The Best Skin Care Routine (& Products) for Your 20s

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The Best Skin Care Routine (& Products) for Your 20s

Is a skin care routine for those in their 20s an essential part of self-care? Or is it a ploy by the industry to get young people to buy more beauty products?

While some may point to the great skin that many 20-somethings have compared to their elders, skin care in your younger years comes from a completely different perspective.

Luckily for those under 30, skin care is mainly preventative.

That’s preventative, as in ‘prevention is better than cure.’ While this is just a saying, it is also a medical fact.[1]

Skin care in your 20s: An analogy

A simple example: who would have better health and skin at age 80?

Person A – smokes, drinks, and sunbathes to a deep tan. They then spend 1000s of dollars on creams, treatments, and therapies to reverse or treat any ailments in their old age.

Person B – instead avoids excess, eats healthily, and wears sunscreen when needed.

Clearly, Person B will enter old age in a more healthy state. No matter how good a treatment is, it will never be as good as not needing the treatment in the first place.

The story is the same with skin and skin care.

When cynics comment that young people already have ‘good skin,’ that’s only half of the story. Sure, if you’re in your 20s, you don’t need to be spending a mountain of money on exotic beauty treatments.

But you do need to take care of your skin and avoid unnecessary stresses and damage to it. Only by starting in your younger years can you protect your skin as much as possible.

So skin care once you’ve left your teens really focuses on maintaining your healthy skin as it is. This works best when you ensure the worst of environmental pollutants and stressors are kept at bay.

If you have pre-existing skin complaints like acne or psoriasis, then regular attention and maintenance of these issues should minimize their impact over the long term.

In this article, we cover the main pointers of healthy skin care you should know about and then take a look at the best options available on the market.

What you should know about skincare in your 20s

the best skin care regimen for 20 year olds

If you do only one thing for your skin in your 20s and for the rest of your life, it should be to minimize the amount of harmful UV radiation it is exposed to.

While there are hundreds of environments, compounds, and other stressors that can damage and age skin, UV rays are number 1 by a very large margin.[2]

Overwhelmingly we are exposed to UV rays from the sun, but some of us use tanning beds and salons instead.

If you really care about your skin now and in your later years, you definitely want to minimize the impact radiation has.

This, of course, has to be balanced with your body’s real need for Vitamin D, which is made by your body when it is exposed to the sun. What we mean by balance would be choosing not to lie sunbathing for hours on end or stopping the habit of ‘topping up your tan’ in a salon.

If we are talking about turning around the biggest factors that affect your skin, then a holistic approach is likely your best bet. In your 20s, you don’t need ultra-expensive serums to tackle fine lines – you need to look after yourself inside and out.

If you’re unfamiliar with holistic skin care, essentially it believes, by nourishing and caring for your body inside and out, you give your skin the best chance of being naturally healthy and resistant to aging and disease.

New to skincare: The best skin care regimen for 20 year olds

skin care routine for 20 year olds

As you may have figured out by now, skin care in your twenties is all about taking preventative action. If you’re looking to introduce some sensible steps that will pay off in the long run, it’s a good idea to tackle the leading causes of skin damage.

Although some people may obsess over having oily skin or claim you need to use expensive toners twice a day, you need to cover the basics first. Skin care at any age falls into two broad categories: general care and specific treatment.

Things that fall under general care include keeping your skin clean, moisturized, and protected. Specific treatment can also include moisturizers but is essentially any ingredient that combats a particular condition, like dry skin, acne, wrinkles, and more.

By caring for your skin holistically while also keeping up regular ‘general care’ for your skin, you can delay or even avoid having to invest in more expensive and specialist treatments later in life.

To keep things simple, we have made an everyday skin care checklist below. If you cover all these bases, then you have a solid foundation to work from.

Your skin care routine should be:

  • UV protective
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Hydrating

The best skin care routine for those in their 20s should focus on simplicity and consistency.  In other words, not going over the top and using everything in moderation.

One of the most common mistakes that we make in our skincare during our 20s (especially late 20s, as we near the end of the decade) is to overcorrect any minor blemishes or skin changes, sometimes out of sheer panic.

As with many things in life, slow and steady wins the race. The routine below is listed in order of importance, not the order you may apply the product during the day.

If you’re just starting on your skincare journey, you may want to trial the first one or two products so you can see what benefit they bring before moving onto a complete skincare routine.

This is a much better way of caring for your skin than going out and buying the cheapest complete skincare set you can find. Cheap products almost inevitably contain pore blocking creams, harsh chemicals, and other ingredients that push your skin out of balance.

