9 Big Reasons Your Skin Looks So Dull

If you’re looking less-than-radiant, fix these bad beauty habits stat.

As if the cold weather wasn’t enough to keep you down, a dull, listless complexion can often come with it. There are lots of reasons that could explain why your skin lacks that radiant glow we all crave. Chances are, one of the mistakes below could be the culprit. If you tackle your winter skin woes head-on, you’ll have beaming, healthy skin in no time.

1. You’re not exfoliating enough.

If you wash your face twice a day, you might think you have your skincare routine covered, but there’s a very crucial step you need to add: exfoliation. According to Dr. Kenneth Howe, dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology, the most common cause of dull skin is dryness. Dry skin needs to be sloughed away so that you can see the fresh, bright skin beneath it. Exfoliating also creates a fresh canvas that allow topical products to penetrate better, says Dr. Hadley King, board-certified dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa, so don’t be surprised if you begin seeing improved results from your other skincare products once you begin exfoliating regularly.

Just remember to keep the process gentle on your skin to avoid causing inflammation or irritation in any of those baby-soft layers of fresh skin you’ve exfoliated to the surface. Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and the director of Art of Skin MD, prefers “a chemical exfoliant (alpha and beta hydroxy acids) to physical exfoliants, which may be too harsh on the skin.”

2. You need to moisturize more.

On top of exfoliation, your complexion is calling out for something else: moisture. Dr. Howe explains the process on a microscopic level: The demands that we place on our skin cause cracks in its surface, which translate as dullness. Using a moisturizer fills in those fissures by adding lipids, the natural fats of the skin, which seal up the gaps between the skin cells, presenting a smooth, reflective surface.

Dr. Palm suggests using moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides, which help repair skin barrier function and improve water retention, and hyaluronic acid, which plumps up skin cells by attracting water to surrounding tissues. And how you apply it matters, too. “Apply your moisturizer in gentle, upward strokes to boost blood circulation and stimulate the cells around your face and neck,” recommends Dr. Debra Luftman, board-certified dermatologist and Simple Advisory Board member. “This will bring oxygen to the surface of your skin, making it look nourished and healthy, and feel more hydrated.”

6. The environment you’re in is dirty.

On top of your own habits, it could be your environment that’s dulling down your skin with air pollutants and UV exposure, as either of those factors can wreak havoc on unprotected skin. Dr. Howe tacked on low humidity and harsh winds as environmental elements that could be causing you problems as well. If you live in a high-smog area, one way to counteract the effects of your environment is by getting some exercise. “Aerobic activity enhances circulation to skin, which helps in nutrient exchange and removal of toxins from our skin cells,” advises Dr. Palm, so add a stop at the gym to your routine and get ready to notice a big difference.

9. You’re not eating a healthy, balanced diet.

The age-old saying “you are what you eat” very much applies here, as what you put into your body is reflected in your complexion. Our experts have come armed with foods to seek out — and foods to avoid. If radiant skin is your aim, Dr. Melanie Palm urges us away from salty and processed foods — they “enhance tissue swelling through fluid retention, which retards ideal light reflection.” Nutritionist Paula Simpson recommends steering clear of the “typical Western diet” all together, which in her own words includes ingredients that are “high in sugar and fat, devoid of fiber, antioxidants, high-quality protein and essential fatty acids,” all major culprits when it comes to dull skin.

Our experts reassured us that there are plenty of options out there to please your stomach as well as your skin, too. Dr. Howe, points us toward antioxidant-rich blueberries, cranberries, red beans, and pinto beans, while Dr. Palm advocates for good-fat treats like avocados and walnuts, as well as citrus fruits and kiwi, which contain Vitamin C, known to boost collagen growth. And when it comes to occasional splurges, while some experts would prefer you to skip alcohol, if you’re treating yourself, Mariola Barczewska, Esthetician at Haven Spa, recommends toward sulfide-free red wine and straight shots neat or on the rocks, which don’t affect your metabolism the way a sugary mixer might.

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