How To Brighten Your Skin Without Makeup This Winter

A healthy glow is always the goal. 

by Natasha Marsh
Originally Published: 
how to brighten skin
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Skin care experts all agree: The best indicator of healthy skin is a natural glow. “Glowing skin is due to light reflecting from the top layers of your skin,” says Dr. Jessie Cheung, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City & Chicago. “Like a mirror, the more light bouncing off a smooth surface, the better the glow.” So how do you brighten the skin to achieve that glowing complexion? Do you opt for the endless amounts of cosmetic products (highlighter, bronzer, blush, and foundation) that melt into the skin for a dewy, lit-from-within look? Sure. But what if you could have a healthy, radiant, and clear complexion naturally, and more importantly, permanently. According to the experts, it’s possible with a combination of product, practice, and base knowledge.

And while it’s possible to achieve radiant skin, unfortunately, things like sleep, stress, age, air pollution, UV radiation, and diet can all negatively affect your complexion. “Rough texture, lines and wrinkles, loss of plumpness and fullness will also distort light’s reflection and prevent that visible glow,” shares Rick Woodin, chief scientist at ZO Skin Health. Luckily, you can transform lackluster and tired skin to a glowing complexion all from the comforts of your home.

Ahead, TZR gathered eight expert skin tips from top dermatologists and estheticians, along with product recommendations that will help you to achieve brighter, glowing skin.

1. Cleanse Daily

All the experts agree, starting with a clear canvas is paramount for brighter skin. By cleansing twice a day you will ensure removal of debris like oil, dirt, and pollution that can clog pores and lead to dullness. Wash your face morning and night by working with a dollop of face cleanser and move fingers in circular motions. “Cleansing in the morning helps prep the skin for your daytime skin regimen,” Dr. Sejal Shah, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology in New York City, tells TZR. “Whereas at night, cleansing helps to remove makeup, dirt, debris, pollutants, and other impurities from the skin’s surface.”

Her expert tip post-cleansing: Apply a hypochlorous acid-based face mist to not only soothe and hydrate skin, but also help skin repair itself and protect it from environmental stressors. And if you happen to wear makeup, a double cleanse is also advised to ensure there isn’t any leftover product on your face after a full day.

2. Don’t Skimp On Exfoliating

As we age, the speed at which dead skin cells naturally slough off decreases. As a result, dullness will reign supreme if you don’t help remove the dead skin cells through exfoliation. The experts recommend weekly (at minimum) exfoliating. “A buildup of dead skin cells can make even the dewiest skin look dull,” Woodin tells TZR.

Regular exfoliation allows plump skin cells to come to the surface of your skin — a crucial step to achieving a brighter complexion. Not only that, it also helps skin care products absorb easier since it’s removing a layer of dead skin cells that would otherwise block products from penetrating the skin. Just be sure not to overdo it — over-exfoliating can also cause irritation.

If dewy skin is your goal, Woodin recommends looking for exfoliators with fruit enzymes as they gently exfoliate the skin without causing any reaction. “Mild physical exfoliants that also have soothing ingredients will help restore skin texture without leaving skin overly sensitive,” he says. “A gentle fruit enzyme exfoliant, a few days per week, will unglue the bonds that hold dead cells together.” Chemical exfoliators (which use AHAs, BHAs, and/or PHAs) are another great option to explore within the world of exfoliants.

3. Moisturize Regularly

Skin reflects light best when it is well-moisturized, meaning, moisturizer should be a daily part of your routine, versus a Hail Mary when skin feels dry. “Sealing your routine with a good moisturizer can help prevent transepidermal water loss [amount of water that passively evaporates through skin to the external environment] which will help prevent any dryness,” Dr. Shuting Hu, cosmetic chemist and founder of Acaderma, tells TZR. “By reducing the loss of water, your skin will be dewy and hydrated.” The pro recommends applying an emollient-rich moisturizer morning and evening to replenish hydration.

4. Look For Vitamin-C Rich Products

Vitamin C, a powerhouse ingredient, helps brighten skin, combat pigmentation, and contribute to overall better skin health. “Vitamin C is a glow-getter multitasker,” shares Dr. Cheung. “It brightens and plumps the skin, while also protecting from free radicals and environmental pollution.” According to Dr. Woodin, “uneven complexion such as redness, skin blotchiness, or discoloration will interfere with continuous light reflection, resulting in a less uniform appearance.” Vitamin C, and other anti-inflammatory ingredients, will curb inflammation, protect the skin against environmental stressors, and prevent excessive pigment formation or sun spots.

5. Stand Up To Sun Damage

Sun exposure not only risks the health of your skin but can lead to dullness and pigmentation issues if you’re not utilizing safe sun practices. “The sun’s rays, UVB radiation specifically, have been shown to reduce skin’s barrier function, which can increase water loss and exacerbate dryness and dullness,” Woodin tells TZR. To fight this, SPF should be used at all times of the day (in all seasons), especially when exposed to direct sunlight.

6. Massage It Out

There’s a reason why supermodels and fans alike flock to places like Face Gym and Skin Laundry. As it turns out, massages are more beneficial than just relaxing your muscles. Massaging your face, whether daily or weekly, increases circulation, helps products absorb better, and gives skin a natural vibrance. To practice a simple massage at home, incorporate a couple upward and downward strokes to each cheek and along your jaw and cheekbones to help drain puffiness and toxins.

7. Fine Tune Your Diet

What you eat can have an effect on your skin’s glow. The experts recommend a diet rich in berries, nuts, fish, and other antioxidants and fatty acids to help protect skin cells from UV damage like hyperpigmentation. Fatty acids also boost cell production below the skin’s surface — reinforcing the skin barrier and reducing inflammation.

Aim for eight to 10 cups of water a day and consider reducing your alcohol intake. Alcohol dehydrates the skin and increases the blood flow of the skin’s surface — resulting in a flushed appearance that can become permanent over time. When you do drink, sip water along with your beverage to keep your skin hydrated and glowing (and minimize a potential hangover).

8. Get Your Z’s

Because cell regeneration occurs during sleep, a lack of sleep directly affects the skin’s repair process — resulting in tired and dull skin. Dr. Shah encourages clients to aim for seven to nine hours a night, which will not only improve the condition of your skin, but will help you feel adequately rested and ready for the day (and your daily skin care routine).

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