I still remember the day I looked in the mirror and wondered why a cloud of dense, grey fog had taken residence across my face. My skin was objectively dull. And while I love a good cream blush in a pinch, I wondered how I’d lost that no-makeup glow—and how to get it back. Cue me immediately turning to Google with, “how to brighten skin,” and panic-purchasing a few products that promised a turnaround.
But in doing my research, I found there’s a reason radiant, bright skin implies health all-around. That cutesy phrase, glowing from the inside out…? It’s legit.
“Your skin is an immediate, real-time barometer of health, both externally and internally,” reveals Dahlia Devkota, ex-beauty editor and founder of functional beauty brand, Editrix. “If skin is less than radiant, you know you’ve gone off course lifestyle-wise or with your skincare regimen.”
Feature image by Sara Prince Photography.
Yikes. The truth is, I was way off course—and it was showing. My hormones were re-adjusting thanks to two pregnancies and I was washing my face with bar soap… also thanks to two pregnancies. Taking care of myself took a backseat. Heck, I was practically in the trunk of the car. And the proof was right there on my face.
The good news is, dull skin isn’t final. I got my glow back. I stopped using bar soap, yes, but I also worked mindful lifestyle changes into my daily routine that effectively put this mama in the front seat, thank you very much.
Ahead, I’m diving deep with Dahlia to understand just what causes dull skin—and how to brighten skin naturally. Plus, stick around for a few products you can trust. (Spoiler! They aren’t all skincare products.) Curious? Let’s get after that glow.
What does it mean to have dull skin?
You know it when you see it, right? It’s hard to pinpoint a definition for dull skin, but Dahlia suggests first paying attention to one more obvious sign. “When I’m devoted to my regimen,” she explains, “I never feel the need to cover my skin with makeup—the moment I start reaching for my foundation, I know something is off.”
Next, take inventory of your current lifestyle. “It feels like most things we love cause us to damage our glow—too much wine and too little sleep are the obvious culprits, ” Dahlia shares.
Finally, consider an underlying cause—let’s just call this one a gut check. “Sometimes […] our hormones are off, our liver isn’t functioning for maximum detoxification, our gut and skin microbiomes are compromised, our acid mantle has been diminished,” she explains, “there are often deeper root causes than simply swapping out products.”
What is skin brightening?
“My definition of skin brightening is the look of actual skin health,” Dahlia shares, “not the fleeting look of brightening achieved through over-exfoliation. We all covet that glazed glow but it’s often gained at the expense of our skin health. Brightening is an alchemy of internal health and wisely picked topicals.” In short, lasting bright skin reveals the state of your health all around—and it’s a whole lot more than slathering on a serum.
How can I brighten my dull skin?
You’re gonna love this answer. “What is very encouraging,” she reveals, “is that the skin is quite resilient and will respond quickly to changes we do to address brightening.” Here’s how to brighten skin naturally, according to Devkota:
1. Add Chlorophyll to Your Water Bottle
“The very first thing that everyone can do (that is so easy) is to start adding Chlorophyll into their daily waters. It’s tasteless, easy to travel with, and is a more concentrated shot of greens than a green juice. It’s rich in vitamins K, A, C, and E and oxygenates the blood (which gives life to skin).”
2. Keep Your Gut in Check
Remember those potential “underlying causes” mentioned above? Here is where you dig in and make adjustments—it’s also where Devkota is most passionate. She claims that bright skin begins in the gut “since your gut and skin microbiomes are linked through the gut skin axis.” In other words, “a compromised gut leads to less than glowing skin.” How do you combat compromised gut health? One word: fiber.
“Try to get a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day,” Dahlia advises. “The fiber serves as a prebiotic (food) for the beneficial bacteria in the gut that in turn produces postbiotics that our skin loves. Fun fact: Did you know that your gut produces postbiotics like hyaluronic acid? Our skin looooves that!”
(Psst… Here are a few fiber-rich recipes to get you started.)
3. Pay Attention to Your Products
“Topically, it is very important to make sure we are not using soaps and alkaline cleansers on our skin.” (This writer feels seen.) “This is extremely damaging to your skin’s acid mantle. When our skin is young and healthy, the surface of our skin is slightly acidic. This is what keeps barrier function intact and what keeps the skin’s microbiome alive.”
So, it matters what you’re putting in your body and what you’re putting on your skin. “From a topical perspective, the skin’s microbiome is really a key driver in skin health and brightness. It’s all about trying to keep our healthy bacteria alive and flourishing to balance out the pathogenic bacteria,” aka, the kind that causes disease. “If this balance is disrupted, we start to see pathogens take up too much of our skin’s real estate and this doesn’t just diminish radiance but causes all sorts of skin problems.”
What natural ingredients brighten skin?
To keep your skin’s microbiome balanced, Dahlia recommends looking for products that include:
- Postbiotic ferments. The brightening powers of these ingredients are transformative.
- Rice Water. It’s not just for hair growth, Devkota claims it immediately brightens skin.
- Niacinamide. An effective skin-brightening compound.
- Arbutin. A natural melanin suppresser that helps with dark patches and hyperpigmentation.
- Vitamin C. Look for one that is stable and highly effective, like sodium ascorbyl phosphate as opposed to straight L-ascorbic acid.
You might even consider trying a Glutathione IV drip: “I’ve seen miracles from doing regular glutathione drips (through my functional doctor). It’s a master antioxidant and not only does it make skin glow, but it also helps heal inflammation in the body.”
Best Products to Brighten Dull Skin
Below, Dahlia shares how to brighten skin with her absolute favorite products to get your glow on—and keep it that way.