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Dull skin tone is typically a result of poor circulation. Any triggers that deprive your skin of much-needed oxygen and nutrients will result in dull skin tone. Good blood circulation, on the other hand, boosts healthy cell turnover, brings oxygen to the skin and removes toxins.
Lack of exfoliation — the sloughing off of dead skin cells — can also cause dull skin. Dull skin is also often one of the first signs of aging, as skin renewal decreases about 7% every 10 years. Fortunately, there are many ways to brighten and re-texture your skin so that it should never know a dull moment.
Sodium hyaluronate is comprised of small molecules that penetrate the skin easily and can hold up to 1000 their own weight in water. When applied topically to the skin, it can reach deep down into the dermis to combine with, maintain and attract water. It also promotes blood microcirculation and nutrient absorption, and helps maintain normal metabolism. With hyaluronic from a fungi called tremella, Sevani Hyaluronic Wrinkle Defense Serum ($68 in the shop) also has niacinamide (see below for more on niacinamide). Sodium hyaluronate is front and center of Sciote Super Moist Hyaluronic Serum ($75 in the shop) with a whopping 50% of this circulation-boosting ingredient.
Niacinamide is vitamin B3. According to the British Journal of Dermatology in 2000, “topical application of niacinamide has been shown to increase ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, prevent skin from losing water content, and stimulate microcirculation in the dermis". Your Best Face Hydrate B Concentrate ($45 in the shop) has sodium hyaluronate and three forms of vitamin B, including niacinamide.
Horsetail (equisetum arvense) has high levels of silica, giving it a very smoothing, softening effect on skin, and it is known to heal wounds and improve circulation. It is a welcome addition to the all-natural antioxidant lineup in RMS Beauty Oil ($74). While I would caution against the temptation to use and abuse retinol in the hope of sloughing off dull skin (its effect can actually be drying), Prana’s Reverse A ($48 in the shop) has .08% retinol with our above-mentioned friend, niacinamide.
Gotu kola has long been used in traditional medicine. According to research done by The University of Maryland Medical Center, triterpenoids found in gotu kola strengthen the skin, boost antioxidants in wounds and increase blood supply to the area. Although primarily formulated with kojic and glycolic acid to tackle hyperpigmentation, Sciote Illume Brightening Serum ($95 in the shop) is a natural skin brightener with gotu kola and horsetail.
On dull skin days, I have come to depend on two products that work by nourishing rather than scrubbing or stripping. The first is a product to which I have become a new convert and the second is an old stalwart of my medicine cabinet. I wasn’t too impressed when I first tried Innarah VenoDefense Treatment Creme Hydrating Treatment Crème ($300), but I came to depend on its rich goodness so much that I’m going to have to purchase a replacement for my tester. This is the most moisturizing moisturizer I have come across and it leaves my skin looking velvety. The dominant ingredient is urucum oil, which has a higher concentration of delta-tocotrienol than any other plant. And delta-tocotrienol is not your mother's vitamin E; it is the best form of vitamin E that you can get. I get comments on “dewy” skin after using Royal Nectar Face Mask ($68). It has avocado and apricot kernel oils and an extract from acacia (a tree indigenous to Africa) and helps to make the skin feel smoother and tighter.
Vitamin C works by inactivating free radicals inside the cell and between the cells (which can damage your skin's DNA), and by recycling vitamin E, to protect the lipid-soluble structures. Kat Burki Rose Hip Revitalizing Serum ($165) is a light and absorbent anti-aging serum that uses the antioxidants vitamin C and E to increase cell regeneration and overall health of the skin.
BRAD Biophotonic Sea Minerals Purify Healing Detoxifying Gel Cleanser ($45 in the shop) is a natural cleanser that is made for dull skin. It treats discoloration, irritation, scarring and redness and also promotes healing with natural sulfur. Our tester, Denise, reported waking up to glowing skin every day.
Makeup can make dry, dull skin look drier and duller. My go-to alternative for years now has been Osmotics Inner Light Complexion Enhancer ($30). Although completely sheer (let me repeat this, there is no color tint of any kind), this clever cream is based on spherical pigments that, along with some silicone, plant oils and vitamins, create a light-defusing layer. Dab concealer on the worst bits and think silky skin.
Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.