9 Of The Best Tips for Smooth Skin Texture, According to Dermatologists
From bumps to rough patches to enlarged pores, uneven skin texture one of the most common skin care concerns. It's especially a challenge when you feel like you've slathered on dozens of serums, masks, and hydrators only to find that your texture issues are still there.
"Texture is best assessed by the feel of the skin," says board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD. "If you close your eyes and run your fingers lightly over your skin and feel some resistance, this typically means you are losing your healthy, smooth skin texture." She also notes that visually, you may even see flaking, peeling, or scaling. If you're living with dry or acne-prone skin, chances are uneven texture is top of your list when it comes to skin qualms. But you're not alone. Even though certain skin types are more susceptible to texture concerns, anyone can experience uneven texture.
Thankfully, there are a slew of products and in-office treatments that can help renew and improve the texture of your skin. From topical acids to facials, keep reading to find dermatologist-approved tips for getting smooth and even skin:
We've said it one zillion times before, but we'll say it once more. Applying sunscreen daily is one of the most important steps of a good skin care routine. Harsh UV rays can wreak havoc on your complexion, and just because you may not see the effects immediately doesn't mean the damage isn't accumulating.
In fact, sun exposure is one of the leading causes of uneven skin texture. Here's why: When your skin is exposed to the sun without protection, the body's natural collagen production is compromised, and this can lead to a variety of texture issues with the skin. This can show up as tiny bumps, rough patches, oversized pores, and even dark spots that have a rough texture on the surface, aka hyperpigmentation. One study, focusing on Caucasian skin, found that UV exposure was responsible for 80% of visible facial aging signs1 including wrinkles, skin texture, pigmentation, and sagging of tissues.
Bottom line: Sunscreen is nonnegotiable.
Collagen powders smooth skin from the inside out rather than tending to surface-level textural issues. When you take collagen supplements, the hydrolyzed collagen peptides are absorbed by the body, traveling throughout where they are needed most. In the skin, they have been shown to support and stimulate your cells' fibroblasts2, enhancing your body's natural collagen and elastin production.
And with better collagen production comes smoother skin overall. Your skin needs collagen to remain healthy, plump, and glowing. Without collagen, it'll sag, look dull, and encourage premature aging.
Alpha-hydroxy acids, otherwise known as AHAs, are natural exfoliants that not only slough off dead skin and help reduce signs of aging, but they hydrate the skin, too.
"AHAs work to improve skin by removing the top layers of the skin through weakening the lipids that bond them together, thus removing dull and dead skin cells and revealing healthy skin cells," says board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D.
The most popular of the AHA family are glycolic acid and lactic acid. "Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, is the smallest acid in size, meaning the molecule can get deep into the skin," says Engelman. This makes it a go-to for breaking down and removing dead skin cells and particles. It also boosts collagen and elastin production. As for lactic acid, Engelman says it's a good option for those with sensitive skin. It's derived from sour milk and works to improve discoloration and age spots.
Retinol is one of those skin care powerhouses that you either love and consider your holy grail or you're much too afraid to experiment with. But the truth is, it's really not that scary after all. "Retinoic acid is an extremely effective cell-communicating ingredient that has the ability to connect to almost any skin cell receptor site and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger skin cell," Engelman says. "With continued usage of this ingredient and over time, you can see an improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, tone, and texture, as it is strengthening the skin barrier."
And if you're a retinol newbie or have sensitive skin, the key is starting with a gentler formula that won't irritate. Engelman says skin does become tolerant to the initial effects of retinols over time, so sensitive skin can be trained to tolerate this vitamin A derivative. But it is important to know that retinol should not be used if you are pregnant.
If your texture issues are caused by dry skin, hyaluronic acid could be the ingredient for you. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a natural humectant, which means it retains moisture. For HA, that's 1,000 times its weight in water. So, it's really hydrating. "It helps smooth the skin surface due to increasing the amount of water in the dead cell layer, which delivers moisture to dry, rough skin surface," says Ciraldo. Consider this hydrating acid like a tall glass of water for your skin.
These days there's a facial for every type of skin concern. Ciraldo recommends enzyme facials to address texture concerns. "Enzymes work by ungluing stored-up dead cells at the skin surface and in the pores," she says. "This could include bromelain from pineapple, pumpkin, or pomegranate." These types of facials have the best results if performed in a series and have no downtime for flaking or peeling.
Another in-office procedure to help even out rough skin texture is dermaplaning. "Dermaplaning uses a blade to physically remove dead cells from the surface of the skin," says Ciraldo. But she warns that this procedure should be done with great caution and is better left up to the pros. "Leave this to someone who has years of experience with the procedure, and don't do it on sensitive skin," she warns. Although the results of dermaplaning, when done professionally, can be baby soft, radiant skin, if done incorrectly, there can be a risk of scarring.
Peel pads are those easy-to-use, foolproof cotton rounds soaked in a solution that usually contains one or more exfoliating acids. Some options have dual sides, one smooth and one textured. And others are available in individual packets for use on-the-go. "The active ingredient in the pad will chemically exfoliate the skin, typically an AHA," says Ciraldo. "Plus, the pad itself provides an extra form of exfoliation by physically exfoliating the skin with the mechanical action of wiping away the dead cells on the surface of the skin."
Engelman adds that even though these pads can be useful for sloughing off dead skin, it's important not to overuse them. "I have patients who start using exfoliating pads, and the results after the first use are so amazing, they use it every day," she says. "By day four, they come to me with dry, irritated skin." Engelman suggests starting with every other day only once a day and work up to being able to use more frequently if needed.
Like retinol, chemical peels sound scarier than they actually are. In fact, they're actually made for addressing texture and tone concerns. This in-office treatment uses a highly concentrated chemical exfoliant on the skin and can vary in strength. Most experts will start with a gentle peel to ensure the skin doesn't have any negative reactions. The real magic happens post-treatment. Over the next two weeks following your peel, you may notice your skin starting to peel. Don't worry, unless you've gotten a super-strength version, this isn't as intimidating as it sounds. It almost resembles the peeling of a sunburn. The peeling of the skin helps to remove the top layers, revealing youthful, fresh, and radiant skin in just weeks. It's a great way to help eliminate any surface texture issues. Engelman believes chemical peels are an immediate way to address texture issues.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.