other evening. As a cheaper option, Neutrogena has recently unrolled an Anti-Wrinkle Serum and Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream with Retinol. The drugstore Retinol stuff isn't going to be as effective as the derm brands, but something is better than nothing and they can definitely make a difference in the appearance of your skin.
3. Face and Eye Moisture
Last step, just use the moisturizer and eye cream you used in the morning.
Does this seem like a lot of stuff to do to you? I'm finding it pretty easy and my skin has never looked better. I hardly even bother to put on makeup anymore -- my summer beauty look is a bold lip + great skin. What's your current skincare routine?