Today's Bridal Beauty topic du jour is skincare in your late 20s. I kinda hate even writing the words “late twenties,” but you know what I hate even more? The fact that I hate it! So before diving into this topic, let’s just get real for a sec. (Alternately, feel free to skip ahead to my AM and PM routine details.)
A longer-than-intended digression about aging and obsession
I’m not waving any jazz hands over here about the prospect of admitting this, but here it goes anyway: I’ve dealt with a lot of angst about transitioning from my current stage of life into the next one. I am 28—young, but not young enough to avoid questions along the lines of, “Are you EVER going to have children?” (Alternately: Young, but no longer young enough to relate to Taylor Swift’s “22” like, ever again.)
My paranoia about things like laugh lines and the dreaded “elevens” started around the time of my 25th birthday. We hear constantly about our “culture of youth” and read op-eds in the New York Times about how much pressure it puts on women, but it never felt real to me until I actually arrived at my mid-twenties—and then my late twenties—and began to wrestle with these uninvited thoughts about losing the advantage of youth and ingenue. Is part of that wrestling due to my own tendency toward obsession and perfection? Well, yeah. But I have started to notice the lack of fine lines on the faces selling things to me in print and on TV. And I have noticed a huge uptick in talk (and Instagram posts) about things like “preventative” Botox and fillers. And it really is bizarre how quickly the, “Wow, you’re so young to have accomplished so much!” exclamations seem to turn into questions about the viability of one’s ovaries and the wisdom of not having any set-in-stone, long-term plans for the future.
Anyway, I digress. The point of all of this is to say, I don't want this blog post to come across as a “we must prevent aging at all costs” kind of thing. If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling enough of that pressure already! It’s intended to be more of a “here's where I'm at, and here’s how I’m attempting to proceed down this road called life—in which each and every day is a gift—in the most graceful way possible.” I happen to genuinely enjoy skincare. I like the rhythm and routine of it, the discovery of ingredients, and the dreaming about what those ingredients might do. So let’s talk about all of the above and just have FUN with it!
Skincare in your late 20s and early 30s
This is an interesting topic because there are so many factors at play when you're in your late 20s. You aren't in your teens anymore, but acne is still a concern. You're not in your 40s yet, but wrinkle-fighting is definitely creeping onto your radar. And let's not forget about melasma and discoloration—AKA, the enemy of every 20-something who loves the sun (or is pregnant, or on birth control). Acne, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation are mostly definitely the Mean Girls of your late 20s and early 30s.
I’m 28 years old and this is my daily skincare routine
If you've read my post about Vitamin C and melasma, then you know that Klair’s Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop is a hero product for me. This serum in combination with my DIY sake and brown sugar scrub has done a lot in terms of brightening and tightening my skin. However, woman does not live by Vitamin C serum alone—especially if she's a woman who is admittedly obsessed with skincare and an avid sampler of every new product that hits the market.
Before diving in, know that while some of these products are affiliate links, NONE of these products were “sponsored” and all of them were paid for by me with my own money. Only honest feedback here, folks. Let’s do it.
In the morning I like to keep things simple. I start with the Klair’s Supple Preparation Facial toner which is part of their moisturizing skincare program. This toner balances my skin’s pH level, removes grime that may have accumulated overnight, and overall is just a nice way to refresh my skin in the morning without stripping it or leaving it feeling too tight.
I do occasionally use a Vitamin C serum in the morning, although I’ve read mixed opinions on this. Some experts—including aesthetician Jordan Harper, who I follow on Instagram—say that Vitamin C boosts the efficacy of sunscreen. However, other sources claim that Vit C can make you more photosensitive. Bottom line: Always wear your sunscreen no matter what!
