Recently, my 9-year-old daughter and I were looking in the mirror, standing side-by-side and smushing the sides of our cheeks together to make silly faces. To her, this was hysterical. But here’s what wasn’t funny: I couldn't believe how dull, dry and, well, old, my skin looked next to my daughter’s glowing complexion. The light just bounced off her fresh, plump skin; on mine it fell flat. This was depressing—especially because I thought my skin looked nice and dewy lately! I did some investigating to find out why my skin looked so blah.
WHY so dull?
Starting in your 30s and 40s, skin cells renew themselves more slowly than they did when you were younger. This means the top layer of dead, old cells sticks around longer hiding the fresh, dewy skin beneath it.
Sun damage in the form of dark spots and patches is lurking under the skin. “Those subsurface areas of pigmentation are casting a shadow on the surface of skin, which prevents light from reflecting," explains Katie Rodan, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University and author of Write Your Skin A Prescription for Change. “Think of the difference between a clear lake and a muddy lake. A clear lake reflects light perfectly, while the sediment floating in the water of a muddy lake absorbs light making it appear dull. The same thing is happening with those subsurface brown spots, which absorb rather than reflect light preventing skin from having that youthful, translucent glow.”
HOW do you get your glow back?
Help slough off that dead, top layer! Do so by exfoliating regularly—about three to four times per week. Just make sure to use a gentle scrub, like one made of beads rather than one made of ground fruit pits or shells, which can tear skin. Chemical exfoliators like products with salicylic acid or retinoids also help boost cell turnover. Another reason exfoliating is important is because it helps your moisturizer penetrate the skin better. “If you have dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, they can block it from absorbing your moisturizer,” says Rodan. Which brings me to my next point…
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. “Skin gets drier as you get older,” says Rodan. And dry skin makes lines and wrinkles more noticeable. Just wash your face, blot skin dry so it’s still damp and then apply moisturizer. “This helps lock in some moisture so skin is really hydrated,” explains Rodan.
Lighten up at night. You can also make brown patches and spots less noticeable by applying a brightening product at night. Look for those that include ingredients like vitamin c, coffeeberry, niacinamide and soy.
Make sunscreen a must! “Sunscreen defends your skin against brown spots in two ways: it prevents new spots from forming and stops pre-existing spots from darkening,” explains Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a Boston-based, board-certified dermatologist. To make sure your sunscreen protects against UVA rays, the ones that cause brown spots, look for ingredients like zinc oxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl.
Eat for gorgeous skin. Foods that contain healthy fats—like avocados, salmon, sardines, walnuts and olive oil—help skin look dewier and less dry. That’s because the body needs good-for-you fats (think: omega-3 fatty acids) to produce its own natural oils.
Break a sweat! Regular exercise helps boost circulation to the skin. This means blood and nutrients flow to the skin more easily helping to nourish it and give your complexion a rosier, youthful glow.