8 Reasons Your Skin Is Dull + How To Get It Glowing ASAP

Contributing writer By Alexa Erickson
Contributing writer
Alexa Erickson is a California-based writer who specializes in travel, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. She received a degree in journalism and creative writing from the University of Tampa, and her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Shape, and more.
Medical review by Keira Barr, M.D.
Board-certified dermatologist
Keira Barr is a dual board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Resilient Health Institute.
Woman with Moisturized Skin

Image by Leandro Crespi / Stocksy

Glowing skin is always having a moment. Makeup tries to emulate it. Skin care products like serums try to perfect it. It's that ineffable glow that oozes youth, a full night's rest, daily meditation, and a ton of expensive facials. But getting that elusive glow is really just about pinpointing the root causes of dullness and treating that. There are plenty of contributing factors that cause dull skin. And while some may be outside your control, there are a few skin care and lifestyle steps you can take to help. Here, our glowing recommendations: 

1. Pollution

Polluted air is harmful to the environment and your skin. Its tiny, toxic particles, like carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide emissions from cars, not only dirty the surface of your face but block your pores and reduce oxygen. Not only that but particulate matter—like PM10—are so small that they can shimmy into your pores, wreaking havoc and causing inflammation. Your suffocated skin appears dull as a consequence. Polluted air also creates free radicals on the skin, which puts your skin on the fast track to aging, appearing as wrinkles and uneven skin tone. 

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The fix: 

With all that uncontrollable pollution landing on your face each day, it's pertinent you wash your face every night before bed. Otherwise, you allow all those harmful, dirty particles to linger on your skin all night. Research shows that using a face wash with a cleansing brush is the most effective way to remove pollution. Another tip is to apply sun protection on a daily basis since UV rays amplify the effects of pollutants. 

2. Overall dehydration

Dehydration seems to be a culprit of so many health-related concerns, including skin issues. Not drinking enough water is the archnemesis of beautiful, dewy, glowing skin. Dehydration prohibits your skin from performing the most basic and essential functions, such as cell turnover. This results in a buildup of dead cells on the surface, resulting in clogged pores, congestion, and dull skin. But sometimes water isn't enough, and thankfully there are beauty products that can come to the rescue. 

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The fix:

In thirst we trust! There are a lot of opinions about how much water we should consume. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends a daily fluid intake of about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. This isn't just anecdotal, either: Research shows that drinking enough water can increase dermal thickness. Along with water, you can reach your daily intake from other beverages and food. Skin serums, creams, and lotions are also your friend: Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, an ultra-absorbent sponge-like molecule found naturally in the body. 

3. Dead skin cells

Fun fact: The top layer of your skin is dead skin cells, and that's a good thing. They help protect the other skin cells below. However, sometimes the buildup can get to be too much. The skin constantly sheds dead cells, and a buildup on your face can result in an ashy look that contributes to dullness and highlights fine lines and wrinkles. There's a very crucial step you need to take if you want to ensure those dead skin cells are sloughed away regularly. Exfoliate! 

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The fix: 

Exfoliating is necessary for unclogging your pores and removing excess dead skin cells while also preventing pollutants, dirt, and bacteria from layering up. Gently exfoliate your skin once or twice a week. Not only does exfoliating weekly remove toxic particles, but it allows the lively skin cells beneath to surface, resulting in glowing skin. 

4. Stress 

The relationship between stress and skin health is a lengthy one. Unhealthy levels of stress present themselves in all kinds of ways, from a brief breakout to multiple skin diseases. The onset of sudden stress triggers the fight-or-flight response. As more circulation is diverted to vital organs, such as the heart, brain, and lungs, blood flow is taken away from your skin, including your face. Over time, chronic stress can lead to a dull complexion. It also causes your cortisol levels to spike, causing inflammation throughout the body.  

