It was a weird summer, with many of us cooped up indoors, and our skin has noticed. Now, as the seasons turn, skin care obsessives, as well as the more laid-back among us, are getting sick of the dull skin that has become something of a hallmark of the pandemic.
Luckily, there are ways to combat it. “There are a lot of ways to get a healthy glow,” said Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a dermatologist in New York. “The tricks that can help you get there are actually very easy.”
Protect yourself from screens
Sunscreen is a necessity for long summer afternoons. But it’s also important to protect yourself from the increased screen time indoors. This, according to some skin care experts, is one reason for skin dullness.
Unlike the well-known dangers of ultraviolet light, science is still debating the effects of the blue light from our mobile phones, tablets, monitors and other digital devices. We know it can cause hyperpigmentation, but not how much exposure is harmful. Dr. Barbara Sturm, a German aesthetics doctor who has a namesake skin-care line, argues that the blue light emitted by our electronic screens can cause significant damage.
“It penetrates deep into the skin, making it potentially more dangerous than UV rays,” Sturm said. Over time, she said, exposure to screens can cause premature aging, uneven tone, loss of firmness, dryness and impaired healing.
You can limit your exposure to blue light by switching to “night shift” on some devices and wearing mineral sunscreens with iron oxides (which have been shown to be more protective against visible light than other sunscreen options).
Sturm recommends a quick fix with anti-pollution products. Her own Anti-Pollution Drops contain cocoa seed extract to form a shield to help protect against environmental pollution, while purslane soothes and calms irritation.
Give yourself a massage
Pati Dubroff, a makeup artist and Chanel makeup ambassador, typically spends 20 minutes massaging her clients’ faces to bring out a glow before beginning a makeup application. She uses microcurrent devices, face rollers and gua sha stones.
“I’ll use a combination of those things to get the muscles awake and oxygenated,” Dubroff said.
Sturm also recommends facial massage, explaining that the lymphatic system is one of the body’s key methods of detoxification. “It’s responsible for carrying away and filtering out toxins and waste from every cell, tissue and organ,” she said.
Sturm recommends applying a serum or oil all over your face and neck to reduce friction. Beginning above the collarbone, gently massage the skin using your fingertips in downward, circular motions for about a minute. Repeat, moving up the neck and forehead, and then down, from the temples to the jawline.
Continue the motion from your chin toward your ears and from the upper lip and cheekbones outward, finally to the eye area. You’ll instantly see a bit of radiance in your complexion, she said.
Exfoliation is key
Similarly, Joanna Vargas, an aesthetician and the author of “Glow From Within,” recommends dry brushing as a form of exfoliation to boost glow and to prep for self-tanner.
“A dry brush is not a huge investment,” Vargas said. (Prices range from $10 to $30.) She suggests starting at the tops of your feet and doing long strokes upward, always toward your heart. Dry brushing exfoliates the skin and improves the texture.
“After you’ve done dry brushing for about a minute or a minute and a half, and you do your whole body, you actually start to sweat,” she said. “That’s how much of an increase in circulation you can stimulate with a simple one-minute dry-brushing routine.” After dry brushing, shower and cleanse off dead skin cells with a calming body wash.
Frank likes using chemical and physical exfoliators two to three times a week to turn over dead skin cells. “I recommend only mild exfoliation at home,” he said.
“There are a lot of great products out there,” he added. “Even Neutrogena Acne Proofing Daily Facial Scrub with Salicylic Acid gives a nice little turnover to the skin.”
Hydrate from head to toe
The most common cause of dull skin is dehydration. Vargas recommends using a hyaluronic acid serum to increase moisture and luminosity.
“It absorbs very quickly into the skin without leaving a lot of heavy product on the skin that could cause further breakouts,” she said. “I’m also a really big fan of a good body cream that makes you feel hydrated all day.” Vargas likes Jordan Samuel Hydrate Facial Serum and Dior Sakura Body Cream.
It’s important to also apply a moisturizer under makeup. “Sometimes if someone is excessively oily, I’ll use a mattifying primer, but only strategically on the sides of the nose, top of the chin, top of the forehead,” Dubroff said.
She also likes to mix a highlighting fluid such as the Chanel Les Beiges Sheer Healthy Glow Highlighting Fluid in Pearly Glow and Sunkissed into a body moisturizer and applying all over. “That’s a nice way to add a subtle glow but to not walk out looking like a disco ball,” she said.
Get a light treatment
LED light, red light and infrared light devices are also excellent at making skin brighter and more healthy looking. “They’re good for all skin types, all skin tones,” Vargas said. “Again, that’s something that’s a worthy investment.” There are plenty of in-office treatments, as well as at-home tools.
A popular option at Frank’s office is a laser called NeoElite, which evens out skin tone, redness and inflammation, boosting brilliance. Frank’s office is also doing a lot of Genesis laser facials, which works to help with pores and brighten the skin. “It’s great for people who are just looking for skin maintenance without having to worry about downtime,” he said.
There’s always makeup
The finishing touch for a lit-from-within look, say the makeup artists, is a light wash of color. After moisturizing and priming, Dubroff uses a bit of sheer foundation on the sides of the nose, top of the chin and around the mouth where natural shadows occur, to get a natural highlighted look.
Then she’ll use a second, slightly deeper shade where any pigmentation occurs, then top off any spots with a concealer. She uses light washes of bronzer on the perimeter to bring more light to the face.
“It’s adding that tone, which is just a sun-kissed wash of color,” she said.
The last step of Dubroff’s glow routine is to tap a couple of drops of highlighting fluid around the highest points. “That last thing is like the pop of sunlight,” she said.
Patrick Ta, a makeup artist who recently introduced a makeup collection called Major Glow, is also a fan of glow-y makeup products, all over the body. He prefers body oils over self-tanners to get a bright look.
“Focus on the high points, like your shoulders, décolleté, cheekbones, forehead, where you would naturally get more sun if you’re standing outside,” Ta said. “I would add glow to those areas, so everything is cohesive.”
If in doubt about your makeup abilities, Dubroff has a simple and easy solution to boosting skin’s warmth. “Get a jump rope or hula hoop, just to get your blood pumping,” she said. “Even five minutes of movement makes a big difference.”