Speaking of which, if I’m using Vitamin C in the morning, I'm extra careful about getting really good coverage when applying sunscreen. I am still using and loving Missha's All-Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk which has an SPF of 50+. It's truly moisturizing, absorbs instantly, does not leave me feeling greasy, and—most importantly—does not break me out. On a recent trip to Dallas I was also introduced to the Suntegrity brand while shopping at Credo Beauty. Perhaps sensing that I was a 20-something in desperate need of a break in the form of multiple free samples, the saleswoman handed me several shades of Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen to try. I ended up landing somewhere in between the light and golden light shades, which I have been combining to get the perfect coverage for my skin. In addition to zinc oxide, the ingredients include aloe vera, cucumber extract, green tea extract, and hyaluronic acid—all killer stuff that really helps not only to mask current skin issues but prevent future ones. I plan to buy a full-size version as soon as my samples run out!
Missha Sun Milk (bottom) vs. Tinted Suntegrity 5-in-1 shown in Light
When it comes to makeup, I’m pretty simple—way more simple than when I was in high school and wore high heels almost every day, but that’s another story. To complete my morning routine, I use RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up in shade 11. Despite the price tag, I absolutely love this product. I have tried other brands, including Gwyneth Paltrow -endorsed W3LL People, but nothing beats it. Although it’s organic and bio and all that, I found that the W3LL People Bio Concealer dried out my skin and left me feeling flaky (and occasionally broken out). By contrast, the RMS concealer has never broken me. It's made from organic oils, including coconut oil, which has antibacterial properties that help prevent acne and clear up existing blemishes.
If you do order some, be advised that it comes in a very small container and probably won't last you longer than three months. This is especially true if you are looking for heavier coverage and doing a lot of building with the product.
Size of RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up container
Due to the consistency and the texture of RMS Un Cover-Up, it also takes some getting used to when you're applying it—expect it to sink into, rather than sit on top of, your skin. That’s what gives it such a natural look! For lips and cheeks, I alternate between the two RMS Lip2Cheek shades that came in my Signature Set “Pop” Palette and just purchased (and am loving) a full size of the Paradise Lip2Cheek. The palette also includes the RMS Luminizer in Magic (which has a serious cult following) plus the amazing Buriti Bronzer, which I use as an eye polish/cream shadow. After a few swipes of drug store bronzer and mascara, I’m good to go.
Here are a couple of 100% unedited before and afters, from sunscreen only to my easy, natural, everyday makeup look.
Left: Sunscreen only | Right: Minimal, natural makeup routine featuring RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up and Pop Palette
Now that we've talked about what kind of makeup I wear, let's talk about how I take it all off.
TBH this is where my routine gets, as my mom says, a little intimidating. In general I follow the Korean 10-step program/philosophy. With that said, my routine does change from day-to-day and I frequently alternate products depending on where my skin is at and how I'm feeling...because again, #latetwenties.
First things first: I always start with an oil cleanser. I've used several to date, but the one I'm using right now just might be my favorite. I was previously a big fan of Clinique’s Take the Day Off cleansing balm, but I like the Klair’s Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil I’m currently using even better. At first the thinness of the solution threw me off a little because I was used to solid cleansing balms. Now that I've gotten used to it, though, I really like this one! I put one to two pumps into my palms, rub them together, then massage my face. The coolest thing about this cleansing oil is that on contact with water, it transforms into a creamy milky substance. My skin always feels soft and supple after using it!
Depending on how dirty my face is feeling or how much makeup I was wearing that day, I will either put a little of my Klair’s Supple Preparation Facial Toner on a cotton pad and use it to wipe off any remaining makeup, or if I need a little something extra, I'll do a complete double cleanse with a water-based cleanser. Right now I am really interested in the non-toxic brand Osea. I have been following Osea for a while on Instagram and pinning some of their stuff on Pinterest, but until recently I hadn’t tried any of their products. That changed while I was in Dallas (refer back to my aforementioned sample binge) when I snagged a sample size of their Ocean Cleanser! This vegan cleanser is made from seaweed and also has a subtle hint of lime—overall just a really nice and refreshing scent to fill your nostrils with around bedtime.
