Rodan + Fields / Blog / Science of Skincare

What Causes Dull Skin and How Do You Improve It?

Before and after image of a woman with discoloration, showing effects of Rodan + Fields Multi-Acid Enzyme Peel after 8 weeks, used 3X per week as a leave-on treatment.

Gray, ashen, tired, and old — the words people use to describe a dull-looking complexion are far from flattering. What makes the skin on your face lose its inherent radiance? Read on to learn about the chief causes of dull skin and what you can do to help restore its natural glow.

What does dull skin mean?

No matter your age, the brightness of your face is determined by how it reacts to light. A smooth, clean complexion radiates a healthy luminescence — like sunshine reflecting off a pool of still water. In contrast, skin with an imbalanced tone or texture reflects light less evenly, making it look leaden, dreary, and dull.

How does skin lose its radiance?

Each day, as you go about your life, your body is busy shedding millions of dead skin cells. Like an accumulation of dust on furniture, deposits of dead cells dim the complexion’s innate luster. Whether due to age or the stress of everyday life, skin also looks duller when the epidermal cell turnover rate slows down. Conditions such as low collagen production or enlarged pores can also make the skin less reflective of light.

Primary causes of skin dullness

Both environmental and lifestyle stressors can alter the natural cycle of skin cell production, leaving the complexion looking drab and dull. Fortunately, an effective skincare routine combined with a few behavioral changes can allow you to bid farewell to a lackluster complexion. The first step is to identify what’s causing the skin to appear dull. Let’s get started!

Environmental factors

Even the healthiest skin is subject to the damaging effects of environmental exposures such as air pollution. Airborne contaminants contain microscopic particulates, such as sulfur dioxide, that can damage collagen and stimulate pigment production. The result is skin with uneven tone or texture that makes skin look dull.

Keeping the skin complexion free of dead skin cells helps counteract environmental effects. Our Multi-Acid Enzyme Peel helps get the job done. Created by a dermatologist, this resurfacer goes beyond exfoliation, removing dead skin cells five times faster, leaving you with a smoother and more radiant complexion.


Dry skin — it’s one of the most common but often overlooked causes of a dull complexion. Dried-out skin is particularly a problem in winter when cold winds outdoors and indoor heating systems pull moisture from the skin, causing it to thin and weaken. Check out our must-have hydration hacks for ways to help keep your skin moist and shining.

Here’s another tip on how to deal with dry skin: Drink plenty of water! Research has shown a direct correlation between consuming enough water and maintaining healthy, lustrous-looking skin. A 2015 study concluded that “Results confirm higher water inputs positively impact normal skin physiology.”

Tension, stress, and anxiety

Whether you’re rushing to get the kids off to school or struggling to meet a deadline at work, the stresses of everyday life take a toll on facial skin. An argument, a close call driving, an unexpected expense — anything that prompts a fight-or-flight response causes cortisol levels to rise. The rush of stress hormones coursing through your body draws blood from your face, giving it a sallow, dull appearance.

There’s nothing quite like a gentle face and body scrub applied at the end of a hectic day to revive your skin and spirits. With its exfoliation properties, Rodan + Fields Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste helps rid your skin of dead, dry cells, leaving your complexion feeling smooth and soft. For the best effect, massage it onto your face for 30 to 60 seconds, and then rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

Lifestyle choices

What position do you assume when you sleep each night? How much exercise do you get each day? Do you maintain a healthy diet? Your lifestyle choices have a more significant impact on your skin than the physical changes associated with aging.

Does smoking contribute to dull skin? Yes! Tobacco use is closely associated with premature skin aging. A comprehensive study of 79 pairs of twins found that twins who smoked exhibited considerably more skin damage than their nonsmoking counterparts.

Can using the wrong skincare products make my skin look dull?

An effective skincare routine can have a positive long-term impact on the luminescence of your complexion. Keep in mind, however, that skincare needs change over time. The secret to achieving optimal results lies in using products clinically tested to deliver results at any age.

When it comes to addressing dry, dull skin, our Recharge Regimen offers promising results. It’s a regimen that defends the skin against lifestyle and environmental stressors that can leave skin looking drab and dehydrated.

Enjoy healthier skin and a brighter complexion

Is dull skin bringing you down? Are you tired of looking tired? Take heart! With a little help from your friends at Rodan + Fields, you can face the day with a brighter complexion. We’re dedicated to providing solutions that help ensure you always face the world with a healthy glow.

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