Updated 09/01/22. As the skin ages, everything tends to slow down. This includes cell metabolism, blood circulation, oil production, and the natural exfoliating process. The result? Skin tends to look and feel dull and sluggish, lacking a natural radiance. What’s worse is that brown spots develop as pigment cells rise to the surface, causing the skin to look uneven.
Before you give up on glowing skin and accept dullness and dark spots as your new reality, know that there’s a lot that can be done. In fact, there are eight things you can do to encourage a healthy-looking glow. Keep reading to see all of my expert tips!
Start By Gauging Your Skin’s Circulation With a Pinch Test
When your skin is makeup-free, take your thumb and forefinger and gently pull on the apples of your cheeks. The keyword here is “gently”—don’t pull to the point where you feel pain. Using light pressure, quickly pinch the skin five times.
If your skin becomes a little pink, it’s likely that it has proper circulation. That’s good news, but you’ll want to keep that going. After all, that can slow down with age.
If your skin doesn’t become pink, it’s more than likely under-circulated, and you’ll want to boost circulation. If your skin becomes red, your skin is likely over-circulated, and you’ll want to keep it calm with soothing (not energizing) products. Basically, to get the glowing skin you want, the goal is for your circulation to be right in the middle—not too much, not too little.
8 Ways to Give Dull Skin a Healthy-Looking Glow
1. Use Stimulating Skincare Ingredients
Since circulation can slow with age, using skincare products with ingredients such as peppermint, vitamin B12, niacinamide, and ginseng root extract is important. All of these ingredients encourage blood flow and help bring a fresh radiance to the complexion. When applied topically, they may dilate blood vessels, allowing the skin to accommodate more nutrient-rich blood.
My favorite energizing products to use are the Mint Renewal Cleanser and the Energy Boosting Toner. Both contain stimulating skincare ingredients, and with continued use, you should notice that they make your skin look brighter and fresher.
2. Use Retinol
Retinol is most definitely a game-changing ingredient. When used continuously, it can smooth the skin and address brown spots, lines, and wrinkles. It works by speeding up the rate of cellular turnover, which is a process that naturally slows down with age. This ensures that fresh, light-reflective skin cells stay at the surface.
Before jumping right in, read my beginner’s guide to using retinoids. It will help you avoid dry, flaky side effects.
3. Use a Sulfate-Free Cleanser
Cleansing your skin both morning and night is essential, but using any old cleanser won’t do. It’s important to pay attention to the type of cleanser you use and avoid high-foaming cleansers that contain sulfates like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. All of these are surfactants, which means they cut oil from the skin.
While you do need to remove some oil from the skin, sulfates can be too harsh. The excessive stripping of oil from the skin causes an increase in water loss. This leaves the skin feeling tight and dehydrated and creates unnecessary irritation. Eventually, this will lead to a damaged moisture barrier and a dull, dry appearance.
The general rule is this. The more lather a cleanser creates, the more drying it will be. The less lather a cleanser creates, the less drying it will be. Look for cleansers labeled “sulfate-free.” They should be low-foaming—no bubbly, shampoo-like lather. And, by the way, bar soaps are an absolute no-no.
4. Strengthen Your Moisture Barrier
Speaking of the moisture barrier, the stronger it is, the more radiant your skin will look, because light will bounce off of it. If your skin is dry and flaky due to a damaged moisture barrier, it means it has developed tiny, invisible cracks that are allowing moisture to escape and light to penetrate. The result? Your skin can start to look dull and tired.
Using a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser can help support your moisture barrier, and so can using the right type of moisturizer. To fix dry, flaky, and dull skin, look for any of these barrier-strengthening ingredients, which will correct both the lack of oil and the lack of water in your skin:
- Borage Oil
- Bois De Rose Oil
- Carrot Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Cranberry Oil
- Linoleic/Linolenic Acids
- Tocopheryl Linoleate
- Shea Butter
- Sunflower Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
5. Use Face Oil
When humidity is low and the air is dry, the skin’s moisture can be dramatically depleted. The good news is that it’s easy to prevent moisture evaporation and keep the skin looking radiant. You just need to use face oil as the last step in your routine to lock in moisture.
The reason it needs to be applied as the last step in your nighttime skincare routine is that oils are made up of larger molecules. Other skincare products, like serums, are generally made up of smaller molecules. You don’t want to put a small molecule on top of a large molecule because it won’t be able to penetrate the skin very well.
Think of face oil as a topcoat or sealant in your skincare routine. It keeps everything locked in, including moisture.
6. Exfoliate Regularly
The quickest and easiest way to instantly brighten the skin is to exfoliate. By dissolving and removing dry, dead skin cells on the surface, you’re instantly revealing fresher, brighter cells underneath. These will reflect light and give the skin a smooth look.
I like using a combination of chemical and physical exfoliation. The combination of both gives the best, quickest results. Just don’t overdo it. Exfoliating too aggressively or too often can damage your moisture barrier. (Learn the difference between different exfoliants and how often you should use each one.)
7. Use Vitamin C
As we age, skin becomes thinner and pigment-producing cells get larger. This leads to visible brown spots, which can make the skin look dull and uneven. Skin-brightening ingredients have the ability to suppress melanin activity to fade stubborn discoloration. My favorite skin-brightening ingredient is vitamin C. I use the Vitamin C&E Treatment every day. It brightens my skin and provides it with potent antioxidant protection against free radicals.
8. Practice Deep Breathing
Not only can deep breathing help lower blood pressure and decrease stress, but it can boost the amount of oxygenated blood in your system, helping to give the skin a radiant look. Here’s how to practice deep breathing to encourage a healthy-looking glow:
- Breathe in slowly until your lungs fill up completely.
- Hold your breath for 5-10 seconds.
- Let the air out slowly. This removes carbon dioxide and cellular waste from the body.
- Repeat often throughout the day.
Accentuate Your Glow With Makeup
Nothing can replace a consistent and effective skincare routine, but you can accentuate and improve the look of your skin with makeup. And if anyone knows how to do that, it’s Hollywood makeup artists. I work with a lot of these makeup artists since we share clients, and they have taught me some of the best tricks of the trade. Check out the five makeup products I swear by for achieving instantly radiant-looking skin.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”