Glowing, healthy skin is far from a fad. From Cleopatra (who is said to have used olive oil to keep her skin fresh) to modern-day movie stars, that just-shiny-enough and moisturized look has been a coveted one.
What exactly is dewy skin?
Essentially, it’s hydrated, fresh (think: post-exfoliation) skin that has a kind of glow to it.
“Dewy skin refers to skin that is supple, glowing, and smooth,” explains Annie Gonzalez MD, a board certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida. “The supple look that many associate with dewy skin is actually, in part, a result of light bouncing off of the water your cells are retaining.”
As for how to achieve it? The methods vary, but everything from a healthy diet to a thoughtful skin care routine can play a role.
Here, a glimpse at the changes you can make if you want dewy skin.
Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.
That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.
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Your dewy skin routine
Your skin care routine goes a long way in promoting dewy skin, Gonzalez explains. “You need to hydrate, exfoliate and promote cell turnover, and nourish your skin with antioxidants and vitamins, as well as protect the skin from damage using sunscreen.”
Below are four steps to leveling up your skin care routine for glowing, dewy skin:
This is an important step in maintaining or achieving healthy skin,” Gonzalez says. She recommends steering clear of harsh cleansers that dry out your skin and reaching for something with calming ingredients instead.
Try the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. If the 3,000+ reviews are to be believed, users love this product for its creamy and non-drying texture. It contains rosewater and comfrey root extract, which reviewers say make it a must-have cleanser for those with dry or sensitive skin.
This is a major part of the cleansing process, Gonzalez notes. “Exfoliation, whether chemical or physical, removes layers of dead skin cells and promotes new cells in their place for a smoother and more radiant look.”
Physical exfoliation can be effective, but it has room for error, as some people can be too harsh on their skin. “Physical exfoliation is usually done with a soft-bristled tool, micro-beads, or other abrasive materials within a cleansing solution,” she says.
Chemical exfoliation entails using chemicals, like:
- alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
- beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)
- polyhydroxy acids (PHAs)
Gonzalez recommends looking for products with:
- salicylic acid (a BHA)
- citric acid (an AHA)
- glycolic acid (another AHA)
Have sensitive skin? Stick with PHAs. These are gentler and don’t penetrate your skin as deeply as their counterparts.
There’s a difference between hydrating your skin and moisturizing your skin.
“Moisturizer seals in moisture, while humectants, which hydrate the skin, draw several times their weight in water towards the cell,” Gonzalez explains.
This is important to know if you have dull, dry, or damaged skin and you’re applying moisturizer. Moisturizer alone might not yield the results you need.
To get a dewy look, use a humectant, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid.
“These usually come in serum form, but they could also appear in products that seek to fill in a hybrid slot between a serum and a moisturizer,” Gonzalez says. Try a budget-friendly option, like The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid.
A gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer can also lock in moisture. Similar to cleansers, Gonzalez recommends looking for calming ingredients, like milk or chamomile.
Users love the Éminence Organic Skin Care Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer for its redness soothing abilities. Many say that using it is almost spa-like.
Add vitamin C
Vitamin C is another potentially helpful ingredient to look for in skin care products when it comes to promoting dewiness, Gonzalez says.
Not only does it promote cell turnover, but it “brightens the skin and helps stabilize uneven skin tones, all while also helping to neutralize free radicals,” she adds.
How to get dewy skin without makeup or skin care products
While the ingredients you put on your face go a long way in promoting clear, dewy skin, you can get the same results by making a few lifestyle changes.
Follow a healthy diet
Hydration is an important facet of overall health. But it’s also an important part of skin health — and how healthy your skin looks.
In fact, a 2018 review suggests that, when your body is properly hydrated, your skin appears less dry and rough — dewier, if you will.
One 2007 study even found that drinking 9.5 cups (or 2.25 liters) of water per day for a month changed both skin density and thickness, helping skin appear healthier.
Another small study suggested that drinking as little as 2 cups of water increased blood flow to the skin, aiding in a more supple look.
How much water you need varies from person to person. But, in general, clear, pale urine is a good sign that you’re hydrated. You’ll also want to pay attention to your thirst cues.
Try healthy fats
A 2014 study found that what you eat may have an effect on what your skin looks like. And when it comes to dewy skin, good fats are a good place to start.
In fact, omega-3 fatty acids play a role in keeping your skin thick and moisturized. When you’re low on omega-3s, you might even notice dry skin.
One fatty food to fill up on: avocados. A 2010 study of 716 people found that a higher intake of healthy fats in the fruit was linked to young-looking, supple skin.
