You can get away with a lot in your twenties – like skipping leg day or being the ‘pace-setter’ on boozy nights out – with little to no consequences. When it comes to your grooming regime, however, it’s much harder to be a disaster and emerge unscathed.
“How well you care for your skin at this age directly affects how you look in later life, so it’s important to get it right,” explains grooming expert and professional party-pooper Andy Millward. But he has a point: after the age of 20, the body’s production of collagen (essentially the scaffolding of your skin) declines at a rate of around 1.5 per cent every year, making a solid routine far more pressing than a pension fund. Probably.
For anyone willing to put in the work (and let’s be honest, it is work) here’s everything you should do in your twenties to be more handsome in your thirties. Your face will thank you for it.
Understand Your Skin
If you don’t already know your skin type, find out. Like, now. Using the wrong products at any age won’t just fail to get you results, it can also cause irritation and other nasty face-based issues that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
“In order to look good the skin craves balance, and understanding your complexion is the only way to achieve this,” says Millward. “Using a product designed for dry skin on an oily complexion, for example, will only result in congestion and breakouts.”
Not sure which camp you fall into? Wash your face, then wait an hour or two. If it feels tighter than an Italian tenor’s trousers, you’ve got dry and possibly sensitive skin. Slicker than a buttered eel? You’re on the oily side. A mix of the two? You’re combination. Once you know, it’s just a case of reading the labels on your lotions and potions.
Keep It Simple
Here’s the good news: your skin probably looks pretty good right now (congrats, you handsome swine), and it shouldn’t require an entire chemists’ worth of concoctions to stay that way, so don’t overcomplicate things.
“In your twenties, it’s not about having a 10-step routine that takes hours to complete,” says Dr Nestor Demosthenous, one of Scotland’s leading cosmetic doctors, who recommends a simple three-step cleanse, scrub and moisturise regime for a daily dose of the Dorian Gray.
As well as meaning you spend less time in the bathroom and more time looking good, building this streamlined grooming routine into your daily habits early on makes it easier to add steps once you hit the big 3-0.
Get To Know Your Barber
A good barber is a straight up gift from the grooming gods, but even the best will benefit from prolonged face time with your follicles.
“The best advice I can give at this age is to find someone to cut your hair who you like and trust and then stick with them,” says Joe Mills, owner of London-based barbers Joe and Co. “This gives you both the chance to build a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Granted, doing so may require some shopping around (and a few unfortunate weed whacker experiences) so don’t be afraid to ask friends with similar hair for advice or check online listings; trust us it’ll be worth the effort.
Invest In Quality Products
Extended family members are more or less contractually obligated to buy you naff gift sets at Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them.
“Although it may be tempting to use cheap products when you are younger, this is not always an investment in the long term as many contain harsh chemicals that do more harm than good,” says skincare expert Dr Jonquille Chantrey.
That’s not to say there aren’t good and affordable grooming products (and indeed some expensive potions are nothing but snake oil); but as a general rule, anything with an obscure name like ‘ice blast’ has no place in a grown man’s grooming arsenal.
Wherever possible, avoid products packed with parabens (which are thought to negatively affect testosterone levels), phthalates (which have been linked to asthma, cancer and reduced fertility) and alcohol (which is known to dry the skin out).
Refresh Your Towels
No man has ever won an award for adulting by wiping sweat, germs and stray pubes all over his face, so cut it out and get into the habit of changing your towels regularly.
“The bacteria that harbours and proliferates in a damp towel would make your skin crawl,” says cosmetic doctor and winner of The Apprentice 2013, Leah Totton. “If continually re-used, this bacteria is rubbed back onto the face, creating the perfect storm for a propagation of spots.”
To avoid drying yourself with a particularly gross vessel of gunk, wash yours once every two to three days and use a different towel for the gym. Storing both on a towel warmer or radiator after use also reduces the time they spend damp, limiting mould growth.
Hit The Gym
Turns out, the secret to eternal youth isn’t at the end of a £60 pot of cream, but at the end of your legs. According to countless medical journals and leading fitness experts, exercise is the best way to stay looking at feeling good on a cellular level.
“As well as the obvious health gains from working out, regular exercise benefits your face because you’re supplying the skin with a dose of oxygenated blood,” says London-based personal trainer Conrad O’Hagan.
To stop time, however, you need to put it in. O’Hagan recommends a combination of high-intensity exercise and steady state cardio for 30 to 40-minutes five days a week to feel the benefits of the burn.
Always Use Protection
Ask any dermatologist worth their weight in serum, and they’ll tell you that the big radioactive fireball in the sky is bad for your bonce. Aside from increasing your risk of skin cancer, UV rays are one of the main causes of premature ageing.
“The sun forces collagen to break down at a higher rate than normal, resulting in wrinkles and an uneven skin tone,” says Kiehl’s education executive Bianca Blum. “Protecting against this is single-handedly the most important step in keeping your skin in tip-top health and you looking younger for longer.”
So unless you want your face to look like a shar-pei got it on with a raisin, start slathering on a broad spectrum SPF moisturiser every morning (yes, as in 365 days a year, and yes, even when you’re hungover).
Watch Your Mouth
Second only to a bus pass, yellow teeth are one of the most obvious giveaways of a person’s age, but no amount of whitening products will actually make your mouth healthier or cleaner.
“Looking after your teeth in your twenties will help to ensure you maintain a smile to be proud of and have fewer dental problems in your thirties and beyond,” says Dr Anthony Lam, an orthodontic specialist at David Gandy’s dentist of choice, Elleven.
As well as swerving sweetcorn tusks, your aim should be to actively fight bacterial build-up, which can lead to bad breath, inflamed gums and cavities. To do this, Lam recommends honing your technique (“brush in circular motions at a 45-degree angle”), flossing daily and swilling water around your mouth after drinking tea or coffee.
Think About Your Diet
Unless you’re under the legal age and trying to get in a bar, no one actually wants to look older, which means watching what you put in your mouth.
“Only a percentage of how we age comes from genetics, the rest is down to external factors such as sun exposure, smoking, alcohol consumption, pollution and diet,” says Dr Totton. “Eating foods high in vitamin A such as carrots, sweet potato, kale and spinach can increase your resistance to bacteria and improve the overall health of your skin.”
While a few indulgences won’t turn you into Nosferatu overnight, a continuously bad diet will. So in short: drink more water, consume less salt and stock up on vegetables for a really good looking plate of food.