Updated 15 January, 2019


Published by Byrdie by Amanda Montell

Any dermatologist will tell you it's never too late to start caring for your skin—yet the earlier you develop a regimen, the better." Generally prevention is more effective than correction," comments Miami-based cosmetic dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Loretta skincare Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD. That means incorporating certain habits and ingredients into your morning and nighttime routines in your 20s and 30s so that by the time you reach your 40s, you're likelier to have tighter, brighter, healthier skin.

According to Ciraldo, it's important to use brightening and anti-wrinkle products even before any deep-set lines or sunspots show up because microscopic changes like excess pigment and loss of collagen start in our 20s and progress so slowly that you don't usually see them until your 30s and 40s. By then, they're much harder to treat.

Use brightening and anti-wrinkle products even before any deep-set lines or sunspots show up.

At the same time, there is so much skincare advice in the world that distilling the most important habits to take on before 40 can be tricky. Not to mention the hard-core anti-aging services you might find at a dermatologist's office or skin health spa can be time-consuming, pricey, and (unless you're majorly skincare-obsessed) not that fun. When developing a skincare routine in your 20s and 30s, dermatologists agree that you have to adjust to what feels doable and fun to you personally—otherwise, you won't stick with it, and it won't work.

"Adopt skincare habits that are enjoyable to you," advises Craig Kraffert, board-certified dermatologist and president of Amarte Skin Care. "If your skincare routine is not enjoyable, continuity is difficult. Choose products of high quality. And select your active ingredients carefully."

What are the most important skincare products, ingredients, and habits to adopt before 40? We spoke with four top dermatologists to find out. Keep scrolling to read nine things dermatologists want you to do before you enter your fifth decade.

Number 2:

Exfoliate two or three times a week.

As if the existential stress of getting older weren't enough: "Maturing skin thickens, becomes dull, drab, and lifeless, and pores become accentuated," says Kunin. Why does this happen? As Ciraldo explains, our dead skin cells don't shed as fast the older we are. That makes the skin start to look dull and the texture rough. Plus, excess pigment is stored in dead cells, so your skin tone can look discolored or uneven.

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Adopt skincare habits that are enjoyable to you.

— Dr. Craig Kraffert