The best skin care products for your 20s

We’ve handpicked some of the best skin care products for your 20s:

1. Best moisturizer for your 20s

There is some debate between what should be your ‘desert island’ skin care pick. Some say a good toner should be number one, while others like us put moisturizer front and center.

So why do we think a moisturizer should be the number one choice?

There are a few reasons, but the most obvious one is that washing your face daily with water already does a pretty good job of cleansing your skin. While adding in a toner will help balance the pH of your skin and control outbreaks, the best moisturizers out there do this and more.

It is vitally important that if you have a single-product routine that it includes some form of protection from the sun’s rays. Sun creams and sunblocks may seem like the first obvious choice, but they often clog pores and suffocate the skin, leading to further issues down the line.

La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SX Moisturizer is well known for its inclusion of Mexoryl. Mexoryl is the newest compound that has been approved for UV protection. It completely covers the damaging UVA range of light, from 320 – 400 nanometers.

It is widely regarded in the scientific community as the most efficient and effective form of sun protection.[3] Compared to standard moisturizers, it can last up to a full day after initial application and is resistant to being washed off even when swimming or sweating.

As it is, UVA, which causes skin damage, aging, and skin cancer, full protection against this is worth the slight increase in price in our opinion.

As you can imagine with this brand, the product is lightweight and nongreasy on application and has been rigorously tested with all skin types, including sensitive skin.

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2. Best toner for your 20s

Now that your skin is UV protected and moisturized, the next step is to choose a good toner.

But what exactly do toners do?

While the exact function varies from brand to brand, the best products balance your skin’s pH, combat inflammation and infection while also controlling your daily levels of oil production. Research has shown that regularly washing your face in conjunction with using a moisturizer and toner works better than any one of these actions alone.

By adding a toner to your routine, you should see an increase in skin quality and a reduction in minor skin complaints like dryness and outbreaks.

Again, make sure to watch out for cheap toners. These often include compounds like alcohol to try and strip away the buildup of oils and dirt from the day. Unfortunately, alcohol is both irritating and drying to the skin, which completely overshadows how effective it may be at cleansing.

A good toner will instead be soothing to the skin while also combating potential infections and irritants from the environment. In fact, environmental pollution is the second biggest factor when it comes to premature skin aging and damage.[4]

To make matters worse, particulate pollution, which comes from things like burning fires and car exhausts, has been shown to accelerate the damage caused by harmful UV radiation.

It is for this reason that toners come in second place in our recommended skin care routine for 20-year-olds. By minimizing the sun’s effects and the daily pollution you are exposed to, you will be miles ahead of your average person in terms of skin protection.

Our Top Pick:

ZELEN Life Toner Image

The ZELEN Life Toner has been formulated to give continuous protection against all of these environmental irritants. It is, of course, an all-natural formulation that is careful to omit alcohol, ensuring that it can be used for all skin types.

It contains a wide variety of natural ingredients that have been chosen due to the amount of strong scientific evidence that backs up their proposed qualities. Oils extracted from both Geranium and Lavender work in tandem to reduce inflammation that results from chemicals and pollutants in our modern world.

To further strengthen its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, the ZELEN Life Toner also contains honey. This has been used for centuries and has been shown to combat bacterial infection while promoting healthy skin wound healing.

Suppose you want to ensure that your skin stays looking youthful throughout your 20s, 30s, and beyond. In that case, the daily application of this product will aid in the reduction of blemishes and scarring that accumulates over your skin’s lifetime.

If you have sensitive or irritation prone skin that has caused you to avoid using skin care products in the past, the ZELEN Life Toner is a good reintroduction.

3. Best eye cream for your 20s

Is eye cream really necessary when you’re still in your 20s or 30s? If we all lived the perfect healthy and well-rested lifestyle that is the ideal, then no, probably not.

However, if you live in reality, being in your 20s likely means late nights, early mornings, and a good mix of ‘less than good for you’ diet and lifestyle choices.

If this sounds like you, then one of the most noticeable but thankfully reversible signs of premature aging is puffiness and dark circles around the eyes.

Not only can these make you look tired, but our brains are also biologically hardwired to read dark sunken eyes as a sign of sickness and poor health. Not really the impression you want to be giving off to friends, family, or co-workers.

While you might be able to get away with a few days using cheap moisturizer if you’re stuck for choice, you really shouldn’t risk it when it comes to using eye creams.

