It seems like lack of sleep, stress, age, and even what you eat can rob your complexion of its radiance. Transform skin that looks dull and tired to luminous and glowing with expert tips and skincare product picks from Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab scientists and dermatologist experts on how to make your skin glow naturally, no matter how much time you have: months, one or two weeks, overnight, or even minutes!
1. Cleanse regularly
Key to luminous skin: clearing your “canvas” by thoroughly removing debris like dirt, oil and pollution particles that can clog pores and cause dullness. Wash your face morning and night by massaging in a small dollop of face cleanser lightly with fingers in circular motions, working from the inside of the face out for full coverage, says GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann.
2. Exfoliate your skin
“One of the best ways to brighten skin and boost its glow both immediately and long term is by exfoliating,” Wizemann says, yet nearly half of GH readers skip it, our survey found. “The process removes skin’s outer layer of dead cells so its surface is smoother and clearer and reflects light.”
Apply either a physical exfoliant, like a face scrub, two to three times per week or a chemical exfoliation, such as a face peel once per week for sensitive or dry skin and three times maximum for other skin types, she suggests. Try the Beauty Lab’s top-tested skin-brightening face scrub, Acure Brightening Facial Scrub, or peel, Philosophy The Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel, which also evens skin tone, 71% of testers reported.
For more radiance, follow with a layer of moisturizer, like the GH Seal star Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, and shield skin with broad-spectrum SPF 30+ facial sunscreen or day cream, as exfoliation makes it more prone to sun damage, including dark spots. GH Beauty Lab test-winning L’Oréal Revitalift Bright Reveal SPF 30 also contains glycolic acid, a gentle exfoliant, as well as brightening vitamin C.
3. Look for brightening skincare ingredients
In topical skincare treatments like serums and moisturizers, look on the packaging
for terms such as “brightening” and “skin tone-evening,” and ingredients like vitamin C, “an antioxidant that brightens skin by blocking an enzyme that produces pigment,” says GH Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek.
Niacinamide (vitamin B3) “slows pigment production to lighten dark spots,” Wizemann says — our Beauty Lab test winner SkinCeuticals MetaCell Renewal B3 is packed with it. Resorcinol and alpha-arbutin, break down pigment for a more even skin tone, says Cynthia Price, M.D., a dermatologist in Phoenix. She suggests SkinBetter Science Even Tone Correcting Serum Face.
Daily application of these star brighteners can illuminate your complexion over time: Effects can be visible within a few weeks, with optimal results in about three months.
4. Eat antioxidant-rich food
Yes, what you eat can have an effect on your skin’s glow. Load up on grapes, berries and nuts like pecans and walnuts, which are rich in polyphenols such as ellagic acid and resveratrol. “Preliminary research has linked this type of antioxidant combats free radicals to help protect skin cells from UV damage like hyperpigmentation,” says former GH Nutrition Director Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D. Aim to incorporate them into your diet daily in meals, like breakfasts, salads, or desserts, or alone as a snack.