How to Get Smooth Skin from Head to Toe
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Now that beauty filters on social media can smooth skin without detection and full-coverage makeup does its job without looking pancake-y, it can be easy to think that some people have managed to completely erase all traces of acne scars, pores, and uneven skin texture. But in an effort to celebrate real skin, TikTokers are sharing clips of themselves with a full face of makeup in perfect lighting—in other words, their skin looks flawlessly smooth—that then cuts to them zooming in on their bare, unfiltered skin. Turns out they have pores, peach fuzz, fine lines, bumps, and scars because, well, we all do.
"Everyone has textured skin, and it is perfectly normal," says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in NYC. However, certain factors (read: genetics, extreme dryness, or loss of collagen) emphasize texture, making it more apparent. To bring you back to baseline, you want to figure out the root cause. It—and the treatment you'll want to turn to—varies: Someone with acne who is looking to get rid of bumps and scarring will need a very different routine compared to someone with eczema who is trying to smooth out flaky and rough skin. “That said, some skincare helps to smooth skin no matter your concern or skin type,” says Vanessa Coppola, an aesthetician and founder of Bare Aesthetics. Ahead, discover five tips that skin experts say can help promote smoother skin from head to toe.
What causes rough, textured skin?
Fine lines, wrinkles, pores, scars, pimples, and dryness contribute to an uneven skin texture, says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist of MDCS Dermatology.Everything from your genetics to the climate you live in can cause these issues. And pollution and UV exposure can make them worse, Garshick says. In fact, “90 percent of the visible signs of aging come from daily, unprotected exposure to UV light,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and Dove partner. UV radiation pokes holes in the skin's collagen, which is what makes skin firm and is a big factor to it looking smooth.
Genetically predisposed conditions, like acne, eczema, or keratosis pilaris, can cause skin on your face or body to feel rough or bumpy. “Keratosis pilaris is a very common condition that causes small rough bumps on the skin. It's typically located on the backs of the arms, the thighs, and the cheeks,” says Jennifer Herrmann, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “We don’t know the exact cause or trigger, but it has a genetic component, as it often runs in families.” Hormonal changes, like menopause, also play a role. “When estrogen decreases with age, skin becomes thin, dry, and more textured,” Herrmann says.
Because of the wide array of factors and the potential need for prescription-level formulas, the best way to address uneven texture is to see a dermatologist. That said, derms agree that there are some universal steps to achieving smoother skin:
Apply SPF daily
All the experts we spoke to say SPF is a non-negotiable if you want smooth skin. “Wearing sunscreen daily is key to keeping the skin soft and smooth,” says Garshick. “Cumulative UV exposure can lead to the breakdown of collagen, which contributes to textural changes like fine lines and wrinkles.” Apply a broad-spectrum formula with SPF 30 or higher. COOLA Full Spectrum 360º Refreshing Water Cream Organic Face Sunscreen with SPF 50 blends into skin without leaving a white cast, delivers hydration, and doesn’t feel sticky, goopy, or tacky.
“Gentle exfoliation is a wonderful way to nudge off dry, dead skin cells, which helps to keep pores clear and skin smooth,” says Coppola. You can choose between a physical exfoliant, like Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Scrub, which uses biodegradable jojoba beads to slough away dead skin cells, or a chemical exfoliant that contains AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid). “AHAs are great for treating overall textural issues, tone, and dryness. BHAs are very good for skin texture and rough spots caused by acne or sun damage,” says Coppola. Ingredients to look for include lactic acid, glycolic acid, fruit enzymes, or salicylic acid. The Kinship Self Smooth 10% Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Serum contains glycolic acid help minimize the look of large pores.
If you’re looking for smoother skin on your body, the same rules apply. An exfoliating formula, like AmLactin Moisturizing Lotion, can help to get rid of dead skin cells, says Garshick. It’s made with lactic acid, which Engleman says is a great chemical exfoliant for sensitive skin types because it's the most hydrating AHA. Speaking of:
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
A hyaluronic acid serum, like Farmacy Filling Good Plumping Serum, is a must in your morning skincare routine, says Gohara. All skin types can apply it to clean skin, then follow with a moisturizer. You may see a bit of an instant smoothing effect since hydrated skin tends to look a bit plumper and smoother as it reflects light more evenly, but there's a more long-term, preventative reason to invest the effort: Using a moisturizer for your skin type improves texture because it repairs the skin barrier, Herrmann says. Essentially, a strong skin barrier means you're more protected against external factors that cause uneven texture.
You'll also want to use a moisturizing body wash, like Dove Deep Moisture, says Gohara. This next-generation formula “deposits millions of moisturizing micro-droplets that fit into the crevices of dry skin to help boost and retain moisture levels.”
Use a retinol
Retinol is “a great ingredient for textured skin because it increases cell turnover, which helps dead, uneven skin cells shed,” explains Engleman. It’s similar to a chemical exfoliant's purpose, but retinol targets the deeper levels of the epidermis, as opposed to removing surface-level dirt, oils, and dead skin, adds Coppola. (You can potentially incorporate both an exfoliant and a retinol into your routine, but you'll want to do so thoughtfully. Skin cycling is a way to do it right.) Try Babor Retinol Smoothing Toner because it’s gentle yet effectively reduces the appearance of lines, blemishes, and redness. After cleansing your face, you'll want to apply the formula on a cotton round and smooth it over your face before following up with any serums and moisturizers.
Try in-office treatments
If you find topical skincare formulas aren't giving you the results you’re after, ask your dermatologist about in-office treatments. Typically, fractional lasers, chemical peels, and microneedling are good solutions for smoother skin because they help stimulate skin regeneration and collage production, says Engleman. Again, “the best way to know what you’ve got going on is through a proper evaluation and diagnosis with a dermatologist,” she says.
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