30 Beauty Truths Every Woman Should Know Before She Turns 30
Obviously 40 is the new 30 and all that, and we’re sure you’ll be looking and feeling 22 when you hit the big 3-0 (sunscreen awareness for the win!). But that particular numerical milestone will always hold a certain significance when it comes to beauty. Before we’re in our thirties, most of us aspire to polish up our makeup game, figure out which hairstyle is actually our best look, and finally shake off tired insecurities for good. At the same time, turning 30 has a way of suddenly making wrinkles and gray hairs pop up somewhere on your to-worry-about radar. So for all of you approaching this imaginary-yet-important beauty deadline (and even those of us a few years beyond it), we offer 30 gems of hard-earned beauty wisdom that’ll carry you into your prime years, so you can look and feel more gorgeous than ever.
1. Skin care isn’t just about your face.
Repeat this commandment after us: Thy shalt not neglect thy neck. Or the backs of your hands. Or your decolletage. Without daily broad-spectrum sun protection and adequate moisture, these zones can quickly start to look weathered before their time. “When it comes to skin care, your face ends at your nipples,” says makeup artist Fiona Stiles. “Don’t stop at your jawline, and don’t stop at your neck. Keep. On. Going. Down. You’ll be grateful you did when your neck and decolletage age as gracefully as your face.”
2. The most boring hair product is the most important.
Part of becoming a successful grown-up is solidifying healthy daily habits, however minor and boring they may seem to be. For hair, that means applying a heat-protective product any time a blow-dryer or other hot tool gets near it. Doing this has no real instant-gratification effect on your style, thus why everyone is always tempted to skip it. But we guarantee that doing so will hold you back from the gorgeous shampoo-commercial hair of your dreams. Always use protection! And the right blow-dryer (see #28).
3. Don’t fear foundation.
Foundation will become more useful and less optional as you get older. “Foundation is constantly vilified, but I think it’s the best thing ever,” says beauty writer Kate Erickson. “Modern foundations are actually lighter in coverage than some tinted moisturizers. People don’t think I wear makeup, but I am a very proud foundation lover.” Refer to our ultimate foundation guide for tips on finding your match. If you’ve just been dabbling in applying a little here and there using your fingers, try experimenting with one of the many amazing makeup sponges now available (here’s our full breakdown of which makeup sponge is best for you). This will help you masterfully conceal the different kinds of skin issues that arise as time passes—and just generally look more polished. “Using a dampened Beauty Blender is the best trick for foundation that never looks blotchy,” says celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose.
4. Bedtime is when all the beauty happens.
By now you’ve learned that smooshing your face into your pillow with a full face of makeup on can mean paying the price later (in pimples, pink eyes, and other fun ways). But what’s even worse is that you’re missing out on applying targeted skin care before the best loooong, restful stretch of time when it can deeply penetrate, without adverse effects from sun exposure. Bedtime is prime time for deep moisturizing, fighting future lines (see #11), plus treating your lips, cuticles, heels, and other problem areas. So pull on your big-girl pants along with those PJ pants and get the job done. Your skin will thank you over time. “If you’re not diligent about night moisturizer and eye cream by age 30, you’ll have serious catching up to do,” Stiles says.
5. Lack of sleep leads to things even less cute than dark circles.
Speaking of sleep, eventually we all come face-to-face with the fact that we’re not in college anymore, and that these days, regularly pulling all-nighters tends to leave us looking more than just sleepy-eyed. “Studies show that sleep deprivation makes your skin dehydrated and tired-looking,” points out Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu. “Aim for seven to nine hours of beauty sleep per night.”
6. But for nights when the sleep didn’t happen so much…
This is the one trick every busy girl-about-town needs in her morning-after arsenal: After concealing your under-eye circles, add a dab of highlighter to the inner corners of your eyes. There’s no better trick we’ve found for looking instantly awake and alert. In a pinch, light-colored eyeshadow works too. Ooh, and check out a the gorgeous runway twist on this trick that we saw at the Stella McCartney show recently, using pale-silver eyeliner.
