Starting an anti-aging routine in your 20s is one of the best things you can do for your future skin health. But quality skincare can get expensive.

    A common misconception of having an effective anti-aging routine is thinking you need to spend hundreds of dollars on the products to do any good.

    That just isn’t true!

    You can create an effective routine and have your best skin with products that are $20 or less. 

    In this post, you will learn how to create a budget friendly anti-aging routine so you can put your best skin forward! All the products recommended are $20 or less, but they are just as effective as the expensive stuff.

    How much confidence will you gain with radiant and glowing skin?

    This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

    Having an anti-aging routine is importantpretty girl touching her face

    And yes, your 20s is the best time to start an anti-aging routine. Collagen and elastin production slows down around age 25, so prevention is what we’re aiming for here.

    Learn more about how to increase collagen and elastin here.

    I wish I would have thought about anti-aging when I was in my 20s because it’s a lot easier to prevent the lines and wrinkles than it is to get rid of them!

    This is the only skin you are ever going to have, so you might as well take care of it.

    Also, establishing a solid skincare routine in your 20s makes it a habit, so you’re more likely to stick with it as you age.

    Start a morning and night routine

    Your morning and night routines will differ slightly, but you won’t have to buy completely different products for both.

    So, let’s start building that routine, shall we?

    Step 1: Cleanse

    Think of your face like an artist’s canvas. You need your skin to be nice and clean so it’s prepared to absorb the ingredients in the products that follow.

    Use gentle cleanser that won’t strip the natural moisture from your skin. Even if you have oily skin, you don’t want something that is going to dry out your face because it will cause your skin to produce more oil to replace what was lost.

    And that will just cause clogged pores.

    2 Cleansers under $20

    CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser– This cleanser contains hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin to provide 24 hours of hydration while it also cleanses away dirt oil, and makeup without stripping your skin.

    RoC Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Gel Facial Cleanser– Contains glycolic acid to dissolve dirt and oil while vitamin C will brighten and boost your glow.

    Step 2: Tone 

    While this step can be optional, if acne, dullness, or dryness are problematic for you, you may want to include it.

    For acne and dullness, L’Oreal Paris Revitalift 5% Pure Glycolic Acid Toner, to remove dead skin cells and increase cell turnover, while also contains aloe vera to soothe and moisturize.

    If your skin is on the dry side, a hydrating toner like CeraVe Hydrating Toner will soften and smooth your skin while also locking it moisture with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides.

    Step 3: Antioxidant Serum 

    Why an antioxidant serum? Antioxidants fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that speed up aging by damaging the collagen and elastin in your skin.

    Antioxidants help protect against environmental damage such as sun exposure, pollution, and cigarette smoke.

    Antioxidants like vitamin C and niacinamide are beneficial for inhibiting melanin production, which causes dark spots, and brightening the complexion.

    CeraVe Vitamin C Serum contains 10% ascorbic acid, the purest form of vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides to improve skin tone, texure, and hydration.

    If your skin is sensitive, then The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% will be easier on your skin than vitamin C.

    Step 4: Moisturize 

    With this step, you can keep it as a separate step or you can combine it with your SPF.

    If you have dry skin, you may want to keep it as a separate step for the extra moisture.

    Even if you have oily skin, don’t skip moisturizer. 

    Why is moisturizer so important?
    Moisturizing your skin will prevent water loss, will soothe dry and irritated skin, protect your skin barrier function, increase efficacy of other topical products, and will help keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay.

    Moisturizers w/o SPF

    Neutrogena Hydro Boost – This is gel moisturizer made with hyaluronic acid that absorbs quickly, making it perfect to wear under makeup, and provides long-lasting hydration.

    CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion– Like all CeraVe products, this one also has hyaluronic acid and 3 essential ceramides and is an excellent light moisturizer for the daytime under makeup.

    Moisturizers with SPF

    CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30– This one has niacinamide, along with hyaluronic acid and ceramides and Broad Spectrum SPF 30 to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays.

    Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic acid Facial Moisturizer with Sunscreen– This one has Broad Spectrum SPF 50.

    girl with hat on putting on SPF out in the sun

    Step 5: SPF 

    Do not skip this step! Most of the signs of aging that start creeping up come from damage caused by the sun.