If I'm going to be doing a deep exfoliation, which I try to incorporate into my routine once or twice per week, this is when I'll introduce that step. I typically use my DIY sake and sugar scrub, however, thanks to yet another amazing sample snagged at Credo Beauty, I’m now coveting Osea’s Vitamin C Probiotic Polish. Until I can afford the $108 price tag that dangles from the full-size product, I’ll be using every last granule of my mini sample and giving this baby a prime spot on my Pinterest board. Reading the product reviews on this polish made me drool, but actually using the finely ground organic bamboo and rice particles to slough away discoloration is seriously tempting me to throw caution to the wind, sell a kidney, and just go all in on this stuff.
DIY Sake + Brown Sugar Scrub | Recipe here
SERUMS AND ESSENCES
Following exfoliation, I typically start to apply my next few products in order from thinnest to thickest. I'm not sure if that's the technical way to do it, but it feels right for my face. First up: Vitamin C serum.
Next up is a light application to the face and neck of COSRX’s Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (what a mouthful—and yes, I said snail). I'm sold on this ingredient not just because it's trendy, but because I’ve found that it really does live up to the hype. Snail secretion filtrate is big in K-Beauty and is known to moisturize and repair skin damage caused by acne. It combats discoloration and helps keep breakouts at bay. Win win! I especially like this ingredient in essence form rather than as a moisturizer, which tends to feel really sticky.
EYE CREAM AND MOISTURIZER
Once my essence has had a chance to set in I move on to my eye cream and facial moisturizer. Eye cream was an addition to my routine as of my 28th birthday—happy birthday, self. I read really good reviews about Erborian’s Ginseng Infusion Total Eye Cream on Soko Glam, and while I haven’t seen anything super transformative happen yet, it does seem to absorb quickly and do just what it should for my sensitive under-eye area. Klair’s Rich Moist Soothing Cream is my current go-to facial moisturizer. It’s very hydrating and free of dyes and fragrances, which is great for my sensitive skin. Although it’s pretty thick, it absorbs quickly and does not cause breakouts or clogged pores. Speaking of acne and clogged pores, those are actually two of the reasons why I put off using any type of moisturizer until later in my twenties. With that said, if you’re still struggling with acne in this in-between stage of life, you might want to check out Goldfaden MD Detox Hydrating Gel for problematic and congested skin. I tried a sample of it and loved the consistency!
Last but not least, the occasionals: AKA, this clay mask, this Vitamin E mask/sleeping pack/moisturizer, any sheet mask I can get my hands on, and this collagen creamer. Honestly, I’m not sure the first two are worth your money. The clay mask is just so-so—I’ll use it until it’s gone, but I won’t reorder it. A mask I WILL order in the near future is the Acti-Firm Mushroom Mask. I searched high and low for it after being introduced to it by an aesthetician years ago, and finally relocated it! I remember it as being semi-miraculous at clearing breakouts and revealing healthy, nourished skin. I’ll let you know if that memory holds true upon reorder. At the time of writing this post I had just ordered the Vitamin E product, and I had pretty high hopes for it. Because of its strange texture (it looks and feels like flan), I don't find myself reaching for this product as often as I thought I would based on its claims and ingredients. As a daily moisturizer, it's just too thick for my skin—it tends to clog my pores if I don't wash it off in the morning, so I've been using it more to spot treat my melasma/applying it on top of my regular moisturizer if I’ve spent a lot of time in the sun.
I absolutely love this collagen coffee creamer from Vital Proteins. I just wish it wasn't so expensive! A single purchase won’t break you—once you get addicted, though, the monthly replenishment costs start to add up. I pace myself by using a half serving of this collagen creamer and it still only lasts me one month maximum. That's not a whole lot of bang for my buck compared to a traditional protein powder. Also, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that ingesting this collagen has definitely led to plumper, more glowy skin. I can say with confidence that my nails started to grow more quickly when drinking this collagen, but the verdict is out on whether or not it has had any sort of impact on my skin. With that said, on the off-chance that it really is doing something—and considering the fact that I really, really like the coconut flavor—I’ll continue to buy this product as my budget (and conscience) allows.
Holy. Guac. A. Mole (y). This has got to be the longest post of all time, so if you’re still around, thanks! And since you’re here, you might as well go ahead and drop a comment with YOUR favorite skincare tips, tricks, and products for women in their 20s and 30s. I’m always looking for new products to obsess over!