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6 Signs of Dull Skin and How to Brighten It

You don’t have to settle for a lackluster complexion.
January 09, 2023

If you’ve looked in the mirror and noticed that your complexion lacks radiance, you could be  dealing with dull skin. In the winter and colder weather months when the air lacks moisture, lackluster, flat and tired-looking skin is especially common and all skin types can experience it. While the weather can play a big factor, there are many other reasons that can explain why  your complexion is lacking the glow that so many of us seek. 

To regain the look of refreshed, healthy and radiant skin, it’s important to understand the signs of dull skin so you can take the necessary steps to help your skin recover its youthful glow. Check out our roundup below, outlining six common causes of dull skin along with tips for how to brighten skin and brightening skin care products you can use to regain your glow.

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What is Dull Skin?

Dull skin lacks a visible radiance. It’s flat, lifeless and it can make you appear tired or like you’ve even been neglecting your skin care routine — even if that’s not the case. Sometimes dull skin can feel rough and bumpy, it may also feel tight and dehydrated. As we mentioned, dull skin is a common skin woe, especially during the colder months but that doesn’t mean it’s something you have to accept, either.

6 Common Causes of Dull Skin

Dull skin can be the result of a myriad of issues. The good news is that all of them can be tackled with relatively easy lifestyle changes that will make all the difference in your complexion in the long run. Here are six of the most common reasons why your skin looks dull.

1. Dead Skin Cells 

As we get older, the skin matures and doesn’t shed skin cells at the same rate and its ability to produce oil begins to slow down. Because of this, the skin can become drier and experience a build-up of those dead skin cells on its surface, which ends up covering the radiant-looking skin underneath and presenting itself as a dull complexion. 

How to manage it: To minimize dead skin cell buildup, be sure to exfoliate a few times a week. Not only can exfoliating dead skin cells help your skin appear brighter, it can also help to make your skin feel smoother and appear more radiant. Using products formulated with glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), can help brighten the appearance of your skin, as it works to exfoliate the surface. 

The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum, is a great option for chemical exfoliating and contains pure glycolic acid to resurface the skin and visibly even skin tone. Use it two to three times a week and build up the frequency as your skin can tolerate it. 

If you prefer a milder form of glycolic acid, try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 5 % Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner. This resurfacing toner gently removes dead skin cells and increases radiance with a fragrance-free formula you can use daily.

2. Aging

As you age, skin concerns like uneven skin tone and fine lines and wrinkles can dull your complexion. Pair that with the skin’s slow ability to shed dead cells and you have the perfect recipe for dull skin.

How to manage it: Incorporate skin care into your routine that can slow down signs of aging. The L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Skin Care Cell Renewal Anti-Aging Midnight Serum is an indulgent night serum that repairs the skin barrier and visibly reduces fine lines while you sleep. The formula is enhanced with patented antioxidant complex, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid, so you can count on non-greasy hydration that boosts radiance, firms the skin tone and smooths wrinkles. 

Pair the serum with the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Skin Care Cell Renewal Midnight Cream, Antioxidants, a night cream enhanced with the same patented antioxidants and vitamin E to firm wrinkles and improve radiance.

3. You Have Dry Skin

During the winter, there is a lack of moisture in the air and this can leave you with dehydrated skin. If you have dry skin (which lacks oil), this can make it even drier and your visage may look drab and tired while feeling tight and rough. Since dehydrated skin lacks water, oily skin can also be dehydrated and this can lead to a dull skin tone.

How to manage it: Moisturizer is a non-negotiable for all skin types, especially during the chilly winter season, so it’s important that you moisturize frequently to keep your skin hydrated. The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream is formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to provide long-lasting hydration while strengthening your skin barrier. It has a non-greasy, lightweight finish and it suits all skin types.

If your skin is drinking in your moisturizer and you feel like you need an extra layer of hydration, try a hyaluronic acid serum. Hyaluronic acid enhances your skin’s moisture retention by holding in more water, making your skin look plumper and refreshed. Add the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum into your skin care routine to help combat dry skin. 

If you suffer from dry under-eyes, add the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid + 1% Caffeine Eye Serum to your routine. This hydrating eye serum is enhanced with hyaluronic acid and caffeine to depuff the delicate under-eyes while visibly brightening.

4. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Your skin has the chance to refresh and renew itself while you snooze. According to the Cleveland Clinic, while you’re getting a good night’s sleep, your skin cells work to repair damage, so it’s essential to make sure you are giving your skin the time it needs to recharge.

How to manage it: Make the most of your beauty sleep by getting seven to nine hours of slumber each night. While you get your rest let the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging Overnight Mask reduce wrinkles, firm your skin and brighten your complexion.

5. You’re Using the Wrong Skin Care Products

It’s important to use the proper skin care products to address your unique concerns when you’re dealing with dull skin or any other type of skin woe. In terms of combating dull skin, steer clear of mattifying formulas and opt for ones that can tame oils and hydrate your skin. Along with routine exfoliation, gentle face scrubs are very effective at boosting radiance and so are brightening serums formulated with antioxidants like vitamin C. 

How to manage it: Look for products that are aimed at mattifying and balancing your complexion. Dull skin can benefit from a brightening facial cleanser, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser. This cleansing scrub contains glycolic acid for gentle chemical exfoliation, plus, micro-pearls to manually exfoliate dullness while improving skin tone and boosting overall radiance.

The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum is a pure vitamin C serum that corrects three signs of early aging: uneven skin tone, pores and fine lines. It also adds an instant radiance boost to your skin after you apply it. 

6. Too Much Sun Exposure 

Let’s face it, too much sun exposure is never a good thing and it always exacerbates issues like dullness, uneven skin tone and dark spots. Excessive sun exposure draws moisture from your skin, causing it to look dull and textured while emphasizing signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines. 

How to manage it: First and foremost, promise yourself that you’re going to commit to wearing SPF daily, regardless of the weather. If you find yourself avoiding SPF because you don’t like the texture or white cast, consider the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Invisible UV Fluid

With an ultra-lightweight finish that melts into the skin, the formula doesn’t leave behind greasy textures, sticky residues or a white cast. Plus, it’s formulated with UVA and UVB filters to provide broad-spectrum protection from sun rays that cause aging and burning.

Additional Tips for Avoiding Dull Skin

If you’ve made adjustments to your skin based on the six most common dull skin causes and you still don’t see an improvement, here are a few additional tips to consider.

Tip 1. Watch for Dehydration

As we mentioned, dry skin lacks oils and dehydrated skin lacks water and both can lead to a dull complexion. When you think of being dehydrated, the first thing you probably think of is drinking more water. Upping your water intake can definitely help to address overall dehydration but when it comes to your skin, here are a few things to consider.

If you’re washing your face with scalding hot water, you’re stripping your skin barrier and drawing moisture out. It may feel relaxing in the moment but if you’re washing your face with hot water twice a day, this can lead to a dull, dehydrated complexion very quickly. Switch to a lukewarm temperature and you’ll notice a difference in your skin. The same applies to your shower routine. 

If you only deal with dull skin during the winter months, consider putting a humidifier in your room. In the winter, the air is dry and lacks moisture, which means your skin can also become dry and lack moisture, leading to dull, lackluster and dehydrated complexion. A humidifier puts moisture back into the air and can help to compensate for the weather, addressing your skin’s hydration issue.

Tip 2. Beware of Over-Exfoliating

As good as routine exfoliation can be for your skin tone, too much of it becomes a bad thing very quickly. Over-exfoliated skin manifests itself as dull, irritated, dry, tight and even bumpy. So, your daily exfoliating efforts to avoid a dull skin tone could be the very reason why your skin still looks dull. When you start exfoliating, aim for two times a week and build up the frequency as your skin can tolerate it. 

Tip 3. Take a Break From Matte Makeup

Something as simple as the finish of your foundation could be the reason why you have a dull-looking complexion. In the winter, there’s a good chance your skin is drier than normal, which means your matte foundation can be very unforgiving — emphasizing dryness and making your skin look flat. Instead, save your matte foundation for warmer weather and try something with a natural finish, like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Foundation, to give your complexion a hydrating boost. 

Another tip is to use a makeup primer to counteract dullness, like the L’Oréal Paris Prime Lab Up to 24H Dullness Reducer. The non-comedogenic formula brightens and illuminates skin tone while extending your makeup wear for up to 24 hours.

Next: 4 Tips for Managing Acne-Prone Skin

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Mirna Jose, Hair Assistant: Keila Rivera, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Model: Zlata Semenko

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