3 Research-Backed Tips To Get Both Plump & Firm Skin (Yes, It's Possible!)
"Plumpness" and "firmness" may seem like competing skin care goals, but in reality they're just two sides of the same coin: Healthy, vibrant skin is both taut and supple. That's because there are many components to skin, each lending their own unique characteristics. Proteins (notably collagen) keep the structure in place, providing lift and resilience. But the skin also contains other nutrients and molecules, such as lipids and humectants. These help the complexion appear soft and dewy.
So, to get skin that's both soft and strong at the same time, you'll want to follow some simple guidelines:
Protect with sunscreen and antioxidants.
Yes, there are ways to rejuvenate your skin—and we'll talk about them in a second—but it's certainly easier to just keep what you have already plump and healthy, no? UV damage, environmental stressors, internal stress, and skin inflammation can all damage our skin barrier, degrade the proteins that make our skin firm, and deplete the molecules that keep them hydrated.
The first thing to be mindful of is UV damage, as that accounts for about 80% of premature aging1. So please wear sunscreen daily: There's nothing better for your skin care routine than a diligent SPF habit.
But you'll also want to incorporate antioxidants. "It's basically a substance that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals," board-certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in NYC Orit Markowitz, M.D., explains about antioxidants for healthy aging. "Antioxidants are things that interact with free radicals, and they decrease these free radicals on our skin, creating a healthier environment." Adding in an antioxidant serum (like a vitamin C serum) daily will do wonders for your skin in the long run.
But here's the hard truth: collagen, elastin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid all naturally decline with time—regardless of how well you protect them in the first place—so here's how you can replenish and rejuvenate them in your skin.
Use inside-out support for long-term, sustained care.
In order for the body to produce these lipids, proteins, and various other skin structure substances, it needs the right nutrients. Eating a diverse, nutrient-dense diet is essential for skin longevity.
Here are a few nutrients to keep an eye out for:
- Vitamin C. Not only is this an antioxidant (which helps prevent damage), but vitamin C is an essential player in the collagen synthesis process. That means it not only protects the collagen you do have, but it also helps create more. Load up on citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, or vitamin C supplements.
- Collagen peptides. Collagen peptides are collagen molecules that are broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, such as collagen, elastin, and keratin (what makes up your epidermis and dermis). When consumed, they can provide the body the tools to create more collagen; research shows that they can even stimulate the skin's fibroblasts to encourage the collagen production process2. While you can get collagen via food, powders and supplements tend to be the most effective and popular options. Here are our collagen supplements.
- Lipids, such as omegas. "Omega-3 fatty acids support the walls of these cells3, making them bouncy again. To get plenty of omega-3s, eat fatty fish and walnuts, or take a high-quality omega-3 supplement," notes naturopathic doctor Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D.
Find a high-quality hyaluronic acid product for an instant fix.
Consistent, long-term care is always the best method—but who does love immediate gratification and a quick fix from time to time? For quick plumping action, hyaluronic acid serums will give you supple, dewy skin instantly. Hyaluronic acid is a beloved humectant as it can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. And by pulling in and holding that moisture, it can give your complexion that gentle plumping effect.
However: It's not a long-term solution. HA serums are fabulous for many reasons, but they won't provide sustained or compounding results. (Essentially, you'll get a lovely boost while wearing it, but eventually it'll wear off and you'll need to reapply.) But that doesn't mean using it isn't worthwhile. Personally, I use an HA serum almost every day because I love how soft it makes my complexion look.
Another great use case: using hyaluronic acid in lip products, like in this lip balm. Finding one with a low molecular weight (look for sodium hyaluronate on the label) can give the lips a soft, plush look while keeping them moisturized throughout the day.
Having skin that's plump and dewy but also firm and taut is a lofty goal but also an achievable one with the right targeted strategies. As with any skin care goal, proper sun protection is key. Beyond that, eating a diverse diet with plenty of vitamin C, collagen, and omega-3s will do wonders. And while these strategies will keep skin plump and firm long term, sometimes you want a quick boost, and that's where hyaluronic acid comes in.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.