Have you ever looked in the mirror and had something feel…off? It could be that your hair isn’t laying quite right or that a few dark circles have emerged after a restless night’s sleep. Either way, it might feel like you’ve got to work overtime to coax your usual vibrant glow out of its shell.
One sneaky culprit for this lackluster feel could be a dull skin tone.
Skin dullness can seem tricky to tackle—after all, there’s not always one easy-to-pinpoint cause. Luckily, we’ve got all the details on dull looking skin, including what causes it and how to restore your complexion back to its radiant self.
The Nitty-Gritty Details of Dull Skin
If you’re asking yourself, “how to determine your skin type” or “what is dull skin?” It turns out that there are a few different answers to that question.
We generally define dull looking skin as skin that looks tired and lacks its natural radiance and glow.Dullness can make fine lines, blemishes, dark spots, and scarring more obvious. A dull complexion might also manifest in a few of the following ways:
- Uneven skin tone and texture
- Volume loss
- Washed out color
Remember, what dullness means or looks like might be different for everyone. While dull skin isn’t a medical diagnosis or an indication that something is “wrong,” it definitely can leave you feeling less than your best self.
6 Common Causes of Dull Skin and How to Fix It
Whether it’s stress, lack of sleep, or under-exfoliation, the cause of your less-than-vibrant complexion can be tough to zero in on. To help you seek the culprit, let’s explore six of the common causes—and what you can do to banish a dull skin tone for good.
#1 Dead Skin Cells
It’s time to get rid of the old and make room for the new. That’s because one of the most common causes of skin dullness is due to the build-up of dead skin cells. Our radiant skin is a living, breathing part of our body that’s constantly renewing and regenerating itself. In fact, every day we shed anywhere between thirty to forty thousand dead skin cells.
Don’t worry—this is totally normal, and it allows fresh, healthy and radiant skin cells to come to the surface. That’s where your radiant glow comes from! When these dead skin cells don’t slough off, they accumulate in layers on the skin, causing your skin barrier to look dull, patchy, and flaky.
Remedy: The best way to fix this is through exfoliation, the gentle removal of dead skin cells to reveal a refreshed, clear complexion underneath. This can be done in one of two ways:
- Mechanical exfoliation uses a physical agent like a scrub, a washcloth, or a face brush to gently buff the dead skin away.
- Chemical exfoliation uses a product containing exfoliating acids like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) to dissolve the layer of dead skin cells. These are typically easier on the skin barrier than mechanical exfoliants and are a better pick for those with sensitive skin.
Skin requires plenty of moisture to keep it feeling happy and healthy. Water is what helps your dry skin create the enzymes needed to help shed layers of dead skin cells. Without adequate hydration, those dead skin cells build up, leaving a flaky, lackluster appearance behind.
You can point to dehydration as the cause of your dull skin if your skin also feels tight, dry, or if you notice visible signs that your skin is feeling parched, including:
- Rough, scaly patches
Remedy: Although it might seem fairly self-explanatory, one of the best things that you can do for your dehydrated skin and for your whole body is drink more water. Drinking more water (especially if it’s in place of sugary beverages or alcohol) will keep you—and your dehydrated skin— feeling like your best self.
You can also add hydrating, moisturizing products into your skincare routine. Make sure you’re using a moisturizer in the morning and at night, add in a nourishing hydration mask for a little extra oomph, and look for these super thirst-quenching ingredients the next time you’re browsing the skincare product aisle:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Squalane or vitamin E oil
- Blue spirulina
- Shea butter
- Fatty acids
One sneaky factor that might be making your skin look duller? It might not be something missing in your skincare routine. Instead, it could be that how you’re feeling on the inside is affecting how you’re looking on the outside. Stress can spike your cortisol levels, which draws blood away from your face and into the rest of your body, causing a dull, ashy appearance.