7. Think of lush brows as an Instagram filter for your face.
Among a full brow’s many, well-documented magical effects: ample, filled-in arches have a way of making you look younger. We credit their soft texture—which softens your features in turn—and the way they divert attention from fine lines. “I gave my mom an Anastasia brow pencil a few months ago and it’s so youth-enhancing,” observes Glamour beauty assistant Caroline Solomon. And unlike other features, brows can continue to look 20 years old forever—provided you learn how to fill them in believably. Luckily, we have tips for that.
8. Sunscreen really IS the best anti-aging product you can use.
Remember what we said about boring healthy habits? You knew this one was coming. Here’s a new way to think about sunscreen, though: At some point, often in your 30s, the visible effects of past sun exposure really begin to surface—not just fine lines, but discoloration and dark spots that are stubborn to treat and tough to cover up. And if you’re like many of us, you’ll wish SO HARD that you’d been applying even more sunscreen all day every day like it was your job. (And worn that sun hat always.) If you ask any dermatologist to name her number-one anti-aging tip, boring-old sunscreen will be it, guaranteed. So it’s as simple and hard as that: Be diligent about broad-spectrum sunscreen on all your exposed skin every day. Even the most high-tech skin care can’t match its ability to preserve your pretty. “You can prevent so much more than you can treat,” explains dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. “We can erase a certain amount of sun damage, but you’ll never get your undamaged 23-year-old skin back.” She also recommends wearing sunglasses to help prevent crow’s-feet and choosing a lip balm with sunscreen.
9. Gray hairs = no reason to panic.
Gone are the days when a woman got a couple grays and felt like she had to embark upon a forever ritual of dyeing her hair every 12 days. Amazingly effective root coverup products buy you time by letting you temporarily cover individual strands before dyeing your entire head. And once you do dye, they buy you time between color sessions. If you’re already seeing grays, check out our full guide on the best ways to deal with gray hairs for lots more tips. Such as: Choose demi-permanent color, which you can apply often without damaging your hair.
10. Mixing your own makeup colors: Not only allowed but smart.
True story: Despite all the makeup that exists in the world today, sometimes the perfect shade for you just doesn’t exist. But if you mix a couple together, the result can be life-changing. And this doesn’t just apply to the most obvious thing, foundation. “After I dyed my hair red, I quickly learned my brown brow pencil wasn’t going to work anymore. It clashed with my hair,” says senior editor Lindsay Schallon. “So I bought an auburn pencil, and that just looked fake. Then I combined the two and magic happened. It made my brows look multidimensional, more similar to my new hair color.”
11. If anti-aging skin care overwhelms you, focus on this single ingredient.
If you’re not the type who enjoys researching/trying every new skin care trend and product, don’t worry. Preventing lines doesn’t need to be that complicated. Just start by applying something containing the most clinically proven ingredient, retinol, at night (start with a couple times a week or according to the product instructions— you can increase as your skin becomes less sensitive to it). Here’s how to find the right retinol product for your skin type, plus all the details on why pretty much every dermatologist recommends you ideally start using it in your 20s.
12. Talk to people with good hair.
Finding that Pinterest is a winding path laced with visions of your dream hair cut or color—and yet you still haven’t arrived there, despite flashing all those pretty photos at salons? What you’re probably missing is the right stylist, and we think the best way to find your hair-salon soul mate is still the old-fashioned way: offline. We suggest simply stalking someone who has the hair you want. Yes, really. When you spot a random stranger at the mall whose ombré highlights you envy or whose blunt bob is the definition of perfection, don’t be shy. Ask her where she got it done and for all of her tips. Not only might you end up with your dream hair, but you’ll definitely make her day.
13. This eyeliner cheat is for everyone.
Not everyone is destined to master the cat eye or be able to self-apply fake lashes, and that’s OK. But here’s one easy trick for glammed-up eyes that you can employ no matter where you fall on the makeup-skills spectrum: Use a precise black eyeliner (liquid, preferably) to make tiny dots in between your lashes, right in the roots. “It will create a thicker lash line, making your eyes pop without the effect of obvious liner,” says celebrity makeup artist Jenna Anton. It works for a no-makeup daytime look or to enhance your after-hours eye makeup scheme.
