Reddit, a social media platform with moderated topic-specific discussions, has become an important space for beauty dialogue. The r/30plusSkinCare community was developed as a breakoff from the popular subreddit r/SkinCareAddiction, where most of the conversations seemed to target people in their teens and 20s. Users huddle in this small pocket of skin-care Reddit for support because, let’s be honest, nothing is more frustrating than receiving tone-deaf advice. Daily posts crowdsource tips about the best ways to revive a dull complexion or address the beginning signs of gravity’s unfriendly tug on neck skin and eyelids. Both concerns are often because of a progressive slow down in collagen production and cell turnover that starts as early as in your late 20s. The community also provides a space to share skin-care victories after, for instance, successfully building a routine to treat stubborn brown spots from sun damage — another concern that crops up with age.
The advice shared in both of these groups highlights a rift people of a certain age are forced to navigate in an age-obsessed beauty industry. Marketing campaigns pressure consumers — mainly women — to erase any sign of their age, while beauty counterculture shames those who don’t want to embrace their wrinkles.
After 30, many are balancing preventive measures, like remembering to wear sunscreen, while managing any new or existing conditions such as dryness or redness. While dabbing toothpaste on angry blemishes seemed to work at 16, many experience the startling realization that they need a real skin-care routine or risk feeling like the parent of a screaming child in the grocery store (it often feels like everyone is staring while your skin throws a tantrum). Now, cleansing the skin before bed, learning what the heck a chemical exfoliant is and moisturizing are necessary. Building a routine can be frustrating and utterly confusing, but the r/30PlusSkinCare community is here to help.
As The Washington Post’s resident beauty expert, I asked Reddit’s over-30 skin-care crowd to share their best tips, favorite products and regular routines. I shared this advice with celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden, who helped me fact-check the wisdom of r/30plusSkinCare.
Reddit tip: Fundamentally, a skin-care routine needs SPF, a retinoid and an antioxidant serum (vitamin C).
Redditors pointed to retinol, vitamin C and SPF moisturizer as the holy trinity of a mature skin-care routine. When it comes to building a routine on fundamentals, Darden agreed that a moisturizer with sunscreen (more on that later), a vitamin C serum and retinol are essential. The Los Angeles-based specialist said these three products help the skin address common concerns such as fine lines and dark spots, which can start to appear for people in their 20s.
Before you slather on that daily sunscreen, Darden advises her clients to first apply a vitamin C serum as a preventive step. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals that threaten to damage cells and promote premature aging. Other benefits of vitamin C include promoting collagen production and correcting skin discoloration.
“What it does is it helps protect you from free radical damage,” she said. “So that’s basically what’s breaking down collagen in your skin. You want to use that before your sunscreen during the day.”
Darden also agrees with Redditors that Retin-A, a retinoid or prescription-strength form of vitamin A, is the most effective topical treatment for fine lines, wrinkles and acne. But she also said Retin-A doesn’t work for everyone. Darden is pro-vitamin A because it can treat a host of skin-care challenges, but there are levels to this. Retin-A is often too strong for most people’s skin and the common side effects — redness, flaking and dryness — aren’t always worth the trouble. “With Retin-A or Tretinoin, [a] majority of people will deal with flaking, redness, dryness, irritation. So if you’re one of those people that’s going through that, I always feel like what is the point?” Darden said.
The challenge: These products aren’t always affordable or easy to find in a drugstore. The cost of vitamin C serums can vary by brand and concentration, and even Darden’s skin-care line includes two vitamin A serums costing$95 each.
Reddit tip: An SPF moisturizer is an underrated preventive product. Wear it often.
Once you’ve joined the after-30 crowd, people may begin to notice the appearance of brown or pigmented spots on their skin. This might be a result of sun damage from your early days, according to Darden. Sunscreen is a critical, valuable part of any skin-care routine, because it can prevent skin cancer and other visible signs of sun exposure. Limiting time in the sun as well as wearing a moisturizer with SPF can “make a world of a difference,” she said.
Darden wears about a half teaspoon on her face, neck and chest if needed and reapplies her SPF if she goes outside during the day, she said. Reapplying a broad spectrum sunscreen every two hours is standard for adequate protection from UVA/UVB rays, but according to Darden, it’s okay to apply it less often if you work in an office for most of the day. Makeup wearers should use a setting spray with SPF throughout the day to easily reapply.
