In my early 20s, I began to realize we live in a culture obsessed with youth, and began to obsess myself over aging, skincare, and what we can do to slow down the aging process.
I know, it’s ridiculous that I first began examining myself for wrinkles at the tender age of 20, but in my defense, we are constantly being bombarded with anti-aging messaging and products to “solve” the “problems” presented by aging, which are all normal, natural processes, that are inevitable, such as greying hair and wrinkles on our skin.
Women start to receive the messaging in their 20s that their youth and beauty is currency, one to hold onto as long as possible. Men are given more grace to age naturally. We praise older men for looking distinguished with some “salt and pepper” in their hair. “Aging gracefully” for women looks more like not aging — covering up wrinkles and grey hairs, and hiding the signs.
Now that I am a few months shy of my 28th birthday, I am learning to take a more balanced approach to age. I realize my obsession with not aging comes from societal pressure and obsession with youth and beauty that’s frankly kind of creepy. I remember feeling anxious before my 23rd birthday — I wasn’t going to be the youngest of the young anymore — but I don’t have that same anxiety now.
I realize now that my perception of age has changed. I owe a massive apology to anyone in their 30s that I thought of as “old” when I was 18. I now think that 30 might as well be the new 18. I realize that 20-somethings don’t have everything figured out like I thought they did when I was a kid. I now appreciate that it’s a privilege to get older, and not everyone does.
When I was 22, I met a woman on vacation who I assumed to be my age. When she told me she was 30, I was surprised, and probably said something super annoying along the lines of “you look great for your age!”. (Sigh. I now realize how annoying I was at times like these, but meeting actual 30-year-olds in my early 20s did make me realize that you don’t just shrivel up at 30, it’s not that scary and you just continue to be you).
So I asked this young woman, who was only 8 years older than myself, (I am cringing as I write this), “What is the secret to youth?”. Luckily, she didn’t take offense to my tone-deaf question, and answered with just one word that surprised me: “Sunscreen,” she said.
That stuck with me. At that moment, I vowed never to skip my sunscreen again. While I don’t advise obsessing over aging, I do stand by the advice to wear sunscreen daily. I love skincare and have nailed down a skincare routine in my 20s that works for me, and I think investing in your skincare when you’re young is a good thing. If not for vanity reasons, for health reasons.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Wearing sunscreen doesn’t just prevent premature aging and sunspots on the skin, it also prevents skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. So, sunscreen can prevent the most common type of cancer, AND prevent premature aging of the skin? I’m obsessed.
I have no shame in being the friend that’s obsessed with sunscreen. I found my favorite sunscreen that is comfortable for daily wear, and I reapply every 2 hours. Even during the winter. Even if I am not leaving the house. Incorporating some form of SPF into your daily skincare routine is the best thing you can do for your skin. There’s a lot of debate over which type of sunscreen is best, chemical or mineral. That’s an article for another time, as there are pros and cons for both.
I prefer to use Zinc sunscreen, and many consider mineral sunscreen to be safer than chemical sunscreen for the skin, however, there isn't enough evidence that chemical sunscreens are harmful; only that further research is needed to determine if the chemicals used in common chemical sunscreen are harmful to the skin. People with sensitive skin like I do may find chemical sunscreens to be too irritating for their skin, which is another reason I prefer to use mineral sunblock. However, Zinc can leave an unpleasant white cast on the skin, and chemical sunscreen is usually more comfortable and easier to spread.
The real answer is that the best sunscreen for you is one that you will wear every day. I’ve bought and tried dozens of sunscreens, and some of them were just not comfortable for everyday use, so I was not easily able to integrate them into my daily routine. I finally found a Zinc sunscreen that leaves no white cast, is spreadable and comfortable to wear, and I will buy it forever. It’s the Biossance sunscreen with zinc and squalene.
I highly recommend this one to anyone who wants to wear sunscreen daily but doesn’t want to feel gross and greasy. It was a game-changer for me, and there’s something so satisfying about finding those skincare products that you want to keep in stock forever.
I am glad I took the advice to always wear SPF in my 20s. I’ve done a lot of dumb things, and there’s still time during my last couple of years to do a lot more dumb things, but taking care of my skin during my 20s is something I think my future self will thank me for. However, I wish I could tell that 22 year old to calm down a little bit about aging. I need to tell my current self as well.
When I am feeling insecure about aging, I need to remember to ask myself, “who is profiting off of this feeling?”. There will always be a “problem” that you are sold a “solution” for. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take care of yourself and do things that improve your self-esteem. But the further along I progress, the more I hope that with aging comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes less of a superficial obsession with aging.
About the Creator
Self-identified Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) trying to carve out a joyful corner in an increasingly bleak world. I have one daughter, a French Bulldog named Chanel who farts a lot. I'm an Aries.