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The fix: 

You knew it was coming: Manage your stress! Work deadlines, family drama, relationship struggles, and trying to fulfill a busy social calendar can take their toll on your well-being. Make it a point to enjoy valuable "me time" regularly, whether that's going to meditation, enjoying downtime at home, or skipping that networking event for a solo date night. Another option is to try immediate skin de-stressing techniques: Breathwork has become the go-to for many experts

5. Not eating enough antioxidants

Oxidative stress is another issue. This can occur as a result of an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. While the body's cells naturally produce free radicals during metabolic processes, cells also produce antioxidants to neutralize free radicals. But if your body is devoid of a healthy level of antioxidants, this process gets thrown out of whack. This can lead to chronic inflammation, which, in turn, can not only dull the skin's complexion but accelerate fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores, as well as cause puffiness, sagging, and blotchiness. There are many factors that contribute to oxidative stress, including UV exposure and diet. 

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The fix: 

Fill up on antioxidants! There are many foods that provide essential antioxidants in the form of vitamins and minerals, including dark chocolate, pecans, blueberries, strawberries, artichokes, goji berries, raspberries, kale, red cabbage, beets, and spinach. Also, find a quality supplement that can help neutralize oxidative stress: Look for potent antioxidants like astaxanthin.* Using topical beauty products containing vitamins C and E are great for combating dull skin and achieving a glowing complexion as well. 

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6. Your skin microbiome is out of whack 

Like the gut, your skin has its own special ecosystem made up of millions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Maintaining a healthy skin microbiome is essential for glowing skin and overall skin health. A well-balanced skin microbiome protects your skin, including your face, from unfriendly organisms while ensuring your skin produces enough nutrients and maintains a balanced pH. In short, it contributes to the things needed to make your skin feel and look its best. An imbalanced microbiome can't protect the skin effectively, resulting in various issues, from dull skin to atopic dermatitis

 The fix: 

It should come as no surprise that not all skin care products are created equal! Many harsh skin care products strip the skin of its natural pH, so be sure to use products that respect and support your skin's pH and its microbiome. Pre- and probiotic skin care products are your best bet for supporting proper skin barrier function. These are our favorite products, formulated with quality ingredients, for supporting a healthy skin microbiome. 

7. Age-related collagen loss  

Youthful skin maintains its resilience and glow due to its high content of collagen, as well as elastin and water. But as skin ages, the body stops producing these. In turn, the dermis thins and the complexion dulls, among other things. 

The fix: 

By now you likely know there's no cure-all for turning back the hands of time. However, there are valuable lifestyle choices you can make to slow the depletion of elastin, collagen, and hyaluronic acid. Ingesting vitamin C will support the synthesis of collagen and hyaluronic acid.* Consume foods high in the vitamin, like oranges, red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and strawberries.

You can also promote natural collagen production by ingesting hydrolyzed collagen peptide supplements.* Foods like bone broth contain a bioavailable form of collagen, which your body can use upon ingestion. Other collagen-rich foods include chicken, fish and shellfish, egg whites, berries, and leafy greens.

Meanwhile, avoid consuming too much sugar and too many refined carbs, which can cause inflammation and damage collagen. And be sure to always wear sunscreen! UV radiation activates enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which break down collagen.

8. Not getting enough sleep

Lack of sleep can do a number on your skin. It leads to an imbalance of the dermis, resulting in dehydration and a decrease in your complexion's pH levels. The result is an unhealthy look that appears dull, dry, uneven, and potentially blotchy. As you sleep, your body works to remove dead blood cells, making room for new cells. But with poor sleep, you deprive yourself of that essential cell turnover, robbing yourself of that good morning glow.  

The fix: 

First and foremost, try your best to get a good night's rest. Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but most healthy adults require between seven and nine hours of shut-eye per night. Make good sleep hygiene a priority, such as sleeping in a comfortable bed in a room that's dark, quiet, and neither too hot nor too cold. You should also try to go to sleep at the same time every night. You can also take advantage of natural products, such as diffusing lavender essential oil, sleeping with temperature-regulating sheets, using dimmable light bulbs and blue light tablet and phone protectors, and topping it all off with an overnight hydrating face oil to boost that morning glow. 

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