The skin under the eyes is exceptionally thin and delicate, with many fragile blood vessels running underneath.

Avoid using cheap eye creams, which can further irritate and damage the skin. You should only use a good quality eye cream and endeavor to stop or at least cut down on the lifestyle factors that may give you dark eyeshadows, of which there are many.

A list of the usual suspects includes:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Allergies
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Oversleeping
  • Eczema
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Inheritance from parents

The last two can’t really be changed or avoided; however, improving any of the other factors will go a long way in working with an eye cream to improve your complexion and appearance.

Pro tip:

If you are having especially bad bags or dark circles, try this quick recovery routine before applying your eye cream:

1. Keep your head up – nap in a chair or sleep with extra pillows at night

2. Gently massage under your eyes when not using any products

3. Apply cucumber or another cold compress to your face – taking a cold shower will also work wonders

The above steps encourage the flow of fluid away from your face and eyes while also constricting the face’s tiny blood vessels. Overall, fluid retention and inflammation should be gently reduced.

As with any treatment, don’t go overboard. Placing ice directly onto your skin, for example, only serves to irritate it and potentially damage it, the exact opposite of what you want to happen.

Our current favorite for an excellent eye cream is Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment.

Importantly it has been formulated with the help of both ophthalmologists and dermatologists, ensuring that it will keep both your eyes and skin happy and healthy.

Kiehl’s have used avocado oil to deliver a quick hydration shot when needed most, bringing life back to tired and sunken eyes. Beta-carotene, an important antioxidant, is also utilized alongside Shea butter. The beta-carotene can be taken up by the body to make vitamin A, which is essential in the fight against premature skin aging.

To further reduce inflammation includes one of our favorites: Jojoba oil.

This will help reduce inflammation and damage to tired skin.

If you have had a particularly heavy night, the great thing about Kiehl’s creamy eye treatment is that it also doubles as an eye mask. You can simply apply a thicker visible layer of the cream under the eye.

Great consistency means that it will not run into your eye even if left for around 10 minutes or so.

4. Best serum for your 20s

Finally, we come to our recommendations for serums. If you’re in your early 20s or just start building a skin care routine, give these a miss for now and concentrate on the basics above.

We say this because there are hundreds of types of serums, all of which target different areas of skin, skin conditions, and skin types. The sheer volume of choice can get confusing, and really, these products should only be used when you know what you’re doing and what results you are looking for.

If you are unsure, you can relax knowing that following our recommendations for UV protection, moisturizing, toning, and looking after those pesky under-eye bags covers all the major factors for skin damage and premature aging.

You might want to choose a serum if there is a specific skin condition you are looking to tackle or a skin complaint that hasn’t quite been addressed by your daily skin care routine. They are more likely to be utilized as you move out of your 20s and into your 30s, where dreaded fine lines and micro signs of aging start to rear their ugly heads.

So, what sort of serum should be used in your youth?

We think that the next step should be choosing between hyaluronic acid and retinol. If you’re attending to your skin properly, however, it should already be well hydrated. Therefore this lessens the importance of adding hyaluronic acid to your daily routine as its main benefit is its amazing hydrating properties.

Retinol, on the other hand, which is derived from Vitamin A, has a number of properties that those leaving their 20s and entering 30s and beyond will want to consider.

Retinol not only firms the skin, smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles, but it also supports both collagen and elastin production, which are essential for maintaining a strong and full skin structure.

Alongside regulating outbreaks and oil levels, it also tightens pores, leaving you with a fresh and firm appearance.

Finally, it also helps remove dead skin and increases cell regeneration speed, which is vital in delaying the earliest signs of aging.

While it doesn’t have a name that rolls off the tongue, the Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum is a significant first step for those who want to give their skin the best care possible as they get older.

What makes it so great?

Well, compared to the ocean of other products out there, the scientists behind this formulation have utilized encapsulated retinol, which slows delivery on the skin and minimizes the risk of irritation.

It also contains bakuchiol, which is a similar formulation to retinol but with fewer reports of irritation. As we have said before, skin care at 20 should be gentle and careful to not damage or irritate the skin with too many aggressive products.

The team has developed it with sensitive skin and first-time retinol users in mind. As a bonus, it also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to support the health and growth of the new skin, which the retinol promotes.

When using a product like retinol, it is important to understand that it is removing dead or dying skin, which exposes fresh underlying cells. This is beneficial not only for your appearance but also for wound healing and reduction of scarring and pigmentation.

