Ah, remember that marvelously glowing skin we used to have as teenagers? It was smooth, rosy and radiant. And save for the occasional blemish, it all seemed pretty perfect.
But as adults, our skin behaves differently. Think of it this way: As a teen, the skin’s top layer of cells turns over every 28 days or so. That means the dull cells slough off regularly, uncovering the healthy, glowing skin cells underneath. Now that you’re a grown-up, this process lags, and the dull skin cells stick around a bit longer. Not only that, but blood flow to your face slows down. And then there’s sun damage to consider!
So, you could spend every morning spackling and powdering, but who has the time? The good news: If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. You can reclaim your natural glowing skin and keep it by trying these tips from dermatologists. You’ll boost your skin’s brightness in a big way right away.
1. Make Sunscreen a Daily Habit
“Wearing sunscreen is tip No. 1, 2 and 3,” says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Boston. UV rays from the sun penetrate skin — even when it’s cloudy — causing damage that can lead to the disastrous D’s: dullness, discoloration and dryness, all of which rob you of your natural glowing skin, not to mention lead to wrinkles.
You probably already slather on sunblock during pool, beach and park days, but that’s not the only time you need it. “People think sunscreen is only for sunny days, but the sun’s UV rays can damage skin any time it’s light out, not only when the sun is shining,” explains Dr. Hirsch. What’s more, even in small doses — a trip to the store, walking your kids to school — sun exposure can add up to serious damage. So if your daily moisturizer doesn’t also contain an SPF of at least 15, hit the skin care aisle to stock up and keep your skin glowing.
If you’ll be outdoors skiing, swimming or spending time at the park or beach, grab an even higher SPF (think 30 or 45), since you’ll be in direct sunlight for an extended amount of time. Smooth on your first application about 20 minutes before you even leave the house. Slathering on protection before you’re dressed allows for better coverage since you won’t be maneuvering around your clothing to get the sunscreen on, says Dr. Hirsch. It also gives the skin time to absorb sunblock so it works to its full potential. And be generous with the amount you apply: You want to evenly coat any exposed skin and reapply every two hours — or more often if you live near the equator.
2. Help Your Skin Act Younger
Just because skin isn’t shedding dull cells quickly on its own doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them. To make it simple, check out these two reliable exfoliating ingredients that you can use regularly — one for sensitive skin and the other for normal skin. You will not only uncover brighter cells hidden underneath but also make it easier for your daily moisturizer to penetrate and hydrate, giving you the glowing skin you want.
- Glycolic acid If you have sensitive skin, look for glycolic acid in a cleansing gel or foam. (Check labels or product ingredients lists.) Unlike grainy scrubs, which can irritate sensitive skin, glycolic acid gently loosens sebum, which acts like glue fusing dead cells together to your face. Once the sebum dissolves, the cells slough off, leaving fresh, glowing skin behind. Tip: Don’t speed through cleansing; glycolic acid needs contact time with your skin to work. Spend at least a minute massaging it in. Follow with a moisturizer.
- Retinoids If your skin can tolerate a stronger treatment, use a gentle cream cleanser and opt for a night cream with retinol. Alternatively, you can ask your dermatologist about a prescription-strength cream such as Renova, which also trains skin to turn over faster. Apply only at night, though, since the ingredients can make skin sun-sensitive, says Dr. Hirsch. Tip: If you experience any irritation, try using it every other night.
3. Up Your Skin’s Oxygen Intake
“Oxygen brings nutrients to skin and increases blood flow,” says Dr. Hirsch. One of the easiest ways to do it: Take a walk or go for a bike ride. Any physical activity gets the oxygen in your blood moving, which instantly gives skin a glowing, rosy radiance, plus it helps improve your complexion over time.
4. Try a Gradual Tanner
Tanning outdoors may seem like a quick way to get glowing skin, but you’re also setting yourself up for sun spots, wrinkles and maybe even skin cancer. Self-tanners, on the other hand, add sun-kissed radiance safely, says Dr. Hirsch. If you’re worried about looking streaky or orange, or you would rather not bother with all the application rules and mess of traditional self-tanners, look for gradual self-tanning products, sometimes called glow lotions.
This new breed contains just a small amount of the skin-tinting ingredient and is available for both face and body. The lotion is easy to use, since you apply it with little precision, almost like regular moisturizer. Simply rub it into clean, dry skin as you would with any lotion. One important tip: Use slightly less on rough spots like elbows, knees and feet. Drier areas could catch and hold excess tanner and end up looking darker. You can also try applying plain moisturizer just to those areas afterward to dilute the tanning ingredient even more.
When it comes to your face, apply a gradual tanner evenly all over for glowing skin. But avoid your eyebrows; otherwise, they may change color too. Also be sure to wash your hands afterward, or some of the lotion could build up between fingers, leaving an unnatural look. You can use both products daily to create a subtle, golden tone that looks like you’ve been out in the sun.
5. Live Healthy
“Your skin reflects your overall health,” says Dr. Hirsch. “If you are healthy, your skin will usually look healthy too.” So take the advice you give your kids: Eat your fruits and veggies, get enough sleep and drink enough water — it hydrates from the inside and flushes out toxins, leading to natural glowing skin. It’s also smart to cut back on sugar and saturated fats like those found in red meat, butter and cheese. Instead, load up on anti-inflammatory omega fatty acids — healthy unsaturated fats found in salmon, avocados and almonds. Dr. Hirsch’s eating advice: “If it’s good for your heart, it’s likely good for your skin too.”