Dull skin is a common skincare issue. Typically it means that skin lacks radiance and glow and may look ashy, uneven in tone, or patchy. Dull skin may become more noticeable with age as collagen production (which keeps skin plump and youthful) declines. Or it can surface in the winter months. Cold, dry winter weather is not your skin’s friend!
What Causes Dull Skin
The most common causes of dull skin are dehydration, smoking, a diet lacking in nutrients, exposure to winter elements, and aging. Poor circulation may worsen during the cold weather, and winter air causes skin to dry up, contributing to an outer layer buildup of rough, dead skin. Add to that skin renewal decreases about 7 percent every 10 years (source). But you can halt the aging process and reverse dull skin both inside and out.
Tips to Brighten Dull Skin
These tips are mostly for your face, but you can and should exfoliate and moisturize all over.
1.Easiest way to combat dull skin is to exfoliate regularly. Exfoliating is essential for removing that dead, dry outer layer of skin so your moisturizer can penetrate more effectively for a dewy finish. For my face, I use organic products like Acure Brightening Facial Scrub (fave) and Avalon Organics Enzyme Scrub. Both are very reasonably priced around $10. You can use a salt scrub for body a few times per week. Follow exfoliating with a brightening moisturizer. I like the Burt’s Bees radiance moisturizer for all over. Sometimes I use it on my face bc it has minerals that make you glowy.
Alpha hydroxy-acid is excellent for renewing skin, and you can find that in Juice Beauty Green Apple peel. I’ve used that one too (once weekly), and it works great, even on my sensitive skin. Vitamin C products are also great for brightening and protection. I like this vitamin C rich glow booster mask that really does brighten lackluster skin. Vitamin C is excellent for nourishing dull skin.
I typically make my own oil blends that I use as moisturizers for my face, but this Ayurvedic Kesaradi oil blend deserves a special shoutout for brightening skin. I’ve been using it lately, and it really is amazing. Here’s a makeup free and unfiltered photo of my skin after the Acure exfoliant and the Kesaradi oil blend to which I added hyaluronic acid (more on that below).
2.Hyaluronic acid (HA) is another good facial skincare hack to add to your routine. It’s great for dehydrated skin and can replenish moisture that aging skin is lacking, as well as improve the appearance of fine lines. HA makes skin looks more smooth overall. I buy a small bottle of HA serum and add 10-15 drops to whatever oil blend I’m using at the moment (read more about the best oils for your skin here). Or you can apply a drop to bare skin before moisturizer.
3.Toner is another must for dull skin. You can make your own using witch hazel, apple cider vinegar (good for acne-prone skin), or even green tea. But I love the rose water toners too, like this one. I spritz it on as needed throughout the day to refresh.
4.I personally haven’t tried a jade roller, but I have a few friends (and celebrity non-friends) who swear by it. It’s basically a facial massage tool that helps sculpt your features by encouraging drainage and toning skin. It’s gentle and safe and likely boosts the lymphatic system’s natural detoxification process (hence the “drainage” that relieves puffiness). It makes skin brighter by boosting the circulation and blood flow to yield a visible glow. Now I want one!
5.Now for some inner nutrients: Borage or evening primrose oil not only helps PMS but also aging skin. I use this borage oil. I am also a HUGE fan of this hair-skin-nails formula that contains collagen and nutrients to boost skin, hair, and health of joints (it’s helped with my creaky knees). Collagen makes a WORLD of difference in brightening dull skin. Also, beef up on zinc and vitamin A-rich foods (which are richest in meat); those are two necessary antioxidants for skin health. Green tea is good for skin (internally and externally) too.
You’ll want to avoid alcohol, excess caffeine, and sugar, all of which cause dull skin. Get enough protein, vitamin C (which your body uses for collagen production), and antioxidants via brightly colored fruits and veggies. Green juice is excellent for skin, too. Read about my skin superfoods here.
6.HYDRATE! Drink water, hot water with lemon (excellent for skin and detox), herbal teas, water with cucumber slices, anything that helps you get some hydration. Water naturally plumps your skin and helps you get rid of excess toxins. Alcohol and coffee really dehydrate your skin and age you, so ditch the booze if your skin is dull, and if you’re a coffee drinker, rehydrate accordingly.
7.Celery juice may help here too– I’ve seen a lot of evidence that it helps skin issues like eczema and psoriasis. When I did my month-long celery juice experiment, I definitely felt more hydrated, probably due to the salts and minerals celery provides. I live in a very dry climate and could tell a noticeable difference in hydration.
8.Speaking of detox, if you haven’t given your liver any love lately, consider a 21 day cleanse. A congested liver can cause acne and skin issues including dull, dry skin. When the liver is overburdened, toxins back up into your system and often show up in breakouts or rashes. Spring and fall are great times to do a liver cleanse.
9.Don’t forget about your digestive tract. Include gut healing foods and take a probiotic. The health of your gut is intimately linked to your skin health! Collagen is especially key, as production begins to decline in your 20s. I like this collagen and add it to the hair-skin-nails formula daily. I can tell a huge difference in my skin and hair (and joints) from using it, and it’s excellent for gut health. Read more about collagen here.
10.Ease up on the makeup if your skin is dull and flaky. Adding powder especially can settle into lines and make dry skin look even worse. One tip that may help is combining a little creamy concealer with your moisturizer and applying to your face, but I’m no makeup artist, that’s for sure.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.