    • UV exposure causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin
    • UV rays trigger the production of enzymes that break down skin cells and extracellular matrix. This breakdown causes a loss of firmness and speeds up aging
    • The sun’s UV rays generate free radicals, which speed the aging process
    • UV exposure causes abnormal pigment production, leading to dark spots, melasma, and uneven skin tone
    • UV rays have been linked to skin cancer

    Wearing SPF of 30 and above will protect your skin from all these factors.If you are going to be out in the sun for extended periods of time, then it is recommended to reapply SPF every 2 hours.

    SPF for Face

    Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Water Resistant & Non-Greasy Sunscreen– This is broad spectrum SPF 70 sunscreen lotion that is lightweight and fast absorbing, leaving a matte finish.

    My favorite and what I use every day, even though it’s more than $20, but I thought it was worth mentioning, is Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Facial SunscreenIt gives my skin a glowing finish along with helping my skin barrier with the probiotics it contains.

    Your Night Routine

    As I said before, your night routine will only be slightly different. You will use the same cleanser and toner, but instead of using an antioxidant serum, you will introduce retinol.

    So your routine will look like this: 

    Step 1: Cleanse

    Step 2: Tone

    Step 3: Retinol

    You can, and it is a good idea, to use retinol in your 20s to help boost collagen and elastin production so you can keep that bounce and firmness in your skin.

    When starting retinol, you want to start with low strength to see how your skin will react and also use it only twice a week.

    You can gradually increase your use to every other day until you can start using it every day.

    Then you can increase the strength.

    You only use retinol at night and always wear sunscreen! Retinol will make your skin more sensitive to the sun and the sun also decreases retinol’s effectiveness if worn during the day.

    Learn more about retinol here.

    Step 4: Moisturize 

    Your skin does its heavy lifting at night. That’s when it does its repairing and replenishing, so a heavier moisturizer is in order. 

    The good news is there are a ton of night creams that combine retinol and moisturizer, so you don’t have to buy 2 separate products, unless you just want to.

    My #1 recommendation for combining the two is Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Pro + Anti-Wrinkle Night Moisturizer. (Wow, that’s a mouthful!)

    With 0.3% retinol, it’s dermatologist recommended and fragrance free. I love this stuff!

    If you’d rather have your retinol and moisturizer separate, then I recommend The Ordinary Retinol in Squalane and CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream

    CeraVe Night Cream has niacinamide, peptide complex, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid to soften hydrate, keep moisture, and support skin’s elasticity while you sleep.

    The Ordinary Retinol in Squalane comes in different strengths, so pay attention when ordering. The retinol will help with cell turnover along with boosting the production of collagen and elastin. The squalane has anti-inflammatory properties to help with any redness and swelling.

    Eye Cream

    You don’t have to use an eye cream just yet if you don’t want to, but it may be a good idea if you’re serious about keeping those fine lines away.

    Eye creams are made specifically for the delicate skin around your eyes and are usually thicker and offer the benefits of hydration, brightening, and depuffing.

    Eye Creams under $20 

    CeraVe Skin Renewing Eye Cream– This eye cream has it all, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, peptides, and ceramides, for hydration, smoothing, firming, and brightening as well as ingredients, like caffeine, for dark circles and puffiness.


    Exfoliating ate least once or twice a week will remove dead skin cells and other debris, improve skin tone and radiance, and it also helps improve the effectiveness of your products by allowing them to absorb better into your skin.

    Exfoliating also helps with skin cell turnover and keeping your pores from getting clogged, therefore keeping acne at bay.

    In your 20s it’s fine to use a physical exfoliator, like scrubs, but as you get older, you need to change to a chemical exfoliator. Because scrubs will be too harsh for your skin.

    You can also use a cleansing brush in your 20s.

    Masksgirl with charcoal mask holding cucumbers in front of eyes

    To give your skin some extra TLC, you can include facial masks twice a week.

    Depending on your skincare needs, you can use face masks for deep cleaning your pores, hydrating your skin,brightening your complexion, calming irritation, increasing circulation, or just some relaxation.

    You can choose from sheet masks, peel-off masks, wash-off masks, or overnight masks.

    You can also make your own probiotic mask using plain Greek yogurt.

    Learn more about probiotics in skincare here.

    Also read, How to start anti-aging in your 20s.


    Massaging your face will increase circulation, which will bring oxygen and nutrients to your skin and also decrease inflammation.

    Massage can also stimulate lymphatic drainage, which moves toxins out of the cells, promotes collagen and elastin production, and reduce swelling.

    Since it increases circulation, it will help reduce acne and acne scars, as well as enhance product absorption.

    Best of all, it’s FREE!


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