The Decade: Teens
The Situation: You're going through puberty, which means an oily complexion that makes your face a blemish heaven.
The Main Issues: "Acne is number one," says Dr. Amy Wechsler, a New York City-based dermatologist and psychiatrist. "Pimples, clogged pores, and blemishes are huge, and so are oiliness and combination skin." She says that these can be a result of hormones, genetics, and stress (so try not to let those exams and deadlines get to you!).
The Wild Card Problem: It's common among teens, but it isn't really discussed: "All teenagers get stretch marks somewhere during puberty because of rapid growth," Dr. Wechsler says. "They're normal and they usually fade on their own." You might find these around your arms, legs, and mid-section, but not the face.
"The routine is easy: cleanse, moisturize, and apply sunscreen."
Your Go-To Products: "There are only two over-the-counter approved acne ingredients: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide," Dr. Wechsler says. Find products such as face wash and cleansing pads that will help reduce blemishes.
Your Routine: A three-step routine is the key to keeping your skin healthy. "The routine is easy: cleanse, moisturize, and apply sunscreen," Dr. Wechsler says. "You can mix in a toner and you can put on some kind of acne treatment before moisturizing."
When to See the Derm: "Ask a parent if you could see the dermatologist if your skin-care regimen isn't working after six weeks of trying products," Dr. Wechsler says. "There are so many good treatments out there, and most of them are prescription." She also recommends going to the doc if you notice that stress marks are itchy, bright red, or purple.
The Decade: 20s
The Situation: OK, so your acne may (or may not!) be gone by now, but you're dealing with some other issues that come with, ahem, a certain legal age. Puffy under-eye circles appear from time to time, and more #responsibility could irritate your face.
The Main Issues: "Many people in their 20s still have acne breakouts, but rosacea might crop up for the first time," says Dr. Valerie Goldburt, a dermatologist for Advanced Dermatology PC in New York City. Redness and irritation could come out in full force because of—you guessed it—diet, stress, hormonal shifts, and perhaps all of those late nights out with your pals.
"I suggest getting a skin exam, particularly if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer."
The Wild Card Problem: "You might run into a type of eczema called seborrhea," Dr. Goldburt says. Symptoms include red, flaky skin on your scalp, back, and face.
Your Go-To Products: SPF, SPF, oh and SPF. "Sun protection is a big issue, so you should wear sunscreen and hats," Dr. Goldburt says. "Especially if you're outside for more than 10 to 20 minutes." You can get ahead on preventive care as well with a gentle vitamin C and antioxidant-rich serum.
Your Routine: "Wash your face with water, dry with a towel, and use a light moisturizer daily," Dr. Golburt says. "If you have oily or acne-prone skin, use a very light soap—and for everyone, remove makeup with oil, such as argan oil."
When to See the Derm: If your complexion looks as if it's always irritated, make an appointment. Also be sure to practice preventive care: "I suggest getting a skin exam, particularly if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer," Dr. Goldburt adds.
The Decade: 30s
The Overall Vibe: You're all about preventive care at this point, because you are trying to avoid fine lines, discoloration, and any signs of aging.
The Main Issues: There's only one, really. "Aging doesn't just hit us all at once," says Erica Parker, celebrity aesthetician and director of education for Michael Todd Beauty. "It creeps up on us with a fine line around the mouth or maybe with a deeper furrow between the brows." Another big complexion culprit? Dryness.
"Aging fuels a desperate attempt to 'catch up,' and that can often result in throwing a whole new regimen on our skin—that is not the way to go about things."
The Wild Card Problem: Your skin has withstood years of damage, but a larger challenge could be how to care for your complexion while practicing good preventive care. "Aging fuels a desperate attempt to 'catch up,' and that can often result in throwing a whole new regimen on our skin—that is not the way to go about things," Parker says. So slow down, and gently incorporate new things into your current lineup.
Your Go-To Products: Along with your lifelong savior, sunscreen, there are other goods to seek out. "Exfoliating peels or masks that have enzymes and a low concentration of alpha hydroxy acid are great options," Parker says. "Peptides are also miracle workers in serums or creams. Peptides are chains of amino acids that help rebuild collagen and elastin." She also suggests using a moisturizer with a higher boost of hydration to tend to dryness.
Your Routine: Keep up with the regimen you've built into your day and night routines, but consider some extra steps. "There is no need to do everything at once," Dr. Goldburt says. "Pick one or two of the above product suggestions and implement them into your skin-care routine and let your complexion acclimate. After a while, you can make another change."
When to See the Derm: Continue to visit for your yearly skin exam, especially if you notice some suspicious spots. "One of the most important things you can do for your skin is to get a mole check every year," says Dr. Neena Chima, a dermatologist based in New Jersey. A doctor can examine any new forms and shapes to rule out disease.