20 Beauty (and Life) Lessons I've Learnt in My 20s

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When I first heard the expression '30 is the new 20', I didn’t understand what people were talking about. There I was at the ripe age of 21 thinking... aren't your 20s meant to be the best years of your life?

In hindsight, yes, I had a lot of fun between the ages of 20 and 29. I also made a lot of mistakes. But with each error in judgement (in life and beauty) came a very valuable life lesson learnt.

With just four months to go before I head into my third decade on this earth, I'm far from where my 20-year-old-self thought she'd be at 30 aka in a job that's my passion, and married to the love of my life with kids and maybe even an adopted dog.

This brings me to my first of 20 lessons in life (and skin care) I've learnt in my 20s.

1. Embrace change.

Let's start with something deep. Life probably won’t turn out exactly as you planned or even close to how you envisioned (sorry!) and that’s probably for the best. Your 20s are a time to figure out who you are and what drives you. Lean in to change and see where it takes you, because it might just be the best thing you’ll ever do. 

2. You’ll never have it all sorted out.

No matter how good at adulting I get, nothing is ever 100 per cent in balance. And I’m beginning to realise everyone is in the same boat. We’re all out here trying to do our best, yeah?

3. Don’t skip on sunscreen.

You know the best way to look 20 in your 30s? Wear sunscreen. Every damn day. Experiment until you find a formula that works for you (or watch our handy sunscreen YouTube video below) and then stick to it. Pro tip: stock up when the sunscreen you like is on sale because you can never have too much. 

4. ALWAYS wash your face.

I know. After that third glass of wine, you reallllly don’t want to wash your face, but your next day skin will thank you for it. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm and Murad Environmental Shield Essential-C Cleanser are my current two favourite cleansers in my double cleansing routine.

5. Start using a vitamin C serum.

Fact: After the age of 30, we lose one per cent of collagen per year. Rude, isn't it? Vitamin C is a skincare ingredient that stimulates new collagen production and works to fight against free radicals that damage the skin. This = glowy, plump skin. You can read more about why my vitamin C serum is the one product I can't live without in my Medik8 vitamin C review article here.

6. And start using a retinol/vitamin A product.

They don’t call vitamin A the holy grail of skin care for no reason. Integrating a vitamin A product like a retinol serum once you hit your late 20s (or earlier if you like) will help reduce the appearance of visible ageing, increase cell turnover, and improve the appearance of texture, stubborn pigmentation and fine lines. My current favourite vitamin A product is Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 but you can learn more about vitamin A by listening to the Skincare School vitamin A episode or watching this retinol YouTube video below.

7. And don’t forget exfoliants…

Yup, exfoliants are kinda a big deal, too. While our skin naturally exfoliates itself every 28 days when we’re younger, this slows down to every 40-60 days as we get older. So, we need to give our skin a little help. You can read about one of my favourite PHA exfoliants here, and learn more about exfoliation in this episode of Skincare School podcast below.

8. Ignore anyone who says your skincare routine is OTT.

At this very moment, I have six creams, two mists, four serums, five exfoliants, three lip masks and sunscreen all in my weekly skincare rotation. Do you need this many products? Absolutely not. Is it over the top? Maybe. Do I care? Nope.

Let me tell you why: I’ve recently decided to make a career shift and in doing so, I’m pursuing my third degree and am now the 'mature age student' in a class full of 18 year olds. In my first tutorial of the semester, my peers began discussing who'd taken a gap year. When I informed them I was almost 30, they thought I was joking. That right there is how I know my skincare routine is working.

9. Once you've found products that work for you, stick with them.

As you've probably gathered from lesson eight, I'm OBSESSED with skin care. It's both my hobby and my job as a beauty creator to stay on top of the latest products, but chopping and changing all the time isn't always great for your skin. Even though shiny new products are enticing, stick with the products you know are working for you. That said... if you do wanna try new products, my advice is to finish the bottles or tubs you have before replacing them with a new one.

