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Dull skin is never “in.”
Dryness and/or dehydration are usually some of the first things you notice when your skin suddenly turns dull. Your skin lacks color and radiance and just looks kind of… tired.
This usually happens whenever there’s a lot of stress involved in your life, when you travel, or… when your lifestyle just becomes a little too hectic.
Yup. Stress and fatigue will show on your skin, quickly.
REVIVING DULL SKIN: LIFESTYLE CHANGES + SKINCARE TIPS
Skincare is great, but your lifestyle is a huge contributing factor when it comes to dull skin, or your skin looking radiant and healthy. Not getting enough sleep is a big one. I’ve always been one of those people who did not need a lot of sleep- too much sleep, like the recommended 8 hours, makes me feel more tired than usual in the morning and gives me a day-long back pain. If I’m working on particularly interesting projects, I can stay up all night AND go to work at 8 am, with no problem. It does, however, immediately show on my skin- and I’m not talking just about the bags under my eyes.
I recently started tracking my sleep using my FitBit on their app on my phone and was actually kind of shocked at how little I actually sleep. So, whenever I can, I grab a two-hour nap here and there, so that even when I do have an occasional all-nighter, my skin (and mind and body!) don’t suffer too much.
KEEP HEALTHY, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE BUSY
The busier you get, the more difficult it becomes to follow a healthy lifestyle. You forget to drink enough water, you don’t have time to cook so you opt for something less than ideal, just because it’s convenient and quick. If that’s the case for you, I recommend you try tracking down your water intake in apps like MyFitnessPal or Daily Water. I track mine with the Fitbit app. 8Greens tablets are also great for getting some of that skin-loving nutrition when you’re busy or traveling.
Preparation + organization is key. You can devote your Sunday mornings or afternoons for preparing for the week ahead. Make your own snacks (like these raw granola bars or caramel bites) so that you won’t end up reaching for something unhealthy during the day when you’re low on energy and crave something sweet. I also pre-pack my morning smoothie ingredients- which usually are very simple with spinach, plant protein powder, banana, plant milk and some berries. That way, when I’m in a hurry I don’t have to worry about measuring anything or washing the greens or fruit; I just toss them all in a blender, add my plant milk and protein powder and I’m good to go.
Simplify things for yourself by prepping and by not keeping junk in your fridge or pantry. Making a few smart swaps will be helpful, too (give up soda and sugary juices for water or something more interesting and refreshing).
YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE
Regardless of your skin type, your skin should never feel dry or tight after cleansing. Your cleansers should never leave your skin leaving feeling tight, dry and/or itchy- they should not strip your skin from its natural oils.
This is one place where you should keep things simple; go for fragrance-free, gentle formulas. Some of my favorite gentle cleansers are: Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser– both are on the foamy side and rinse very clean and are super gentle; MUN Akwi Cleanser -this one is great for dry, flaky and sensitive skin and those who love double-cleansing. Gentle is the way to go especially when it comes to cleansing.
Usually, whenever your skin is acting up, a face mask is the first thing that comes to mind. They are especially helpful when your skin suffers from dullness due to things like traveling or changing seasons. When dullness comes along with (or due to) dryness, I always reach for Cetaphil in a tub. I have yet to try a moisturizer that is as gentle, affordable and effective. When my skin isn’t very happy, I just apply an extra-thick layer of Cetaphil on, sort of like an overnight hydrating mask, and always wake up to a soft and hydrated skin. Seriously, I like Cetaphil A LOT better than Creme de la Mer, which I finally tried, only to find out that it’s really nothing to write home about. Proof that expensive doesn’t mean better, my friends.
Erno Laszlo’s Marble Mask is great for brightening (also super fun to use) and their Hydra-Therapy Memory Sleep Mask is one of my favorite overnight treatments that gives me that overnight glow. Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask is a nice and affordable mask option for oilier skin types (highly recommend mixing it with apple cider vinegar rather than water). Right now, I’m also really loving Paula’s Choice Radiance Renewal Mask* which is a product designed to treat dull skin, and so far I have to say it’s doing its job quite nicely- it’s also another acne-prone friendly option.
Your skin’s dullness might also be a result of the buildup of dead skin- in that case, it’s all about exfoliation. I, of course, as you might know, prefer chemical exfoliation. Every one of my friends who asks me for a product recommendation for skin issues like dullness, always ends up introducing acids to their skincare routine.
Scrubs, like a lot of things in the skincare world, have their limits: they only treat the top layer of skin and unfortunately, most of the trouble-making build-up cells are way beyond their reach. Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, dissolve the bonds and intercellular cement between skin cells, allowing it to ease all that buildup away. Not to mention that a lot of scrubs are way too harsh to use on skin and can leave microtears behind. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs i.e. glycolic, lactic acids) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA- salicylic acid) are chemical exfoliants that are most commonly used in skincare.
AHA and BHA products can be very easily incorporated into your skincare routine, depending on your needs. Some of my favorite chemical exfoliants are:
–Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid ($29) – this is so much more than just your regular toner- it’s a non-abrasive leave-on exfoliant that I love using in the morning; it’s gentle enough for daily use and helps keep your pores clear and skin bright.
–Amlactin AHA Ceramide Therapy Lotion ($15) – I use this pretty much every night, especially during winter when my skin gets very dry. Not only does it hydrate and help with dry, flaky skin, but it also helps to even out your skin tone. If you get razor bumps from shaving, ingrown hair or suffer from KP, get dry and flaky skin on your legs and arms, this lotion can help with all these issues.
–REN Ready, Steady, Glow Tonic ($35) – If your skin is used to acids, you will love it, but if you’re on the sensitive side this might feel a bit too strong. It helps with uneven skin tone and dullness.
–Pixi Glow Tonic ($15 – $29) – I mean, how could I not mention this cult classic? It’s probably one of the most gentle AHA products out there that helps balance out the skin; if you’re a beginner or want to introduce acids to your routine, this product is a great place to start.
–Sunday Riley Good Genes ($108) – one of my favorite lactic acid treatments that is amazing at battling dull skin and complexion, dark spots, and wrinkles. Definitely one worth the splurge.
–Complex Beauty AfterGlow Mist ($34) – I have a bit of a thing for facial mists, and this one is very different from most mists out there. It’s formulated with glycolic acid, MSM and fruit enzymes and it’s just what you need for a quick pick-me-up for your skin, that also adds a nice glow with regular use.
–Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion ($29) – an AHA gel/lotion that’s gentle enough for sensitive skin- love using this at night before my moisturizer.
–The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA ($6.50) – I have yet to try a product from this brand I didn’t like- this one, in particular, is great for gentle exfoliation.
–Stridex Pads Red Box ($8.00) – amazing BHA treatment that is also super affordable- anyone with acne-prone skin needs this in their skincare collection! You can find this at pretty much any drugstore, it will help keep breakouts under control, you can also use these on your back, or legs if you get razor bumps.
–Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Peel Pads ($17-$150) – I’ve been using the extra strength version of these for years and love what they do for my skin. It’s a two-step treatment that comes with pre-soaked pads (a mix of glycolic, salicylic, mandelic and lactic acids) these helped my skin tremendously when it was at its worst.
Retinoids will also help your skin look healthier and smoother, as they help restore the skin. Usually, it takes some time for your skin to adjust to products with retinoids and results come over time. So, while those products will not give you immediately noticeable results, it is worth adding it to your skincare routine. I use prescription-strength Retin-A Micro and Tazorac (interchangeably, of course), but there is a bunch of awesome OTC products like Differin (first prescription-strength retinoid available OTC- I like it just as much as Tazorac), Paula’s Choice Retinol Booster, TO’s Granactive Retinoid and ROC’s Retinol Night Cream.
The earlier you start incorporating sunscreen into your skincare routine, the better, but it’s never too late to start. Use of sunscreen is especially important when using AHA/BHA or Vitamin C products (pretty much anything that helps fight hyperpigmentation- not wearing proper sun protection while using these products can leave your skin vulnerable, and produce reverse results e.g. your acne scars will get darker, instead of getting lighter).
This, right here, is your secret to youthful, even-toned skin. Wear it daily, rain or shine. Sun exposure causes skin damage; it causes your skin to age and wrinkle much faster than it would, had it not been exposed. This means photoaging, sun spots and, of course, wrinkles. With things like these, it’s much better (and easier) to prevent, rather than treat. If you want to find a good sunscreen for your face, see this article.
You should always use 1/4 teaspoon on your entire face (at least SPF 30), applying it AFTER your moisturizer, before makeup. While using sunscreen alone might not help fight your skin’s dullness, it will protect it from further damage, when your skincare routine includes any skin-renewing products.
Of course, because life isn’t always fair, nothing is a guarantee. I know people who lead very unhealthy lifestyles, people who love their junk food, yet always have glowing skin; I have friends who end up going to sleep wearing makeup every single weekend, yet the only place they’ve ever seen a breakout was on MY face. I, on the other hand, go to sleep a few hours later than usual and end up looking as gray as a zombie, or, I have a piece of cheese and end up breaking out within hours.
It’s important to know your body, and caring for your skin will be easier. I, for instance, know that if I happen to break out along my chin, it’s usually hormone related and it might be a side effect of a change in my medication or not getting enough sleep (this article on MBG about face mapping is a nice read if that’s something you want to look into). Ok, now I’m off to rehydrate.