How to Brighten Dull Skin and Boost Radiance

If your skin looks flat or lackluster, learn how to boost radiance for glowing, healthy-looking skin. Discover more about the causes of dull skin and how you can help prevent and care for dullness caused by dehydration, aging, or an ineffective skincare routine.

What is dull skin?

Dull skin is commonly characterized as skin that lacks radiance and appears flat or lackluster. Unlike radiant skin which is more translucent and reflects light evenly, dull skin often has an uneven skin tone or texture which causes light to reflect less evenly.

What causes dull skin?

While there are a wide range of factors that can contribute to dull skin, some of the main causes include:


When skin lacks water, it often appears dry and dull. The outer layer of skin should contain 10% to 15% water. When this level drops, skin can become dehydrated which can contribute to a dull complexion and even cause fine lines to appear more visible.

Sun Damage

While a tan might seem to give skin a healthy appearance, it is actually a sign of sun damage. Skin may initially appear more radiant for a day or so after being in the sun, but a suntan or other sun damage quickly causes skin to look dull and depleted.


In addition to UV rays, skin comes into contact with pollution every day. These external aggressors can cause free radical damage which can contribute to discolorations, signs of aging, and dullness.


As you grow older, skin gradually becomes thinner and produces less oil. The accumulation of sun damage over the years can also contribute to dark spots, discolorations and an overall uneven skin tone. These forms of hyperpigmentation along with fine lines and wrinkles , cause light to reflect less evenly.


Seasons, weather and environment also play a large role in how skin looks and feels. Exposure to low humidity for even a few hours – whether freezing cold or in the desert – can affect skin’s moisture balance and texture.

How do you help prevent dull skin?

While using an illuminating moisturizer may be an instant way to boost your glow, prevention is a key step in maintaining a healthy complexion. Follow these tips to help prevent dull skin and maintain radiance:

Use Efficacious Skincare

Using a balanced routine for your moisturizer is essential to cleanse away impurities, exfoliate dead skin and moisturize dry areas – all of which can contribute to dullness.

Remove Makeup Before Bed

Wearing makeup to bed leaves dirt and impurities on overnight when skin is naturally restoring itself. Removing oil, makeup and impurities from the day helps restore skin’s pH balance and helps promote skin that looks healthy and radiant.

Don’t Skip Sunscreen

Exposure to UV rays is one of the leading causes of early signs of aging, like dull skin. Regular sunscreen use in childhood and adolescence may result in an 80% reduction in damage from UV rays.

Add Antioxidant Protection

In addition to SPF, your skin also needs protection from pollution which can also damage skin and contribute to dullness. Use a facial sunscreen with SPF 50+ or apply an antioxidant serum every morning to help prevent free radical damage.

Stay Hydrated

Keeping skin balanced and moisturized is an effective way to help prevent dull skin related to decreased moisture. Apply a moisturizer morning and night and add a hydrating serum to help plump and smooth dry or dehydrated skin. Drinking plenty of water is also important to help boost your body’s overall hydration levels.

How can you brighten dull skin?

If your skin looks lackluster or dull, take these steps to help boost your radiance:

  • Exfoliate skin regularly to help remove dead skin, smooth texture and stimulate skin’s renewal process
  • Add a hydrating moisturizer rich with humectants and emollients – ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin
  • Apply an illuminating moisturizer to give skin an instant glow
  • Spritz on a hydrating facial mist to help refresh skin throughout the day

How do you treat dull, dry skin?

If your skin is very dry, exfoliation is an important step in your routine but requires a little extra care. For very dry skin types, choose a formula with ingredients like Glycolic or Lactic Acids rather than using a scrub or cleanser that physically exfoliates skin as these types of exfoliants can irritate dry skin and cause it to feel even drier. Moisturize skin morning and night with a rich, hydrating moisturizer and don’t hesitate to reapply throughout the day as needed.

How do you treat dull, oily skin?

While dull skin is often related to dryness, oily skin can also appear dull. If your skin has excess shine but still lacks radiance, take care to avoid soaps or formulas that may overly dry skin. Not only can these formulas actually prompt skin to produce more oil but they can also leave skin looking dull.

How do you care for dull skin in winter?

Moving between cold, dry winter weather outside and heated indoor environments can have a big impact on skin’s moisture levels and lead to dullness and dry fine lines. If you’re in a cold environment, use the following tips to help maintain your glow:

How do you care for dull skin in summer?

In the summer, skin is often exposed to a wide range of external aggressors. In addition to the sun, the beach, salt in ocean water and chlorine can all impact skin’s balance. If you are in a humid environment, you may experience excess oil but in a dry, desert climate you may notice that skin becomes rougher and has an uneven texture. In addition to outdoor heat, air conditioning can also contribute to dehydration. In the summer, switch up your routine with the following tips:

  • Avoid skipping your moisturizer or other steps in your routine
  • Keep up with regular exfoliation throughout the week
  • Apply a daily sunscreen and pollution protection to help defend skin from external aggressors

Does Vitamin C help brighten skin?

A trusted skincare ingredient, Vitamin C is known for its powerful brightening properties. In addition to boosting radiance and a range of other skin benefits, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help defend skin from free radical damage. This efficacious ingredients is essential to a brightening skincare routine to help even skin tone, diminish dark spots and boost radiance.

What are Kiehl’s best skincare products for dull skin?

Depending on whether you are looking to replenish hydration, diminish dark spots, or achieve all-over radiance, our formulas can help you see healthy-looking skin.

Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

Our beloved Vitamin C serum is formulated with 10.5% Pure Vitamin C and 2% Vitamin Cg to help visibly diminish lines and wrinkles, provide antioxidant protection and boost radiance. Apply morning and night to reveal younger, healthier-looking skin.

Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution

If uneven skin tone is your primary cause of dullness, apply a potent Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solutiondark spot corrector to help visibly diminish skin discolorations including age spots and sun spots. Our customer-favorite face serum has also inspired an entire line of Clearly Corrective™ formulas to enhance skin clarity.

Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate

Age-related dehydration can be one of the main causes of dull, tired-looking skin. As your skin becomes drier with age, add an efficacious hydrating serum. Formulated with Glycerin and Shiso Leaf Extract, this formula helps plump and smooth skin while helping visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Calendula Serum-Infused Water Cream

Infused with our concentrated Calendula Serum, made with Calendula Flower Extract and hundreds of micronized petals, this lightweight, fresh moisturizer evens skin tone and boosts radiance. For all skin types, this unique water cream also helps improve uneven skin texture to help dull skin look smooth and glowing.

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