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Dull Skin: Causes & Ways to Treat It

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/13/2021

Good men care about their appearance. Period. Part of being your best self — aside from taking care of what’s going on inside your body — is caring about what’s going on outside, too. 

And we’re not just talking a bi-weekly visit to the barber shop or a new pair of boots every now and again. We’re talking about the whole kit and kaboodle — grooming, hair care and, probably the least talked about by all men, skin care.

Of all the things to neglect, a lot of us don’t take care of the thing everyone looks at the most: our skin. 

Healthy skin is part of the total package, and like the wax job on your car or the tops of your shoes, it shouldn’t be dull. 

You’re probably here because you’ve noticed that your skin doesn’t have the glow it used to. Or maybe you’re here because your skin has never had the glowy aura you’ve always wanted. 

Well, we’re here to help you fix that by assessing the problem and getting to some solutions. 

What Is Dull Skin

What we perceive as dull or lackluster skin is actually the result of a combination of symptoms. 

Dullness of the skin can have both internal and external causes,  which can include everything from aging and dryness to air pollution and slow cell turnover. 

The good news is that most of the symptoms can be treated, or even prevented with a variety of treatments, so if you’re experiencing dullness, there are ways to get that glowy, youthful look back with a proper skincare routine.

Let’s take a look at some of the major problems that might be causing your skin to dull, and how to address them.

Problem: Dead Skin Cells 

It sounds simple, but one of the easiest ways to get the glowing skin’s surface is by removing those dull, dead cells that accumulate over time. 

As you age, your skin becomes less efficient at ditching those dead cells naturally, and their continued presence can make your skin look dry, rough, and dull.

Solution: Exfoliating. The easiest way to help remove that buildup of dead skin cells is exfoliation, either with a physical or chemical method with skincare products. 

Whereas a physical exfoliator will remove external buildup of dead cells, chemical exfoliants can have the added anti-aging benefit of stimulating faster regrowth, as in vitamin A compounds, called retinoids. 

One example would be the chemical tretinoin, which has been prescribed by dermatologists since the sixties. Tretinoin has been shown to improve the synthesis of collagen, though side effects can include irritation and peeling in certain cases with certain skin types. 

Learn more about tretinoin here, and see if it’s right for you.

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Problem: Too Much Sun, Not Enough Vitamin C

Most of us know sunlight is one of the common causes of skin damage, but preventing sun damage goes way beyond wearing a proper sunscreen with the right SPF.

Believe it or not, vitamin C is one of the most important compounds in helping your skin keep a healthy glow, especially if you spend any time in the sun. 

As sunlight batters your skin throughout the day, vitamin C acts as the primary antioxidant to fight free radicals caused by UV rays. 

With reduced levels of vitamin C, your skin is left without the necessary tools to deal with the free radicals created by radiation.

Solution: Research is ongoing about the most efficient way to deliver vitamin C to your body, but current studies show you need regular application, as vitamin C’s half life is only a few days. 

One solution might be a serum, like our daily Morning Glow Vitamin C Serum, which can be applied topically for brightening dull skin.

Problem: You’re Smoking

Have a smoking habit? It could be one of the main causes of lackluster, dull skin. 

Many studies have shown that smoking has adverse effects on the health of your skin. It can cause everything from premature aging to slower wound healing, not to mention psoriasis, cancers, and hair loss. 

Beyond the litany of negative effects, it can also weaken the normal, healthy functions of skin cell growth and renewal. 

That, coupled with the effects of smoke as an external pollutant, makes smoking one of the worst things you can do to your skin.

Solution: The easiest solution, as you might have guessed, is to quit smoking. There are many ways to stop smoking, and we’ve gathered more information if you’re ready to quit.

Problem: You’re Dehydrated

Proper hydration is key to pretty much every regular bodily function, and skin health is no exception. Studies have shown a correlation between dysfunctional dermal tissue and insufficient water intake.

Solution: Drink water. Maybe this is obvious, but higher water intake was shown to positively impact the efficiency and quality of skin, especially in individuals with lower daily water intake. Point being: hydrating your whole body is probably as important to skin health as hydrating your skin itself. Drink more water.

However, we should also note that proper hydration isn’t by itself sufficient to prevent wrinkles, dull skin or other signs of aging. But it definitely helps a lot. 

Problem: Air Pollution

No, you don’t have to get out there and fight greenhouse gasses and get all Captain Planet just to polish up your punim. 

Air pollution is a problem we all deal with, though it can be more severe in some locations than others.

The problem for your skin is that air pollutants — both indoor and outdoor — can wreak havoc on your skin, causing irritation, upsetting the natural balance of microbiota, and potentially leading to inflammatory diseases.

Solution: Adding a cleanser to your skincare routine can help diminish the impact of environmental pollutants on your skin by removing them before they can begin to cause irritation and inflammation. 

Additionally, a simple facial cream can act as a barrier and prevent pollutants from causing all that oxidative harm in the first place.

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Final Thoughts

While we all may neglect our skin from time to time, you’ll be well served giving your skin some love. You need to take care of your skin, so it can take care of you. It’s the biggest organ on your body, after all. 

Take a look at your daily habits and skincare practices, and consider where you’re slacking. Lifestyle changes and additional elements of a skincare routine could help brighten up your skin. The better it looks and feels, the better you’ll look and feel as well. 

Radiant skin might of course lead to some side effects, like fine lines due to increased smiling in the mirror. But you can treat those, as well — make it the next item on your agenda.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.