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7 Surprising Reasons Your Skin Looks Dull... And How to Fix It - Part 2

Dermatologist's Tips for Radiant Skin

In Part 1 of this blog, we discussed how the condition of your skin can say a lot about your health and vitality. This is the continuation of that blog with my best tips to help you get rid of dull, lackluster skin...

3. You are not moisturizing enough and this is causing dull skin

Moisturizing combats dry skin. Dry skin has barrier-compromise of your waterproofing, stratum corneum layer. Cracks and scale due to lost lipids in the barrier cause dull skin tone. Ultimately, barrier proteins will become damaged, too. This can happen at any age, but skin repair really starts dropping off at age 55 or so.

Dry skin barrier damage ultimately results in increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and is thus accompanied by skin dehydration, too. That’s why the terms "dry" and "dehydrated" are confusing relative to skin. Bottom line, dry skin is dull and needs moisturizers that rebuild skin lipids.

How do you use skin moisturizers to fight dull skin and create glowing and bright skin tone?

doctor's advice for complete skin care for rosacea

Use the right skin moisturizers for your complexion as a part of your daily skin care routine. Complete skin care involves the 4 essential steps of
Cleanse, Correct, Hydrate, and Protect.

Moisturizers are applied in the hydrate step every day, twice a day. Oily complexions may want an oil-free moisturizer with squalane. Squalane is a natural chemical produced by the body that acts as a skin emollient to prevent dryness. Squalane production slows after 30 (yes, sadly). Skin products with squalane work really well to moisturize skin without oil or an oily feel. Squalane is non-comedogenic for those concerned with blocked pores and acne. It is also hypoallergenic and non-irritating for sensitive skin. (2)

Normal to dry complexions can benefit from healing oils. Consider a richer oil product as a night treatment. I love to apply my Retinol at night topped by a few drops of my Face Oil mixed with either my Natural Lotion or Daily Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin. Top choices for mosituziers include:

Daily Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin or Dry to Normal Skin

Natural Face and Body Lotion

Natural Face and Body Butter Cream

Face Booster Oils (used alone or as a few drops added to boost healing oil content of your moisturizer). Chose from Ultra-hypoallergenic or Omega Enriched.

4. You are not cleaning your skin well enough, which can lead to dull skin.

Having looked at skin through magnifying loops (special glasses) for 30 years, as well as under the microscope, I can tell you that many people have retained debris and product globbed together with dead cells, makeup, etc. I call it schmutz, a Jewish word that’s perfect! Schmutzy skin is common. We all have it from time to time. Cleaning skin well is important for bright and glowing skin because schmutz is dull, not to mention unattractive.

But, don’t overclean skin to the point of drying it out. One of the biggest skin care mistakes is using a cleanser that’s too drying. So, it is a Catch 22.

How do you clean your skin to brighten your complexion to fight dull skin?

I recommend picking a cleanser that is a little gentler than you might think you need. Use it twice a day, alternate it in the morning with an exfoliating scrub such as the Bamboo and Clay Scrub or the Triple Action Exfoliating Scrub. Or, add an Exfoliating Sponge.

For those of us who use oil-based products, two-step skin cleansing with oil is a great, evening ritual. I use Grape Seed Oil massaged into dry, facial skin to dissolve my oil-based sunscreen (Suntegrity 5 in 1). I wipe the oil and product off with a warm wet washcloth (you should see the color!).

I then use my Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser with my Clarisonic Brush to deeply clean off all oil and product residue. This preps skin well for my night treatment products.

Each person needs to find the sweet spot for their skin-cleansing routine by experimentation. Great resources include:

Extremely Gentle Cleanser (ideal for normal to dry complexions that are sensitive)

Daily Foaming Facial Cleanser (ideal for normal to oily complexions)

Naturally Best Bar Soap (a simple natural and hypoallergenic bar soap for those who like bar soaps)

VaniCream Bar Soap (pH balanced hypoallergenic bar soap for extremely sensitive skin)

5. You are not resting and rejuvenating enough, and it is causing dull skin.

A good night’s sleep really does brighten your complexion. The converse is true when you are sleep-deprived. It was proven by researchers in the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University, and we all intuitively know it. The same is true about exercise.