10. Learn to work with your hair.

In my early 20s, I decided I wanted to be blonde. Then red. Then I wanted pink highlights. All this bleach left my hair damaged and brittle.

alisha bhojwani hairalisha bhojwani hair

Years of keratin treatments later and I’m much happier and confident with my natural colour (add or minus a few lowlights). Styling my hair with minimal heat with my Dyson Airwrap™ Styler Complete has been a game-changer too, you can read about why I think the Dyson Airwrap is worth the money in my review here.

11. Make time to work on side projects.

Back onto the life lessons: Set time aside for your passion project each week and keep working on it. Whether it's a side hustle or just for fun, you never know what it could become. When I started my beauty Instagram account @lishyglows, who knew it would lead me to writing for Adore Beauty!

12. Find yourself a great brow technician (and don’t let go!).

My brow guy Steve and I are in a long-distance open relationship. He flies 733km every two months to prune these monsteras back and honestly, it’s the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in. Once you find someone who does your brows exactly how you like them, book recurring appointments and hold them close. The long-distance text messages are also pretty fun.

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13. Say 'no' more often.

In my 20s, I said yes to everything. There was one year I spent EVERY weekend attending an engagement, wedding or baby shower. That’s 52 weeks’ worth of social commitments. You know what happened? I burnt out. Now, if there’s something I don’t feel like doing – I just say no, because giving time back to yourself counts as having plans.

14. Find your perfect red lipstick.

There's just something about a red lip that can make you feel powerful and confident. Find your shade and wear it with pride - stuff anyone who reckons a red lip is too much. TIP: Cooler skin undertones naturally suit blue-red based red lipstick, whereas warmer complexions suit brick and rust shades. My go-to is Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge Ruby Cream in Sunrise Ruby but also, just choose whatever shade makes you feel like a 17/10.

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15. Quality skin care over quantity.

Not everyone has the budget for an eight-step cosmeceutical skincare routine. Think of your skincare products like investment clothing items. One great coat, comfy black boots and a pair of jeans that fit you well are better than spending the equivalent on a bunch of cheap tops (even though the latter is more fun). Same goes for skin care. Invest in your core serums based on your skin concerns, and then pad out the rest with more affordable products.

You can learn more about starting a skincare routine in our beginner skin care YouTube tutorial below.

16. Start taking care of yourself.

As soon as I turned 25, I noticed my body change. Hangovers lasted days, not hours, and sugar sat differently. I’ve spent the last 18 months working on my lifestyle to undo the damage I did in my early 20s and let me tell you, it was no walk in the park. Take your vitamins, find an exercise regime that works for you, and I promise, you’ll have more energy now than you did at 21.

17. Perfect your everyday makeup routine.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE a full face of glam… but you know what I go back to time and time again? A quick makeup routine that makes me feel like me.

My no-makeup makeup routine looks like: juicy skin thanks to layering serums and oils, M.A.C Cosmetics Studio Face and Body Foundation or a lightweight concealer, multipurpose products like Benefit Benetint Cheek & Lip Stain and Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight, some mascara and lip gloss - Cosmedix Lumi Crystal Liquid Crystal Lip Hydrator is a current fave.

Because when you have precisely 15 minutes to get ready, having a base routine you can pull together effortlessly is a life-saver.

18. Find your signature scent.

Like a good red lippie, scents can help form part of our identity and the way we walk through the world. Find one (or a wardrobe of scents) that feel like you - a great way to do this is through fragrance discovery sets that let you try several boutique fragrances before committing the the full size bottle purchase.

19. Slow down and make self-care a priority.

I’ve come to learn that the days feel long but the years are very short. Learn to sit with yourself, enjoy your own company and appreciate how far you’ve come, because time truly does fly. Also, self-care isn't selfish. It's my firm belief that there's nothing a nice glass of red, a long bubble bath with Hunter Lab Pinot Grape Skin Bath Salts 200g and a good dance session can’t fix.

20. Love yourself.

I've saved the most sentimental lesson for last, but jokes aside, I spent too much time in my 20s trying to look or act a certain way to please other people. In the process, I forgot who I was and what my values were. It took getting out of some toxic friendships, ending a long-term relationship and learning to be kinder to myself to rediscover who I am.

Embrace who you are and live by that. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in and love yourself unconditionally (shortcomings and all) because as Dave Grohl puts it, “No one is you, and that is your biggest power.”

Rant over.

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