A bright and flawless complexion is ideal, but breakouts, blemishes, clogged pores and dark spots are common skincare struggles. That’s no reason to give up! There is a path to more even, balanced skin tone. A healthy dose of knowledge, practical steps and a few complexion-perfecting products will point you in the right direction.
The first step to a clear complexion is straightforward: Be kind to your body. When you maintain your health, your body can maintain its many parts – especially skin.
Proper self-care includes:
- Getting enough sleep (so skin can repair itself)
- Drinking enough water (to hydrate from the inside out)
- Incorporating stress-relieving activities into your routine (like exercise and meditation)
These three foundational steps can have drastic positive effects on your skin and overall health.
What is Uneven Skin Tone?
Once you’ve created a solid foundation of holistic wellness with the steps above, you can start to hone in on the root of your uneven skin tone, which refers to variations in color and texture.
The most common cause of uneven skin tone is from sun exposure – and not just in the form of tan lines. Our melanocyte cells (which give our skin its color) are activated by sunlight. After many cycles and years of sun exposure, our skin develops dark spots – also known as sunspots – and unfortunately, they don’t fade.
While sun damage is one of the most common issues, it’s not the only reason our complexion may not be as smooth and even as we want.
Other common complexion issues are:
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This includes marks left behind by pimples, bug bites or burns. It also includes melasma, which is typically caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy or from medications like hormonal birth control.
Seborrhea: Excessive oil production of the skin, which causes bumps and irregular skin thickness, creating uneven tone and texture.
Erythema: Skin redness, often caused by skin inflammation (dermatitis), injury or conditions such as rosacea.
Once you understand the causes of your uneven skin tone, you can build a care plan that focuses on smoothing skin texture, preventing and treating discoloration and maintaining natural tone.
Practical Steps to Balance and Even Out Skin Tone
Now that you’re armed with knowledge on your personal skin health, it’s time to act. Work the following steps into your skincare routine to achieve smoother, brighter skin.
Once per week, start manually or chemically exfoliating your face. Not only does this help to remove oil, dirt and other impurities that can cause breakouts, but it also helps remove dead skin cells, revealing brighter, smoother skin underneath.
However, when searching for an exfoliator, make sure you consider your skin type. For dry, bumpy skin try something containing both chemical and physical exfoliants. For oily or acne-prone skin avoid physical exfoliants that can further irritate inflamed skin. Instead, use an exfoliator with salicylic acid, which is effective for both sloughing away dead skin cells and treating acne.
Try a glycolic peel
Like exfoliation, glycolic peels help rid skin of dead cells, but that’s not the only benefit.
Glycolic acid – a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) – breaks down the proteins binding dead cells together and helps catalyze collagen production. This makes it ideal for treating acne and diminishing the look of dark spots, superficial scars and even some fine lines.
Glycolic peels can be purchased over-the-counter at lower concentrations, while higher, medical-grade concentrations are used by dermatologists. Depending on the concentration, these peels can be used once a month or up to once a week.
Use a vitamin C serum in the morning
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to repair sun and environmental skin damage along with neutralizing free radicals. It also inhibits the production of the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase, making it an effective lightening agent.
Aim to apply a vitamin C serum each morning to help protect your skin from free radicals, UV rays and pollutants you face throughout the day.
Use broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen daily (whether rain or shine)
There isn’t a dermatologist out there who will tell you to skip sunscreen. As mentioned above, sun damage is one of the most common problems for skin. To make sure long-term damage doesn’t occur, it’s best to wear sunscreen no matter the weather, as cumulative sun exposure will surely leave its mark.
Try a two-in-one sunscreen that will not only protect you from the damaging effects of the sun, but will moisturize your skin too.
Use retinol before bed
Retinol (a vitamin A derivative) is a potent product that works to repair hyperpigmentation in two ways. It diminishes existing dark spots and suppresses melanin production (which causes dark spots). It also slows the breakdown of collagen to keep your skin tight while simultaneously encouraging rapid skin cell turnover to brighten complexion.
The best time to apply retinol products is at night, as they tend to break down in sunlight. Be sure to avoid using retinol if you’re pregnant
Treat redness with ceramides
Ceramides are made up of long-chain fatty acids that link with other important molecules to promote proper cellular function and create a barrier to prevent permeability. This fortified barrier locks in moisture, helping to prevent and treat dryness and irritation – both common symptoms of rosacea.
Also consider using niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3), which is another powerful ingredient that helps to calm red blemishes and improve pore size and skin texture.
To avoid causing redness, sensitivity or irritation, remember not to over-exfoliate or combine too many products at once.
Try a laser treatment
The two major culprits of uneven skin tone – hyperpigmentation and erythema – respond favorably to laser treatments, such as CO2 laser or pulsed dye laser or other in-office procedures.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that results are dependent on the root of the skin problem. For example, hyperpigmentation has many causes, including photoaging, melasma and skin trauma, so the type of treatment you’ll need depends on the underlying cause. This can be discussed and determined with a certified dermatologist at a laser treatment clinic.
It’s always tempting to squeeze pimples, but in reality, you’re doing more harm than good. Picking and squeezing causes inflammation, which can lead to hyperpigmentation. Do your best to avoid picking and prodding to preserve your beautiful skin.