14. Exfoliation: easily overdone (or under-done)
If you don’t exfoliate regularly and are approaching age 30, now’s prime time to start. “In your 20s, your skin is making lots of new cells. In your 30s, your cells turn over more slowly, leading to dull, dry, flaky patches,” Wu says. “Exfoliation will reveal new skin cells and keep you looking glowy.” It also allows your anti-aging products to sink in more efficiently. But it’s easy to go overboard. Exactly how often you should exfoliate depends on your skin’s sensitivity and what product you choose, but a good general rule is no more than twice a week once you pass 30, when skin’s losing elasticity and requires gentler care. Consult our tip-sheet on how to find the best exfoliator for your skin type.
15. Use printer paper to figure out where to part your hair.
As with eyebrows, your hair part can make such a difference in framing your face. Here’s a fascinating technique we picked up from a hairstylist years ago: Hold a piece of printer paper over one half of your face, then the other. Focus on your facial features on each side one at a time. Go back and forth a couple times if needed until you notice the slight differences in the symmetry of your features. The side where your features look slightly better (eye larger, mouth more upturned, brow more on fleek) is your good side and the side your part should be on, so that more hair falls over your less-perfect side.
16. Everyone can and should wear red lipstick.
The older we get, the more firmly we believe this to be true. Having a go-to red lipstick makes it one million times easier to look good for any occasion (instant style, even if you’re in a rush and/or wearing some same-old striped tee or LBD). If you still don’t have a shade you feel confident in, consult our favorite tricks to find your perfect red lipstick. Or buy this red lipstick that looks good on literally everyone—we know because we tried it.
17. No unnecessary roughness.
We know you’re just trying to look glowy and polished, but too much tugging and friction does your skin no favors, especially cumulatively over time. When cleansing, think about massaging, not scrubbing (here’s lots more detail on the proper way to wash your face). Pat, don’t rub, with your towel afterward. And no vigorous rubbing with eye makeup remover. “Here’s a trick models use: Wet your cotton pad before using eye makeup remover, to be sure it doesn’t drag the skin around the eyes,” says Suzanna Twigg-Galvin, director of the Daniel Galvin Jr. Salon in the U.K.
18. Lose the hair towel.
The no-roughness rule has benefits for hair too. “Don’t rub your hair with a towel to dry it,” says hairstylist Veronica Nunez. “This roughs up the cuticle, resulting in frizzy hair. Instead twist your hair to remove water and blot with a towel to protect the cuticle and prevent breakage.” Better yet, use an old T-shirt or even a paper towel to blot water with zero friction—a trick we constantly hear curl-specific stylists mention (because it really works!).
19. Bronzer and powder are best used strategically.
Bronzer has come a long way, and we’re not sure how we ever survived tired mornings without it. But beware the mistake of brushing it all over your entire face, which can quickly escalate into an Oompa Loompa situation. Makeup artists rarely use it that way; instead, they bronze just the high points of the face where the sun would hit (forehead, nose, chin), plus the outer edges for a face-slimming effect. Similarly, dusting powder all over your entire face might be part of your teenage routine, when your skin’s extra-oily, but this can mute your glow as your skin matures. Focus only on shine-prone zones like your chin, nose, and forehead, while leaving your cheeks and eye area powder-free.
20. Know when NOT to DIY.
Most stories we hear about bleaching hair at home don’t have happy endings. We can’t blame a girl for trying a DIY beauty move once (maybe twice), but eventually, you realize it’s worth it to invest wisely in not doing everything yourself. “Leave the big services to the pros—things like hair color correction and laser treatments,” says Julianne Carell, associate digital beauty editor. Other items we’d tack on that list: removing gel nail polish, bangs trims, microdermabrasion, and brow shaping.
21. Growing hair out requires trimming it.
We know, this advice always sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true because damaged ends end up splitting and breaking off more easily. “If you’re trying to grow your hair longer, getting frequent trims is essential to prevents split ends from splitting too far up the strand,” says Brian Zinno, director of education at Antonio Prieto Salon in New York City. “Just make sure you’re growing more than is being trimmed. On average hair grows half an inch a month, so after two months you could have just a dusting done, where you take off an eighth to a quarter of an inch.” Plus, healthy ends just look so much better.