Other options that are high in omega-3s:
- flax seeds
Stock up on antioxidants
Research found that antioxidants — found in sky-high levels in specific foods, like berries — also play a role in skin health.
Berries are also full of vitamin C, which helps in the production of collagen, a protein that works to keep your skin firm and healthy over time.
Of course, what you drink matters, too. On top of the importance of hydration, the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea were found to improve skin moisture, elasticity, and thickness.
Go easy on sugar
Sugar has negative skin implications. For example, the same 2014 study mentioned above found that foods with a high glycemic index are rapidly absorbed by the body, which can contribute to high blood sugar and insulin levels.
Some foods with a high glycemic index include:
- white bread
- white rice
Insulin and IGF-1 have been shown to increase the amount of sebum (an oily, waxy substance produced by your glands) your body produces. They’re also shown to stimulate the synthesis of hormones called androgens in the body. Both play a role in acne creation.
Furthermore, a 2020 study found that a traditional Western diet rich in fat and sugar may lead to certain inflammatory skin diseases, like psoriasis.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up sugar entirely, of course. But it’s important to consume it in moderation.
Just as a healthy lifestyle plays a role in healthy-looking skin, certain habits have consequences.
In particular, smoking has a negative effect on skin health, since nicotine can cause blood vessels to narrow, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the cells of your skin.
A small study of 28 smokers and 24 non-smokers found that smoking negatively impacted multiple characteristics of their skin, including skin thickness, elasticity, and the appearance of wrinkles.
Beauty rest really is a thing — and if you’re not sleeping well, your skin may show as much.
A 2017 study, for example, found that, when people were sleep-deprived for just 2 days, they were seen as less attractive, less healthy, and sleepier than those who had slept well.
And, over time, this may take a toll on both your appearance and your skin health. Research has linked chronic poor sleep with more signs of aging, a diminished skin barrier, and a lower satisfaction with skin appearance.
Try to stress less
Stress seeps its way into every aspect of your health, and your skin health is no exception.
In fact, stress has many consequences on the skin, research finds: from contributing to acne to aggravating skin conditions, like psoriasis and contact dermatitis.
When you’re stressed out, your body cranks up the production of the stress hormone cortisol. This plays a role in how much oil your body releases from its sebaceous glands.
When you have excess oil production, it can lead to acne. A 2017 study linked high levels of stress to severe acne.
Another way stress might impact skin health has to do with the outer layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum. This layer plays a role in skin hydration.
A 2014 review of research found that stress could impair the barrier function of that outer layer, which may limit its ability to retain water (contributing to dry skin).
Skin health — and achieving that healthy, dewy look — goes a lot deeper than the skin. It can be both positively and negatively impacted by lifestyle choices, including a healthy diet, sleep, stress, and your skin care routine.
To optimize your skin health, consider making these small changes to see bigger (and dewier) results.
Want to Get Clear Skin? Try These 11 Evidence-Backed Tips
Sometimes it’s hard to know what your skin really needs to be as healthy as possible. Every day we’re bombarded by marketing hype for various skin care and cosmetic products, as well as advice from social media influencers and other beauty gurus.
So, what does the research say your skin actually needs? What helps and what doesn’t in the quest for clear, radiant skin?
This article will help answer those questions by providing 11 evidence-based tips on what you can do to get the glowing complexion you want.
1. Wash your face twice a day
If you’re prone to breakouts or have oily skin, don’t skimp on washing your face as part of your morning and evening skin care routine.
In a study that focused specifically on face washing, participants were asked to wash their face one, two, or four times a day for a six-week period.
At the end of the study, there was a significant improvement in the acne lesions of those who washed their face twice a day. The participants who only washed their face once a day had the greatest increase in pimples.
2. Use a mild cleanser
The aisles at most drugstores are packed with all sorts of facial cleansers. Trying to figure out which one is right for you can be overwhelming.
When it comes to choosing the “best” cleanser, fancier may not necessarily be better.
A systematic review of 14 studies found that there really isn’t much difference in skin breakouts, no matter what type of cleanser you use.
The studies included everything from cleansing bars and antibacterial soaps to cleansers that contained alpha and beta hydroxy acids.
While this may be disappointing if you’ve spent a lot of money on an expensive cleanser, the takeaway here is that keeping it simple is probably best.
A mild cleanser without a lot of ingredients and fragrances can work just as well as more expensive options.
3. Apply an acne-fighting agent
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), many topical therapies can help fight acne. The key to finding the most effective one for you is knowing what type of acne you have.
