Nearly everyone has experienced dull skin at one point or another, whether it be due to the climate or natural aging. If you’ve been waking up to a less-than-glowy looking complexion lately, don’t worry. There are multiple ways to improve the look of dull skin.
#1 Identify Your Dull Skin Culprit
Maintaining glowy-looking skin isn’t exactly easy. Without proper care, some faces can start to look flat. But before revamping your entire routine, it’s important to first figure out why your skin lacks brightness.
Typically, two underlying causes create a dull face—dryness and damage. When your skin is dehydrated or damaged, dead skin can accumulate and prevent that glowy-look.
To help you find the best dull skin treatment, consider common culprits that may be causing dryness or damage, such as:
- Poor skincare (lack of moisture, zero exfoliation, etc.)
- Sun damage
- Environmental risks (dryness, pollutants, etc.)
Once you understand your dull skin culprit, you can work to address your specific issue and achieve radiant-looking skin.
#2 Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
One of the most common reasons skin can have a dull complexion is a poor skincare regime that skips out on moisturizer and results in dehydrated-looking skin.
From oily to mature, most skin types require moisturizer to stay hydrated. A quality moisturizer essentially draws and traps water in the stratum corneum or “skin barrier” (the top layer of your skin).1 For most people, moisturizing twice a day may be enough to reap these benefits.
To address dull skin, you want to find a moisturizer that attracts and seals in water.2 Look for these matching ingredients in a moisturizer such as:
Hyaluronic acid – A natural humectant, hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge. This molecule draws water into the skin (up to 1,000 times its weight) for long-lasting moisture. With steady use, research shows hyaluronic acid can improve the look of skin texture.3
Glycerin – Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is a natural humectant that draws water to the skin. In fact, one clinical study found that glycerin can help improve the skin barrier.4
Ceramides – Smoothing lipids, ceramides fill the gaps between the skin barrier to lock moisture into your skin’s barrier.
Squalane – Another sealant, squalane is a variant of squalene (a natural lipid found inside our facial sebum). Squalane can also preserve lasting hydration.
#3 Try Out Vitamin C
If you’re into skincare, you’ve probably heard the showers of praise for vitamin C—and it deserves the hype.
Vitamin C can be a key ingredient for shaking off dullness and brightening the look of your complexion. In moisturizers or serums, this nutrient can help to exfoliate the skin to reveal brightness.
With regular use, clinical research shows that vitamin C serum may improve:5
Choose a formula with high potency, like our Glow and Protect Serum. With three forms of vitamin C and moisturizing hyaluronic acid and glycerin, it can help boost the appearance of bright skin.
#4 Exfoliate Your Skin (Gently)
On the surface, dull skin can be a sign of dead skin. To reveal that glow underneath, you need to get rid of those dried out skin patches. Enter: exfoliation.
Exfoliating is a delicate balance. Every skin type has an optimal exfoliation frequency that leaves skin looking refreshed. Start slow, and determine what frequency leaves your skin looking its best.
Just as importantly, you need to pick the right type of exfoliant. Physical exfoliants (beads, scrubs, etc.) might feel more effective, but their texture can sometimes damage the skin barrier if not used properly. Instead, try chemical exfoliants, like the alpha-hydroxy acids in our Radiance Renewal Mask. These AHA’s can help remove dead skin patches without affecting the skin barrier.6
#5 Cleanse the Right Way
Still washing your face with hot water and a bath towel? It’s time to revamp your routine.
For dull skin, keep things as soothing as possible. Harsh cleansers, hot temperatures, and over-zealant washing can leave skin dull. Instead, stick with these dermatologist-approved cleansing tips:7
Choose a gentle formula – Alcohols and sulfates can sometimes leave skin feeling tight. Avoid these ingredients and choose a gentle cleanser that features moisturizing hyaluronic acid and natural oils.
Leave towels behind – A rough towel counts as a physical exfoliant to your skin. Gently apply your cleanser with fingertips, washing off any excess with a soft microfiber or mesh sponge.
Minimize (but don’t skip) – Dry skin needs cleansing to wash off the day’s environmental pollutants and dirt, but you don’t need to go overboard. Stick with a once or twice-per-day cleansing schedule, adding on an extra wash after exercise.
