You know that glowy complexion you see on models (and I don’t mean via Photoshop or strobing)? It’s the way light reflects off your skin. Our skin naturally sloughs off dead skin cells on a regular basis, but when those dead cells build up atop our skin, the surface becomes irregular, and we appear dull and ashy. And after a dreary winter of life-sucking dry air, our skin shows it, looking more lackluster than luminous. So turn over a new leaf this spring by sweeping away those dead skin cells and speeding skin cell turnover to reveal a newer, more radiant you. To achieve that enviable glow, start with regular exfoliation, allowing light to bounce off skin more evenly, and use products to help speed cell turnover.
But First, Cleanse
If you haven’t jumped on the micellar water bandwagon yet, now’s a good time. Micellar water, which contains tiny oil micelles that sweep away dirt and oil without drying out skin, is the gentlest, most skin-friendly way to cleanse (French drugstore brand Bioderma isn’t a cult classic for no reason — see my review here). I swear by Koh Gen Do Spa Water (especially the wipes for extra lazy days), while Charlotte Cho of Soko Glam singles out Neogen Real Flower Cleansing Water—Calendula as a must-have.
After cleansing, get a jump start on cell turnover by following up with an antioxidant hydrating toner with the coenzyme PQQ, found in natural sources like alfalfa and green tea, which promotes natural cell turnover. DHC PQQ Lotion also contains hyaluronic acid, licorice and chamomile to soothe and hydrate. Primary Raw’s DoYou Soy Milk Ferment Cleanse Toner does double duty as a gentle micellar water cleanser and hydrating toner with witch hazel, particularly good for those with oily or combination skin — read my review on it here.
Alpha & Beta Hydroxy Acids
There’s a lot of research behind the efficacy of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), like glycolic and lactic acids, which are derived from fruit and milk sugars, and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), generally known as salicylic acid. They work by “ungluing” dead skin cells, allowing them to slough off and make room for the regrowth of new skin. They improve wrinkles, texture and hyperpigmentation, and some studies show that AHAs may even stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. AHA, however, is water-soluble only, while BHA is oil-soluble, meaning salicylic acid is better at fighting acne by cleaning out those sebum-filled pores.
Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic is an alcohol-free 5% glycolic acid toner that beauty bloggers the world over swear by. It’s good for those with normal to dry skin, and it exfoliates without stripping, buffered by aloe vera, ginseng and botanical extracts. For those oily T-zones, I like Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, which contains 2% salicylic acid. Because I have so many steps in my skin care regimen, any time I can get my actives in liquid form for faster absorption, I’m down, so I love that I can get my BHA by swiping with a cotton pad. It’s also got green tea leaf extract, and I like that the ingredient list is short and mostly recognizable.
For extra oily days (read: PMS), when excess sebum builds up at super speed, I boost my skin cell turnover with Reme + G 3-in-1 Aqua Peeler Kit. Just swipe using the oversized cotton swab infused with an AHA complex. Then apply the brightening serum and sit back and relax with a 20-minute sheet mask.
Gommage & Water Peeling
For physical exfoliation, there are plenty of face scrubs, but a gentler method is gommage. Originally used in spas, gommage is traditionally a cream that is applied to the skin and then “rolled” off, sweeping away dead skin cells with it and revealing newer skin underneath. Today, the newer incarnations of gommage use enzymes to dissolve while depositing nutrients and minerals back into the skin. Koh Gen Do offers a botanically enriched gommage gel, while O.R.G. Skin Care founder Brian Park, inspired by traditional Korean exfoliating massages, offers an enzyme mineral peel that you spray on and rub off.
I recently discovered water peeling, which another Korean American-owned skin care brand, Aquareveal, specializes in. Like gommage, the lightweight gel is amazing at getting dead skin cells to roll off, even on super rough areas like heels. The water peel attaches to dead skin without disturbing healthy, living skin, and lifts it away as it’s rolled off. (You have to try it to believe it — it’s actually quite cool.) They even have a lip water peel, which is a gentler alternative to all those lip sugar scrubs.
Kinda gross? Maybe, but between the massaging and the exfoliation, your skin will positively glow.
Lastly, Nourish, Nourish, Nourish
Now that all those absorption-inhibiting dead skin cells are gone, feed your skin with a super serum like Shiseido Bio-Performance LiftDynamic Serum, which targets collagen and elastin to help aging skin starting to sag and lose contour. For an antioxidant boost, I like Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum, packed with oleic acid-rich camellia oil and antioxidants. I’ll also be starting (finally!) the 28-day overnight detox serum by Estée Lauder, Nutritious Vitality8 Night Detox Concentrate. The antioxidant powerhouse pomegranate fights free radicals as you sleep, as well as damage accumulated throughout the day that continues well after the sun’s gone down.
Because now that you’ve got your skin spring cleaning down, you’re gonna need all the help you can for that next anti-aging skin battle coming down the pike — the summer sun.