Change How You Age: Anti-Aging Top 10 For Your 20’s

A person’s twenties are a wonderful time when all is possible, there are no limits, and the future is bright. You are never going to age, or resemble those unfortunate older people, who for some inexplicable reason...

Change How You Age: Anti-Aging Top 10 For Your 20’s

What To Do Now To Look Great Now And Slow Down Aging Later


A person’s twenties are a wonderful time when all is possible, there are no limits, and the future is bright. You are never going to age, or resemble those unfortunate older people, who for some inexplicable reason, just don’t get it. I remember that time very well, and miss it sometimes, not to mention miss that 26 year old body and energy level.

It is a truism of life that decisions made in your 20’s can change the direction of the rest of your life. School choices—higher education or not, choice of majors, finishing vs. dropping out—affect earning potential for the rest of your life. Choice of a mate can affect lifelong happiness. Having children early, later or not at all—shapes the rest of your life in ways you can only understand after the fact. Health choices made in your 20’s and 30’s can reduce or worsen health issues later on—drugs, alcohol, smoking, diet and exercise. It is a time in your life that the world is open with possibilities—sometimes overwhelmingly so, but always with choice. It is often not until later in life that one realizes that having a choice is really a wonderful gift. A gift that is best used wisely.

People age at different rates, sometimes shockingly so. My patients who are in their twenties ask me how they can change the course of aging. They see family members, parents of their friends and various celebrities who are all of a similar chronologic age, but have very different phenotypic or appearance age. Certainly, many celebrities and some everyday people have a fair amount of help in terms of plastic surgery, personal trainers and the money to buy help to repair the evidence of their past mistakes. Some do go overboard and have too much or bad plastic surgery, but others seem to age gracefully and well. Some aging is out of your control, and we all get old in the end, but you can influence the rate and extent of aging appearance. And most importantly, you can exert the most influence if you start early.

Starting in your twenties, there are some fairly simple things that make a big difference in how you look now, but even more so how you look later in life. Why not do them now?


Top 10 Things to Do in Your 20’s to Look Younger Later


  1. Use Sun Protection Every Day
  2. Don’t Tan
  3. Don’t Smoke
  4. Don’t Abuse Drugs or Alcohol
  5. Use a Retinoid Every Day
  6. Control Acne So You Don’t Scar
  7. Don’t Pick at Stuff
  8. Start Using Active Skin Care
  9. Pick Good Parents
  10. Start Non-Surgical Treatments like Botox and Fillers When Needed


Use Sun Protection Every Day And Don’t Intentionally Tan

Don’t Ruin Your Skin with Sun Exposure or the Tanning Bed. If you only do one thing—do this.  Everyday sun exposure destroys collagen and elastin causing saggy wrinkled skin, spots, dilated blood vessels, fine lines and cross-hatched wrinkles. Ultraviolet rays produce damaging free radicals that promote aging and skin cancer. Tanning beds do the same, only quicker and more efficiently.

Every single day, year round, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30. Make sure protects against aging UVA rays too by including either: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl. I know you get tired of hearing this. I know it is more fun to tan and not worry about it. I know you think you look better with a tan. Just use one of the facial self-tanners and at least use sunscreen on your face, neck and chest. I promise you will thank me for it later.

Vice is Not Nice To Your Skin

Smoking cigarettes reduces blood flow in the skin, exposes you to direct toxin exposure on the skin and in the blood. And, if that’s not bad enough, the facial expressions repeated over and over etch lines in the skin. Don’t do it.

Recreational drugs and alcohol are toxins. Toxins damage cellular structures and DNA. Your body can repair some of it, but at a certain point the cellular damage is permanent. It makes people look like they are being poisoned. Because they are. You have seen this in people you know, in people who are public figures, and maybe even in yourself. If you want to preserve your looks--moderation is a virtue.

Whatever you do--don’t do sun, recreational drugs, alcohol and smoking together, or at least not very often. The effects of chronic sun exposure in people with exposure to another toxin such as cigarette smoke, recreational drugs or alcohol are much more damaging than either one alone. The results aren’t pretty.

Retinoids Are Worth It

Start using a retinoid daily in your twenties. Prescription topical retinoids such as Refissa, Renova, Tazorac or Differin or over the counter Retinol help reduce discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles and enhance cell function in deeper layers. They also reverse some past sun damage. Retinoids are both preventative and therapeutic. Yes, you may have some redness and peeling at first. Read our blog post How to Use Retin-A Without Your Face Peeling Off for some tips on how to use them successfully and avoid or reduce irritation from retinoids.

Acne is a Bummer

Adult acne is extremely frustrating. Unfortunately, it is also extremely common. One problem with acne is that it can cause scarring simply from the severity of the tissue damage that occurs with those painful, under-the-skin nodules and cysts that are common in adult acne. The other problem is that people (and by people, 99.98% of the time I mean women) pick at acne. And pick, and pick, and pick. And that leaves permanent scarring.