One unintended side effect, however, is that these new cells are particularly susceptible to UV damage. It is, therefore, vital that UV protection is used in conjunction with retinol. Otherwise, you risk damaging rather than protecting your skin.

The best skin care routine for your late 20s: Think anti-aging?

the best skin care routine for your late 20s-min

So, the big question:

Should you start using anti aging products in your 20s?

The topic of anti-aging is often confused and misunderstood. Firstly there is true anti-aging, which is the reverse of underlying biological processes, like the breakdown of collagen. Then there is cosmetic anti-aging, which includes things like hydrating the skin to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles.

The majority of anti-aging products mainly target cosmetic anti-aging, with more premium and expensive products. They also include ingredients that slow the aging process, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

In your 20s and 30s, it will, of course, seem like there is not much reversal to be doing and, therefore, not much anti-aging to be achieved. As we discussed at the beginning of the article, however, prevention is better than cure.

This is why in all of our recommendations, we include anti-aging products for those in their 20s, which go the extra mile and formulate the solutions carefully to protect the skin from damage and delay the most significant skin aging factors.

There is, however, a completely natural product that has increased in popularity amongst the medical and cosmetic communities.

That product is hydrolyzed collagen.

Otherwise known as collagen hydrolysate, it is typically derived from bovine or marine sources. Over 60 studies have shown that long-term oral collagen intake can reduce and even reverse skin aging, improve joint pain, and prevent bone density loss.[5]

Taking a collagen supplement stimulates not only the regeneration of collagen within the skin but also increases the production of other vital components such as glycosaminoglycans and hyaluronic acid. Together these components give the skin structure, support, and help it retain its hydration and health.

Around 10g a day will give you noticeable benefits in as little as 4 to 6 weeks. As collagen is simply a natural protein, it is a very well-tolerated supplement that is safe to take.


We hope that this guide to skincare in your 20s clears up what can be a confusing subject. If you still have any burning questions get in touch in the comments below!

Don’t forget that forming a consistent, basic skin care regimen in your 20s is vital to maintaining good skin health now and in the future.

Of course, cosmetics and supplements are on one side of the coin. You also need to invest some effort in looking after yourself to really reap the most benefits.

At ZELEN Life, we are always on the lookout for the latest research so we can let you know the most useful and actionable skin care tips available.

Take a look at our holistic skincare article to see what further steps you can include in your daily regime.

To make sure you don’t miss out on skincare news and guides, check out the ZELEN Life newsletter. We send out the latest and greatest tips and how-to’s to our subscribers first, so subscribe to our newsletter today.


  1. Lorusso, Mariagrazia et al. “Prevention is better than cure!.” Annals of translational medicine vol. 7,1 (2019): 25. doi:10.21037/atm.2018.12.18
  2. Han, Anne et al. “Photoaging.” Dermatologic clinics vol. 32,3 (2014): 291-9, vii. doi:10.1016/j.det.2014.03.015
  3. Fourtanier, Anny et al. “Sunscreens containing the broad-spectrum UVA absorber, Mexoryl SX, prevent the cutaneous detrimental effects of UV exposure: a review of clinical study results.” Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine vol. 24,4 (2008): 164-74. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0781.2008.00365.
  4. Schikowski, Tamara, and Anke Hüls. “Air Pollution and Skin Aging.” Current environmental health reports vol. 7,1 (2020): 58-64. doi:10.1007/s40572-020-00262-9
  5. Figueres Juher, Teresa, and Esther Basés Pérez. “REVISIÓN DE LOS EFECTOS BENEFICIOSOS DE LA INGESTA DE COLÁGENO HIDROLIZADO SOBRE LA SALUD OSTEOARTICULAR Y EL ENVEJECIMIENTO DÉRMICO” [An overview of the beneficial effects of hydrolysed collagen intake on joint and bone health and on skin ageing]. Nutricion hospitalaria vol. 32 Suppl 1 62-6. 18 Jul. 2015, doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.sup1.9482

About The Author


Board-Certified Doctor and Educator

Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery MBBS (Cardiff University)

London, United Kingdom

Dr. McKeown is a UK based NHS clinician with over 10 years experience in both hospital medicine and surgery. After an initial career in maxillofacial surgery his focus now lies in elderly care and rehabilitation medicine. A board member for Wadham College of Science, Dr. McKeown is passionate about widening access to both education and healthcare around the world and as a result, outside of his clinical work he spends much of his time either teaching or providing medical consultancy to healthcare startups. Commercially, his interests lie in helping research and promote novel, evidence-based medicines originating from natural sources and processes.

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