I'm in my early twenties and still having breakouts. I'm also worried about aging pre-maturely due to so many harsh acne products & not really taking care of my skin when I was younger... Is there something I can use Now to help prevent advanced aging in the future?
I certainly understand your concerns, being in my early 20s myself.
Wearing SPF during the day (not all of them have to be heavy, greasy, or smelly- try Shiseido's for extra-special textures and luxurious suncare fused into skincare!) goes a long way in terms of preventing lines and wrinkles and also preventing acne scars from darkening and marring your complexion later in life.
Choosing a time to apply your acne products, like benzoyl peroxide or retinol, is also key- try it at night, and let your skin rest during the day by not applying them then. Use a nice night cream on top (after letting the acne treatment soak in, of course) to be sure you are moisturizing and hopefully getting some anti-aging benefits as well. There are many lines, like Murad or Perricone, that have products specifically designed for anti-aging AND anti-acne.
Try to simplify and not over-stress your skin. A solid, consistent routine with a few basic products is better than a shelf full of items you forget to use or that simply are excessive for your skin. And a good eye cream goes a long way in helping to prevent crow's feet- it's never too early for prevention!
I agree! I have used Retin-A for five years now (you can get a prescription at your dermatologist) -- it's great for fighting breakouts AND it's one of the only substances actually proven to stimulte cell turnover / collagen production, visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles and even skin. Retin-A is the most powerful vitamin A derivative, but you can get non-prescription products that contain retinol (a lower concentration, and generally less irritating). A good one to try is Philosophy's On A Clear Day Retinol Clarifying Lotion, which targets breakouts and evens and tones skin: http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P22
A word of caution: Retin-A, and even products with retinol, can be very drying, irritating, and they can make your skin very sun sensitive. That said, if one reason to use these products is for their anti-aging benefits, it would defeat the purpose if your skin ends up being too dry and/or sunburned -- so if you use a retinoid, make sure that your skin is adequately moisturized and protected from the sun (more so than usual).
Other than retinoids, the key is to keep your skin moisturized and protected from the sun every day (using a daily sunscreen or a moisturizer with an SPF of at least 30). A good cleanser to use is Murad's Time Release Acne Cleanser, because it's good for breakouts, but very gentle -- and it contains anti-aging ingredients.
I hope this helps!