Scars Are Forever

Scarring from picking or from the acne itself looks worse the older you get, as the skin loses elasticity and the scars become more sunken in, and more obvious. See our recent blog series on acne—what causes it, and how to get rid of it—starting with Acne: Why You Get It and What You Can Do to Get Rid of It

For the same reason, don’t pick at other stuff either.

Start an Active Skin Care Program

Combined with daily sunscreen and a daily retinoid, get into the habit of using an active skin care line, and start early. The active ingredients in skin care products can be divided into: preventative, therapeutic, and specialty. Preventative ingredients are those, like topical antioxidants, that are best used long term to prevent skin aging. That is why it is important that you start early, and why later on people don’t see the dramatic improvement they might like if they are trying to repair significant aging changes by using topical antioxidants alone. Therapeutic ingredients, like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C and some peptides are those that can repair existing damage. Many therapeutic ingredients can also help slow down aging changes going forward. Specialty ingredients are those like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and tea tree oil for acne; or arbutin, soy, licorice and bearberry for hyperpigmentation.

Pick a skin care program that has both preventative and therapeutic components and a specialty component if you need it. You don’t have to break the bank and buy the most expensive line, but understand that some of the bargain brands use active ingredients in very low concentrations for marketing value or in forms that are not effective. Your skin care program doesn’t have to be 42 steps just:

  • Sunscreen
  • A retinoid—is both anti-aging and treats acne if needed
  • A Hydroxy Acid-- Salicylic acid if you have acne. For anti-aging use an alpha-hydroxy (glycolic acid) or multi-fruit acid. If you have acne and want anti-aging help too then use both a salicylic acid and an alpha-hydroxy (glycolic acid) or multi-fruit acid unless your skin it too dry or sensitive to tolerate it.
  • Pick a couple of antioxidants from the following list. Antioxidants contained in many fruits and plants, vitamins, or produced in the lab bind to skin damaging free radicals released by environmental exposure to UV light, pollution, cigarette smoke and various toxins, rendering them harmless. Often they are combined with one of the other skin care ingredient types, or multiple are together in one product.
    • Vitamin Antioxidants—Effective vitamin antioxidants include alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E), L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), retinol (Vitamin A) and niacinamide (Vitamin B3). Vitamin C should be used in an active form such as Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate as some forms are not active when applied to the skin.
    • Natural Botanical Antioxidants—There are numerous plant-sourced antioxidants in use today, with more on the way. Some of the most effective are: Aloe Vera, Arnica, Basil, Beta-Carotene, Bilberry, Bromelain, Chamomile, Cocoa Seed, CoffeeBerry, Curcumin (Curry), Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Grape Seed, Green Tea, Lavender, Licorice, Lutein, Lycopene, Milk Thistle, Olive Oil, Peppermint, Pomegranates, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Rosemary, Soy, Swiss Green Apple Stem Cell Extract, Tea Tree Oil and Thyme.
    • Antioxidants Made in the Laboratory—Laboratory synthesized antioxidants include Lipoic Acid and Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10).

Pick Good Parents

Some aging is genetic. Facial muscle structure and characteristic facial expressions tend to run in families. That is why if your mom has deep “elevens” lines between the eyebrows, and you have her frown, you are going to have them too. Unless you start with Botox early before the lines are etched. Some families tend to develop under eye bags and “tear trough” depressions under the eyes. Some people inherit skin that loses elasticity earlier than average. There are strategies to reduce the influence of these genetic tendencies and to treat them early with non-invasive treatments.

Which Brings Us to Things Like Botox, Filler and Non-Invasive Treatments

There are multiple non-surgical treatments that can be appropriate to start in your 20’s if they are needed or would be helpful. Botox relaxes muscles and prevents muscle related frown lines, forehead lines and crow’s feet lines from forming. Fillers can repair specific lines around the mouth or smile lines that may start forming in your late 20’s and early 30’s. If Botox or filler treatments are indicated, they may actually prevent worse lines from forming later on. Light chemical peels treat acne and pigmentation, helping to prevent areas that may scar. IPL treatments treat the early signs of sun damage—and yes, you will start seeing it in your late 20’s.

The Wonderful Time When All is Possible

Enjoy being young, but don’t be afraid of aging. Be proactive, make the right choices and you can look great at all ages. Youth, health and the ability to change the course of skin aging are gifts. Just like the other choices in your twenties regarding education, your love life, kids and lifestyle, do your best to choose wisely. If you make the wrong choice, stop, re-evaluate, learn from your mistakes, change course, and move ahead. It is all part of the total life experience.

Anti-Aging Top 10 Tips for Your 20's


Author: Dr. Elaine Cook M.D.