How much sleep do you need to fight dull skin?

On average, we need about 8 hours of good sleep each night. Some people need more and others need less. Look in the mirror and guage where you fit on this line. You’ll see a bright and vibrant complexion when you hit your sweet spot. Know that spot can change with the seasons, your stress level and demands etc.

How to use exercise to brighten dull skin.

Everytime I get a good cardio workout, my husband comments on how vibrant my complexion looks. As a dermatologist, I know he is noticing my skin tone that’s based on blood flow. Perhaps, my overall vitality boost helps too. Science has also proven that exercise helps skin look younger, brighter and better in the long term. Bottom line is that getting a good cardio workout revives dull skin instantly. Getting regular cardio and exercise helps fight dull, old-looking skin in the long term, too. (3)

6. You are eating a nutrition-poor diet, and it’s making your skin dull.

Back in 2010, I wrote one of my favorite blog posts ever – Skip the Tan and Eat your Veggies for Beautiful Skin Color. A study had just been released showing that a warm, beta carotene rich skin tone was deemed more attractive than a tan. It’s as true today as it was in 2010. Eating carrots, greens and foods rich in beta carotene will brighten sallow and dull skin tone in days.

The link between diet and skin aging (including dullness) is becoming clearer and more commonly discussed. You know it intuitively – we are what we eat and we look like it. Very few people can coast on good genes, maintaining a glowing complexion while eating junk. Most of us have to work at it. Food makes your complexion from the inside out (4). Eat well and boost skin brightness. Keep it up and fight skin aging.

What is the best diet to fight dull skin and get a glowing and bright complexion?

My top picks to eat include beta-carotene-rich foods, flax seeds for the plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, olive oil and avocados. I get those into a diet heavily weighted towards plants. To learn more about my diet recommendations, I invite you to download my free ebook here.

Eat beta carotene and a veggie-heavy diet. Eat olive oil and foods rich in good fats like avocados.

7. You are getting too much sun, and it’s causing your skin to be leathery and dull.

Skin responds to sun exposure by trying to protect itself. The tan is part of that – and you may like the tan. Leathering and dullness is another part of the skin’s attempt at protecting itself from sun exposure. Thickening of the stratum corneum in a manner that results in dullness is natural when your skin is overexposed to UV rays. Yes, you can exfoliate that off, but you don’t want to if you are putting your skin in harm’s way with UV rays. Instead, wear a good sunscreen and practice smart sun protection.

How to sun protect your skin to fight leathering and dull skin tone.

See my Infographic here. Smart dermatologist sun protection starts with sun protective clothing then ASK:

Apply broad spectrum zinc oxide sunscreen on all skin not covered by clothing

Seek the shade and/or create it with a proper sun hat and sun protection umbrella

Know your exposure. My simple UV ring helps.

Click here for the products my patients and I have put to the test for sun protection. These are proven products for the best sun protection.

There you have it. The top 7 reasons why your skin is dull and what to do to have bright, glowing skin again.

For more information and to avoid dull skin, click here.


  1. Enamul Haque Mojumdar, Quoc Dat Pham, Daniel Topgaard & Emma Sparr , Skin hydration: interplay between molecular dynamics, structure and water uptake in the stratum corneum, Nature, Scientific Reports; volume 7, Article number: 15712 (2017) Published 16 November 2017
  2. Anisha Sethi,Moisturizers: The Slippery Road, Indian J Dermatol. 2016 May-Jun; 61(3): 279–287.
  3. Ian D. Stephen, Facial Skin Coloration Affects Perceived Health of Human Faces, Int J Primatol. 2009 Dec; 30(6): 845–857.
  4. Silke K. Schagen, Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging, Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 298–307.