Remedy: Tackling stress can be easier said than done. We all feel anxious or tense from time to time, and it can feel like there’s little we can do to avoid it. Nevertheless, there are some practical self-care steps we can take to reduce feelings of stress and the impacts that it has on our skin. Those include:
- Meditation and breathwork
- Getting in some low-impact exercise like long walks, yoga, or pilates
- Indulging in a spa night with a soak in the tub and a calming face mask
- Spending time with friends and loved ones
Raise your hand if you find yourself regularly getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Chances are, you’re not alone.
Skipping out on sleep has negative impacts on the whole body, but one place where these effects can make a visible appearance is on your face.
Sleep is your body’s time to repair and rejuvenate itself. During sleep, every part of the body has a chance to reset for the next day—including your skin. Sleeping gives your skin time to increase blood flow, and repair UV damage and collagen levels. Researchers have reported that even just one night of poor sleep can cause the appearance of more visible fine lines, dark undereye circles, and (you guessed it) dullness.
Remedy: Aim to get a full 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Trust us, we know how tough this can be in practice. That’s why we’ve got a few tips to set you up for success when it comes time to turn in:
- Sleep on a silk pillowcase – The smooth surface of the fabric is often less irritating to the skin than rough cotton, and it may even help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
- Make a bedtime routine – Having a bedtime routine each night signals to your body that it’s time for bed, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Take a warm bath, try out a new face mask, and slip into your favorite pajamas so you’re ready for sweet dreams.
- Break up with your phone – At least for the night! The blue light from our phones can keep us awake longer and interrupt our sleep cycles. Try leaving your phone in another part of the house or across the room when you go to bed, and opt for reading a few chapters before bed instead of scrolling TikTok.
#5 Lifestyle Habits
We all know that smoking and drinking in excess aren’t the most health-friendly choice. But these habits can do a number on your skin, too. If you’re using alcohol or tobacco frequently, it could:
- Cause premature skin aging, slowing down the production of collagen in your skin cells
- Stopping your skin’s natural repair process in its tracks
- Increase levels of oxidative stress
All of these factors combine together to create an unpleasant cocktail that could result in dull, tired-looking skin.
Diet can also play a major role in the appearance of your skin. In order to look and feel its best, our skin craves:
- Vitamins A, E, B12, and C
- Healthy fats
Remedy: If you don’t want to cut out certain habits entirely, you don’t have to. Try swapping out a few espresso martinis for an inventive, DIY mocktail, or stop by your nearby grocery to try your hand at a few new recipes. Here are some of our favorite skin superfoods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens
- Sunflower seeds
One major cause of dull skin is also an inevitable one: aging. While there’s nothing wrong with your face changing as it ages, it can sometimes bring some unwelcome side effects along with it.
As you get older, your skin tends to produce collagen and elastin, sometimes causing it to look dehydrated and less supple. Add some hormonal changes and years of sun damage into the mix and you’ve got the perfect recipe for drab, tiresome skin.
Remedy: Aging gracefully is a part of life—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it! But if you’re interested in getting your glow back, look for anti-aging ingredients like bakuchiol, white willow bark, and papaya to refresh and re-energize your complexion.
Get Your Glow on With HPPY
Good news, beauties: You don’t have to be stuck with dull, tired skin. At HPPY, we make powerful products that are designed to nourish and protect your skin, allowing you to get up and get glowing again.
We’re redefining what it means to be clean with our sustainably-crafted, bioactive ingredients extracted using a cold-water, high-pressure system to ensure you’re getting your hands on safe, fresh, and effective products for your skin.
There’s nothing dull about that!
Good Housekeeping. 9 Causes of Dull Skin and How to Brighten It For Good. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/anti-aging/a36993/dull-skin-causes/
VeryWell Health. What is Dead Skin? https://www.verywellhealth.com/dead-skin-5090522
Harvard Health Publishing. Moisturizers: Do They Work? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/moisturizers-do-they-work
Byrdie. The Benefits of Drinking Water for Skin, According to Derms. https://www.byrdie.com/drinking-water-stay-hydrated
Healthline. How Sleep Affects Your Skin. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/beauty-sleep#How-sleep-affects-your-skinHealthline. Dull Skin. https://www.healthline.com/health/dull-skin#dull-skin-causes