Finding the right SPF is a long-held beauty struggle because it can feel thick and uncomfortable on the skin, and accidentally getting it in your eyes may cause stinging and burning. Depending on your skin tone, this isn’t the only challenge. Women with darker skin, for example, have said they’ve avoided sunscreen even with the health risks because of the embarrassing white cast it leaves on their skin. Shoppers with darker skin tones should avoid mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which can leave behind a gray or ashen film. Innovations, albeit slow advancements, in skin care have provided a few more options. Chemical sunscreens with active ingredients avobenzone, octisalate, octinoxate or octocrylene protect the skin without the usual ashy tint.
Reddit tip: Sugar kills the collagen in your skin. Cut it out as much as possible.
For some, sugar is considered a negligent force that contributes to acne or skin inflammation and that is well-documented in beauty and wellness coverage. But ditching sugar altogether and committing to a rigid wellness lifestyle can be challenging, especially because cutting out sweets, soda or desserts might not be enough. Often sugar hides in unexpected foods.
Darden advises her clients to limit dairy, sugar or gluten consumption if their symptoms are consistent. However, this isn’t always a solution or exact science. “Some people can eat all the chocolate in the world and not break out,” the beauty expert said. “And some people can’t eat chocolate or they break out immediately. For those who suspect sugar as the culprit of their skin concerns, Darden recommends a test of trial and error. Science tells us sugar can react with the protein in the body during what’s called glycation. This produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can harm the collagen in skin and accelerate skin aging, according to research.
Reddit tip: Exfoliating is key to helping slough off dead skin. But chemical exfoliants are superior.
Many beauty experts confirmed the horror stories, saying the exfoliating particles in walnut scrubs can cause “microtears” that invite in infectious bacteria and irritation. This ongoing facial-scrub debate online, fueled by social media outcry against Jenner and a lawsuit filed against company St. Ives in 2016, has helped shift public opinion about mechanical exfoliants. On Reddit, where beauty discussions range from basic routine advice to comparing notes on ingredient research, chemical exfoliants are touted as the more sophisticated way to slough off dead skin.
Chemical exfoliants work to shed dead skin by ungluing the bonds between skin cells to promote cell turnover. “I like a chemical exfoliant because it can be very effective without causing any harm to the skin or redness,” Darden said. The skin becomes “more prone to redness” with age, she said, and mechanical exfoliants can further aggravate existing concerns. But should you really toss out that facial scrub? If walnut shells sound scary, there are a variety of products that have exfoliating ingredients such as jojoba beads, rice powder and oat flour that are considered less abrasive. Mechanical exfoliants such as St. Ives apricot scrub aren’t the only exfoliating products that can cause a negative skin reaction. A highly concentrated chemical exfoliant or being too aggressive with a wash cloth can be irritating for some skin types. Regardless of preference, be mindful of exfoliating too often or rubbing a mechanical exfoliant in too vigorously as it can cause irritation or redness.
Reddit tip: Treatments like LED light therapy and microcurrents help provide a necessary edge in treating concerns.
Zapping zits with LED light or shocking your wrinkles into submission with an electric current were once confined to fancy skin-care studios with an even fancier price tag. Many of these gadgets are now considered safe for daily at-home use and available for purchase on Amazon for as much as $1,000 or as low as $50. Savvy Redditors use the groups such as r/30PlusSkinCare to trade tips and price-check the best gadgets.
Darden uses an LED light mask, listed on her website for $1,900 a pop. These gadgets can be costly, but compared with regular facial treatments at a medical spa or skin-care studio, shoppers might save money in the long run. LED light treatments not only kill acne-causing bacteria, but stimulate collagen production depending on the color of the light.
Darden, whose hands have massaged the faces of Jessica Alba, Kelly Rowland and “Pretty Little Liars” actress Shay Mitchell, is a bit of a microcurrent evangelist. The treatment applies a low-level electric current to the skin to train facial muscles to remain firm. It isn’t as painful as it sounds, but you might feel a tingling sensation. “What it does is it works out those muscles to help prevent you from sagging and it keeps your skin firm,” Darden said. “This is going to give you an instant lift to your skin. It also helps boost collagen.” LED light therapy and microcurrents are add-on treatments for more immediate results, according to Darden, but they are not substitutes for a daily skin-care routine.
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