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Expert Tips for How to Brighten Your Skin and Complexion

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It’s not always easy to tell if you have dull skin. When blemishes pop up or you’re feeling especially dry or oily, it’s pretty obvious you need to switch up your skincare routine. But dull skin or skin that has a “lack of glow” is harder to pinpoint. You usually know something is off, though. When you look in the mirror, you don’t see brightness or multidimensional skin. Instead, it’s lackluster and flat. Your skin might even be textured or rough. Another sign might be that your makeup has a hard time adhering to your skin. All around, it’s just a bit blah. But don’t stress. With a few adjustments, radiant skin can be yours. You just need a little maintenance! 

For expert tips on how to maintain clear, and visibly bright skin, we chatted with esthetician Lila Castellanos. Her specialty? Helping her clients achieve the ultimate glowy skin for that healthy and bouncy complexion—bright skin that looks like it glows from within. And she knows just how to help you get it.


About the Expert:
Lila Castellanos is an esthetician and the owner of Doll Face Skincare Studio in Los Angeles.

1. Never Forget to Moisturize

We get it, sometimes skipping moisturizer is easier. Or, you like the way your makeup lays on your skin without an extra layer. But, moisturizing is one of the key ways to make sure your skin remains healthy and continues to have that clear glow. 

“By moisturizing, you nourish your skin, helping it to look healthy and bright,” says Castellanos. “Depending on the ingredients in a moisturizer, it also can help diminish scars or stretch marks or boost collagen production.” Collagen can help make your skin look plump and glowy. Even better, “freshly moisturized skin has a healthy sheen, which evens out any existing blemishes,” she adds. Dry skin looks especially lackluster, after all. 

That doesn’t mean only dry skin can look dull. If you have oily skin or combination skin, you still need to moisturize. Use an oil-free moisturizer both morning and night, before sunscreen in the morning and after serums at night. Keep products lightweight and you’ll still achieve hydrated, radiant skin without clogging your pores. 

2. Exfoliating Is Paramount

Brighter skin means keeping up with your skin! Meaning, if you’re not slothing off the dead skin and sebum your body naturally sheds properly, your complexion will be dull and will likely feel dry or uneven to the touch. Almost like you have a film over your skin and products can’t quite penetrate through it unless you get it off.

If you get really good at keeping up with a moisturizing routine but you’re not exfoliating, you might not be getting the most out of your hydrating lotion and active skincare ingredients. That’s one reason exfoliating is so important. “Skincare products penetrate better when skin is exfoliated,” says Castellanos. Plus, if you have a ton of dead skin cells sitting on top of the skin, the overall look is dry and dull. Exfoliating removes these cells, reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone and dark spots.

“Exfoliation helps to slough off dry, dead skin cells which helps skin look brighter and less dull,” says Castellanos. There are different types of exfoliators, both physical and chemical forms. “You don’t want to choose anything that’s going to be too rough or harsh on your skin,” she adds. Castellanos recommends exfoliating one to two times a week

3. Add Vitamin C to Your Routine for a Boost

Adding a vitamin C product, such as a vitamin C serum or moisturizer, to your skincare routine can help with overall skin brightening and will make your skin glow. “It’s an antioxidant, meaning it protects skin cells from damaging free radicals caused by UV exposure,” explains Castellanos. “It also inhibits melanin production in the skin, which helps lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots, even out skin tone and enhance skin radiance.” 

Unfortunately, eating an orange isn’t going to banish dull skin but vitamin C-enriched skincare products can. Look for lotions, serums and even eye cream that’s full of the stuff. Start incorporating vitamin C skincare into your routine slowly to see how your skin handles it as some people can have increased sensitivity or breakouts. Work up from once a week to using vitamin C every day or every other day. 

4. Never Skip Your Sun Protection 

Hear us out. While sunscreen itself won’t brighten your skin, a hydrating sun protection with glow-boosting pigments can help you glow—temporarily, at least. More importantly, sunscreen will prevent sun damage, further darkening of freckles, hyperpigmentation and even skin cancer. “[Sunscreen] protects your skin from absorbing UVA rays which cause the pigment in your skin to darken,” says Castellanos. So, no matter your skin goals, it's not something you should ever skip out on. It will keep your skin healthy and happy in the long run. 

Let’s get rid of the idea that tan skin is “healthy” or glowy skin. A tan is still sun damage and can lead to those scary results above. Instead, apply SPF 30 every day (even on cloudy days!) and apply blush and bronzer to warm up your skin and create a gorgeous flush that doesn’t have long term effects.

5. Add Active Ingredients Into Your Routine

Ok back to business. Active ingredients that have the power to exfoliate. These include AHAs and BHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. Castellanos recommends these two specifically for their skin brightening properties, plus kojic acid, niacinamide and retinol. Don’t use them all at once, of course. Experiment slowly to find the right one for your specific skin type and you’ll be shocked at how bright and glowy your skin looks. Plus, you can say goodbye to any texture issues as these leave skin feeling ultra-smooth. Of course, always check with your esthetician or dermatologist for any more serious skincare concerns. For an easy way into the world of skincare actives, try a glow boosting toner in your routine. Using this after cleansing up a few times a week will maintain your complexion and help keep things even. 

6. Make Facial Visits a Priority

The thorough cleansing step during a facial helps to eliminate dirt, oil, and pollutants that can make the complexion appear dull and lackluster. By sloughing away dull and damaged outer layers, exfoliation reveals fresh, new skin underneath, leading to a brighter and more youthful appearance. Depending on your budget and overall skin needs, you can go for a facial once a month. However, it's more ideal for most people to go once every two or three months. Brightening facial peels that use chemical exfoliation should be worked into this routine. Consult your aesthetician for what they think is best for you and your skin goals. 

8. Always Double Cleanse to Remove Makeup

Double cleansing is an effective way to remove makeup because it helps to thoroughly cleanse the skin of all impurities and residue, including dirt, oil, and makeup. First cleanse with an oil-based cleanser to help break down and dissolve makeup and other oil-based impurities. Then, cleanse with a water-based cleanser to remove any remaining buildup  from makeup, SPF, etc. to deeply cleanse the pores. This method keeps things squeaky clean and can do wonders for your complexion. 

9. Stay Hydrated Both Inside and Out 

You may be hydrating your skin on the outside with skincare products, but how are you taking care of your body on the inside? Drinking water is absolutely essential for maintaining healthy skin. Drinking enough water daily and maintaining hydration helps to keep the skin moisturized, improve its elasticity, and promote a radiant complexion. When you drink enough water, it helps to nourish the skin cells and flush out toxins, which can contribute to clearer and healthier skin. 

As you can see, you don’t have to live with dull skin any longer. What was once pretty lackluster and one dimensional will begin to look like glowing skin. Start by exfoliating and hydrating and you’ll be surprised at the results. You might not have known how to recognize dull skin but you will be able to tell when your face looks like it glows from within. You know how Jennifer Lopez looks like she literally glows? Yes, that type of radiance. By incorporating a few new products, you can say goodbye to dull skin for good. 

Eager to learn more about what beauty products work best for your skin type? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia is a freelance beauty writer. With experience in influencer marketing at Tata Harper Skincare and editorial at Very Good Light, she loves covering Gen Z beauty, wellness, and nail trends. Read her work on Very Good Light and Well + Good.
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Article Last Updated December 22, 2023 12:00 AM