8 Ways to Brighten Dull Skin

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Bright, full-of-life skin is always in, but it’s not always easy to achieve naturally. “As our skin accumulates pigmentation and roughness with environmental, lifestyle and internal influences, we notice its dull and rough complexion,” says Davie, FL dermatologist Mariana Blyumin-Karasik, MD. Luckily, there are various ways to achieve a more radiant, even skin tone. We talked to top dermatologists and learned about a variety of ways to brighten skin from products to try to in-office treatments to schedule.

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Invest in Vitamin C

“Skin care is the foundation for improving skin luster,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. “Skin-care ingredients such as vitamin C can exfoliate and decrease pigment production in the skin, leading to a lighter glow.” She loves Farmacy 10% Waterless Vitamin C Serum ($50), to be used every morning. According to West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD the best brighteners include vitamin C and niacinamide.

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Don’t Discount Niacinamide

Dr. Beer’s other favorite brightening ingredient is niacinamide. He says that the data for both niacinamide and vitamin C is “so compelling” that he tries to include them in any active brightening he develops for ScientifcRx, whenever possible.

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Use Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is a gentle brightening alpha hydroxy acid that helps fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation for a brighter complexion. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik suggests using Stamina Cosmetics By Dr. MBK Stamina Mask ($49) a few times per week. She says the clay mask is especially helpful with combating pesky lingering blemishes.

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Rely on Retinoids

In addition to their many other benefits, retinoids can also help brighten up the skin, especially when paired with other brightening ingredients. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says skinbetter science AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($130) is a “retinoid with a soothing bonus brightening supercharge of niacinamide (vitamin B3) and glycolic acid together.”

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Consider Cysteamine

This skin-lightening agent is found in medical-grade skin-care products available in doctor’s offices nationwide. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says it’s great for stubborn melasma, and suggests asking your doctor about Cyspera Intensive System ($299).

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Ask Your Derm About In-Office Treatments

Eagan, MN dermatologist Charles Crutchfield III, MD says one of his favorite ways to brighten dull skin is to perform a facial platelet-rich plasma treatment. Following the treatment, he recommends using Crutchfield Dermatology Natural Skin Cream ($99). He says patients should notice significant results in under two weeks.

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Try a Chemical Peel

“Procedures performed in dermatology clinics can accelerate improvement in skin luminosity,” notes Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. “Chemical peels with a blend of alpha-hydroxy acids, such as Jessner’s peel, causes controlled skin shedding and reduction in skin discoloration.” As for Dr. Beer, he specifically likes salicylic acid peels and Clarifying Peel Pads.

If you’re looking for an at-home peel, try Glo Skin Beauty Hydra-Bright AHA Glow Peel ($85). The lactic acid, ferulic acid, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid work together to give you a bright, hydrated glow.

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Laser Love

Dermatologists often love employing lasers to help brighten skin and address hyperpigmentation, but it’s worth noting that it’s not the best option for all. Although laser therapy is also an excellent option for a skin radiance boost, it may be limited by the type of technology and skin type,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. “Some laser systems are outdated or too broad in light delivery. These can create significant heat in the skin, which increases the risk of skin pigmentation and scarring, especially in darker skin-type individuals.”

Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says one of her favorite skin tone correction lasers that are “more precise and powerful” and also safe for most of her patients is the Candela Picoway. Meanwhile, Dr. Beer loves the Fraxel Dual laser to address pigment.


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