Keep it lukewarm – Hot water might feel nice, but your skin doesn’t always appreciate the heat. Excess heat can sometimes strip skin of its natural oils, encouraging a dry and dull-looking texture. Keep all washes at a lukewarm temperature.
#6 Get Rid of Drying Ingredients
Time to take out the magnifying glass. To really shape up your skincare routine, you’ll need to examine the ingredient labels on your skincare products.
In particular, alcohols can dry out your skin (which is why we make our Ready Steady Glow Tonic free of them).
Prevent that lackluster appearance by avoiding products whose ingredients may dry out the skin, such as:
- Sodium chloride
#7 Protect Your Skin from the Environment
If there’s a skincare “Enemy No. 1”, it’s the sun. Unfiltered UV light can promote the look of wrinkles or fine lines and hyperpigmentation.
It’s never too late to start protecting your skin from the sun. For peak protection, seek out facial sunscreens that meet the following dermatologist guidelines:8
- 30 SPF or higher
- Broad-spectrum (blocks UVA & UVB rays)
The sun isn’t the only outdoor risk. High air pollution can affect the skin.9 To help block out pollutants, consider ingredients that help replenish the skin barrier like:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Reveal Your Best Skin Yet with the Help of REN
If you’re regularly facing lackluster skin, the steps in this guide can help you turn the light back on. It all comes down to a skincare routine that nourishes your skin—and that’s where REN Clean Skincare comes in.
For dull textures, make our face exfoliator collection your first skincare stop. Gentle yet effective ingredients like AHA acids and vitamin C can help wash away dead skin while providing lasting moisture.
Make your skincare journey a brightly lit path with REN.
About the Author
Camille Poggi is a doctor in Pharmacy (PharmD.) and is passionate about skincare and how the skin works in general. She specializes in the cosmetic industry and worked for renowned companies in France like L’Oréal and Chanel before moving to London. After being a training manager for 4 years, Camille is at ease with explaining how products work in the skin and how to adapt her speech according to the audience.
She joined REN in January 2020 as International Training Manager and moved to the Research & Development team earlier this year to be the new Scientific Education Manager. A tailored-made role where she assesses and leads all technical communication and ensures scientific compliance is always met. She’s also involved in new product development from the earliest stages. Finding a way to create sustainable skincare products and making sure the message is properly delivered and understood is definitely a big challenge but also her favorite part working for REN.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Moisturizers: Do they work? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/moisturizers-do-they-work
- Self. 7 Hydrating Skin-Care Ingredients That Will Actually Help Moisturize Dry, Dull Skin. https://www.self.com/story/hydrating-skin-care-ingredients
- Healthline. Why Science Says Hyaluronic Acid Is the Holy Grail to Wrinkle-Free, Youthful Hydration. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/hyaluronic-acid
- NCBI. Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18510666/
- MDPI. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/8/866
- NBC News. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) 101: A dermatologists' guide in 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/select/shopping/alpha-hydroxy-acids-ahas-ncna1234611
- AAD. Face Washing 101. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/care/face-washing-101
- AAD. Sunscreen FAQs. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sun
- Healthline. Brainy Beauty: Can Anti-Pollution Skin Care Really Protect Your Skin? https://www.healthline.com/health/brainy-beauty-what-is-anti-pollution-skincare-and-can-it-really-protect-your-skin#The-facts
- Byrdie. Ask a Dermatologist: How Often Should I Exfoliate My Face? https://www.byrdie.com/how-often-should-i-exfoliate-my-face
- Mayo Clinic. What are the best foods for healthy skin?
- Healthline. The 12 Best Foods for Healthy Skin. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-foods-for-healthy-skin#10.-Dark-chocolate
- Dovepress. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. https://www.dovepress.com/dietary-water-affects-human-skin-hydration-and-biomechanics-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CCID
- NCBI. Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing?https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25266053/
- NCBI. A study of skin characteristics with long-term sleep restriction in Korean women in their 40s. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31692145/
- NCBI. Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial Cross-sectional Survey. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715121/