22. There are only three eye-makeup products you really need.
It’s so easy to make eye makeup over-complicated (which can quickly lead to us wanting to not even bother). Makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor tells us to focus on three eye makeup wardrobe basics: smudged dark eyeliner, a medium-shade neutral shadow, and mascara. By playing around with these three, you can create lots of wearable looks—and not feel like you have to go crazy with six different palettes and blending brushes. (But if that’s your thing, by all means get more creative!)
23. Finally stop picking your face.
It takes superhuman levels of willpower not to touch a full-fledged pimple that feels like it’s occupying literally half your face. But picking can cause scarring, and those tiny red or dark spots can really accumulate over time—especially as your skin cells turn over less rapidly (see #14). Do your future self a favor and instate a hands-off policy. Get really good at applying concealer instead. And next time you’re tempted to pick, think how much future concealer you’ll need to apply to cover all those perma-speckles every morning.
24. Get a water filter for your shower.
Here’s something you might never have considered: Your shower water could be negatively affecting your skin and hair. For instance, if your hair color strips away quickly, blond gets brassy, or hair feels rough and frizzy, hard water could be a big contributor (here are all the details on why). Luckily, the fix is easy. “Invest in a water filter like the T3 Source In-Line filter—this will remove hard minerals and chlorine from your water, which can be the source of your hair issues,” says Nunez. Or check out the new Raindrops shower filter designed at the celebrity-favorite salon Nine Zero One in L.A.
25. Break your lip-balm addiction.
Constantly reapplying balm can prevent dry skin cells from breaking free, so they build up in an uncomfortable layer (which also prevents the balm from hydrating well). A vicious cycle if we’ve ever heard of one. The fix: Gently scrub your lips a couple times a week when you exfoliate your face; use a soft washcloth or baby toothbrush, or even a Q-tip, and be sure to apply that balm afterward to seal moisture in.
26. “I regret spending money on that spa treatment,” said nobody ever.
One truth that really sinks in as you get older: How you feel makes a huge difference to how you look. So don’t feel guilty about indulging in the beauty rituals you really enjoy once in a while (versus only shelling out for the non-optional ones like waxing). “Treat yourself at least once a month, to anything—a massage, a mani, a facial. It’s important to take time for yourself to relax,” Schallon says.
27. Let your hair air-dry at least a little.
It’s another crucial secret to shiny, healthy hair: Don’t fire up your hair-dryer the second you step out of the shower. To cut back on heat exposure, let your hair air-dry halfway first, or if you’re in a rush, rough-dry it with your fingers before picking up your brush to smooth things out toward the end.”Try putting your round brush down until your hair is 80 percent dry,” says hairstylist Jet Rhys. “The brush will glide through the hair much more easily, preventing too much tugging and pulling, which can cause split ends,” she says.
28. If you spend on anything, make it your hair-dryer.
Speaking of drying your hair, stylists agree that the one thing you should not cheap out on is your hair-dryer—finding the right one, and investing in a nice one, can make a MAJOR difference in your hair’s health and appearance. We get that understanding which dryer does what seems harder than earning an advanced degree in aerospace engineering—so we recently broke down everything you need to know about choosing the best hair-dryer for your hair type. You’re welcome!
29. Don’t forget your annual head-to-toe skin check.
Just like you check your breasts for lumps, make it a top priority to stay on top of skin changes that could be signs of cancer. Here’s our guide to identifying a suspicious mole (it’s saved more than 80 readers’ lives); if you see one, get it checked by a doctor immediately. And make it a point to get a full-body skin check from a dermatologist every year.
30. Remember that everything gets better when you let yourself enjoy looking like you.
Your teens and 20s are often about following trends and wanting to look like everyone else you see, from celebrities to makeup vloggers to random girls on Instagram. But eventually, thankfully, that gets too exhausting—and you can relax and figure out what your uniquely beautiful traits are. “Instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your looks, focus on the qualities you do like,” says Anton. “Find your favorite feature and highlight it every day. No one has ever, or will ever, have the natural beauty you were born with.”
Watch How to Give Yourself a Salon Blowout at Home: