How to Reverse Dull Skin for a More Glowing Complexion

woman with glowing skin

Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Getty Images

Unlike dark spots, acne, and fine lines, a dull complexion can be difficult to spot. That being said, if you've ever looked in the mirror and thought that your skin could be just a tad bit brighter, more radiant, and just plain healthy-looking, know that achieving a glowing complexion is possible. "Dull skin is a bit of an all-encompassing term for skin that doesn't look healthy," Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali says. "Some reasons include a pile-up of dead skin cells, debris from the day (like pollution), or even dehydration."

First things first in nixing dull, lifeless skin and making your skin brighter? Assessing the cause. Different factors like diet, lifestyle, and daily skincare habits can play a role, and making slight changes can help you correct it. Below, we tapped Bhanusali as well as esthetician Mahtab Maoven for some answers on how to amp up our face brightness and how to brighten skin naturally.

Meet the Expert

  • Dhaval Bhanusali is an NYC-based dermatologist specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology.
  • Mahtab Maoven is the head international trainer of skincare brand Biologique Recherche at Luxbae salon and MedSpa.
01 of 09

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake


Tim Kitchen / Getty Images

Alcohol can seriously dehydrate and dull the skin. It can also increase the blood flow to the skin's surface, resulting in a flushed appearance that can become permanent over time for some people. If you feel the need for a drink and don't want to see the effects of it on your skin, drink clear alcohol and always sip water along with your drink.

02 of 09

Consume a Balanced Diet

nuts and seeds

Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty Images

You are what you eat. The quality of food you eat and the types of foods you consume do affect the health and look of your skin. Incorporate more foods into your diet that are high in fatty acids such as fish (especially salmon), walnuts, and flaxseed. Fatty acids are crucial to healthy skin because they boost collagen and cell production below the skin's surface. Think of it as nourishing your skin from within.

Also, eating foods that are rich in antioxidants can help to fight skin inflammation and free radical damage. Nuts and seeds like walnuts and pumpkin seeds as well as tomatoes can protect your skin while dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that can make your skin supple. Also, make sure your diet is rich in probiotics—the healthier your gut is, the healthier your skin is, too.

03 of 09

Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage

Decree Day Shield SPF 30
Shen Beauty Decree Day Shield SPF 30 $96

According to Maoven, the sun depletes the skin of its levels of essential fatty acids and hyaluronic acid, which can lead to dullness as well as pigmentation called lipofuscin. "Use of SPF is very important every day, and the level of SPF depends on the time of exposure," says Maoven. "Use an SPF 30 for every day and an SPF 50 for activities such as hiking, swimming, walking, or jogging."

04 of 09

Exfoliate Regularly

Detox Tonic
Skin Proud Detox Tonic $13

We hate to break it to you, but no matter how dry and dull your skin is, you can't moisturize dead skin away. Exfoliation is key to a brighter complexion, and when it comes to incorporating it into your routine, you have options. You can gently exfoliate with a washcloth, use an exfoliating cleanser or scrub, or go even deeper with microdermabrasion treatments or a skin cleansing brush. Exfoliate your skin two to three times a week, or, if you have sensitive skin, start with once a week and see how your skin tolerates it.

If you exfoliate on a regular basis, you are consistently sloughing off the dead skin and allowing new, plump skin cells to come to the surface of your skin, which is a crucial step to achieving a brighter complexion.

05 of 09

Start Your Day With Vitamin C

Stroke of Brilliance Serum
Versed Stroke of Brilliance Serum $20

A daily dose of orange juice loaded with vitamin C is good for keeping colds away, but vitamin C is also a nutrient-rich antioxidant that fights signs of aging, and it's a known skin-brightening agent, too. Vitamin C also protects the skin from UV-related free radicals, lightens up dark spots, and improves your skin's overall appearance.

06 of 09

Get Adequate Sleep

Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray $29

Not only is it important for your body to get at least eight hours of shut-eye, but it's also important for your skin, too. Maoven says that important cell regeneration occurs during our sleep, and that lack of sleep will directly play a role in poor skin regeneration, resulting in tired and dull skin. If you're having trouble getting a good night's rest, try a pillow spray to help you fall asleep faster, like this one from This Works.

07 of 09

Use a Moisturizer With Hyaluronic Acid

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel $26

Ever feel like your skin is stripped, dry, and tight post-washing? Upping the ante on your moisturizer is key for a well-hydrated, brighter complexion—especially if you choose one with hyaluronic acid. "Hyaluronic acid helps retain moisture better than any other ingredient," Bhanusali says

08 of 09

Never Skip Cleansing

Cicapair™ Tiger Grass Enzyme Foam Cleanser
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair™ Tiger Grass Enzyme Foam Cleanser $25

You should wash your face every day, twice a day: first thing in the morning and before bed. This gets rid of built-up dirt and oil on the skin's surface, and it also removes makeup depending on the formula. Untouched dirt, oil, and makeup can clog pores, weigh down your skin, and lead to a dull complexion. If the day calls for a ton of makeup, a double cleanse may be in order to ensure there isn't any leftover makeup left on your face after a full day.

09 of 09

Combat Environmental Triggers With Targeted Skincare Products

Clear Skin Probiotic Masque
Eminence Organics Clear Skin Probiotic Masque $56

Fun fact: the environment has a direct influence on our skin. Maoven says that some factors that can cause dull skin are oversensitivity, which pushes the epidermis to build a thicker layer of protection on the skin, which leads to a dull and rough texture. Also, pollution can sit on the skin, which can congest the skin, clog the pores, and lead to blackheads. If you live in a highly polluted city, using products that balance your skin's microbiome, like this mask from Eminence Organics, can help achieve the brightness you desire.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Liu SW, Lien MH, Fenske NA. The effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the skinClin Dermatol. 2010;28(4):391-399. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.024

  2. Katta R, Desai SP. Diet and dermatology: the role of dietary intervention in skin diseaseJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(7):46-51.

  3. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of vitamin C in skin healthNutrients. 2017;9(8):866. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

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