Depending on the type of acne you have, the AAD recommends the following:
- Comedonal acne (blackheads and similar bumps). Look for products that contain retinoids like adapalene gel (Differin).
- Mild acne. Topical benzoyl peroxide can help fight mild acne, either on its own or together with a topical retinoid.
- Inflammatory acne. Topical dapsone 5 percent gel is recommended, particularly in adult females.
- Acne with scarring. Azelaic acid preparations can help reduce acne and the risks of acne scarring.
If you want to simultaneously target different types of acne, the AAD recommends using a combination of benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin, or adapalene gel.
Using these treatments together may dry out your skin, so be sure to use a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
4. Apply a moisturizer
How does a moisturizer help keep your skin clear? Well, if your skin is excessively dry, it may try to compensate for the dryness by overproducing oil. The result? Breakouts.
Like cleansers, moisturizers don’t have to be expensive or filled with fancy ingredients. More importantly, look for a moisturizer that’s noncomedogenic. This means it won’t clog your pores.
If you have oily skin, moisturizers labeled “lightweight” may be best to prevent a heavy, greasy feeling.
Some people find they have to switch to heavier moisturizers during the winter months when cold, dry air can leave skin feeling tight and dried out.
Exfoliation can help remove excess dead skin cells. If these cells stay on your skin for too long, they can clog your pores and lead to breakouts.
Having a buildup of dead cells on your face may also make your skin look dull, flaky, or prematurely aged.
The following exfoliation methods may help clear away dry and dead skin:
- a 2 percent salicylic acid mask
- a 10 percent or less glycolic acid mask or lotion
- a motorized facial brush
How often should you exfoliate? It really depends on the type of exfoliation you use.
For chemical exfoliants, like masks or lotions, aim for once or twice a week. For physical exfoliants, like scrubs or brushes, aim for three or four times a week.
Start with fewer exfoliating sessions and work your way up to prevent over-exfoliating.
If you have inflammatory acne (pustules and cysts), the AAD recommends that you talk to your dermatologist first, as some types of exfoliation may make inflammatory acne worse.
6. Get plenty of sleep
Not getting enough sleep may also cause your skin to break out more often.
According to a 2015 study, more than 65 percent of the study’s participants who said they felt tired also had acne.
The study’s authors theorized that a lack of sleep could, in some instances, cause the body to release inflammatory compounds. These compounds could cause the skin to break out or worsen acne.
To stay healthy both on the inside and out, aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
7. Choose makeup that won’t clog your pores
A 2013 study found people who use cosmetics seem to be more likely to have skin breakouts. To ensure your makeup routine is skin-friendly, be sure to:
- Use products labeled “noncomedogenic” or “oil-free.”
- Always wash your hands before applying makeup or skin care products.
- Always remove your makeup before going to sleep or exercising.
- Wash makeup brushes and sponges on a weekly basis.
Makeup can cause its own form of acne that doctors call acne cosmetica. This condition causes small, raised bumps that usually appear on the chin, cheeks, or forehead.
8. Don’t pick at your skin
It’s really, really hard not to pick at a zit. But, for the health of your skin, it’s important to resist.
Picking or popping a zit exposes the pore to even more bacteria, including those from your hands. It also increases the risk of infection or scarring.
If you have a pimple that really hurts, see a dermatologist. They can perform specialized treatments to safely get rid of the pimple while also minimizing the risk of infection.
Several studies, including one from 2017, have shown a connection between stress and acne. If you’re dealing with a stressful event or situation, look for healthy ways to de-stress. Some options include:
- exercising at a high to moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes
- doing breathing exercises
- doing yoga
- meditating for a few minutes
- writing it out
- practicing sound therapy, like playing a musical instrument or listening to your favorite music
10. Go easy on the sugar
Although there’s limited research on the connection between your diet and your skin, several studies have shown that foods with a high glycemic index may be linked with acne.
In a large study from 2009, more than 2,000 participants were placed on a low-glycemic diet. Not only did they lose weight, but 87 percent of the study’s participants also found they had less acne. Additionally, 91 percent said they needed less acne medication.
To cut back on foods with a high glycemic index try to:
- Limit processed carbs, like white bread and baked goods.
- Cut back on sugary sodas and sweets.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy sources of protein.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
11. Don’t smoke
There’s a good deal of scientific evidence that links smoking with a higher risk of acne.
One study included women from 25 to 50 years of age who had acne. The authors of this study found that almost 73 percent of the participants who smoked had acne, while only 29.4 percent of the women who didn’t smoke had pimples or some other form of acne.
If you need help with quitting tobacco, talk to your doctor about quit aids that may help.