What causes dull skin?

Hannah Wilson

A bright, glowing and radiant complexion is what all of us dream of, but all too often, our skin has other ideas. If you’re finding your skin looking a little lacklustre lately you’re not alone, over a third of people experience dull skin and are self-conscious about it. 

Dull skin can change from person to person, but most of the time it’s skin that looks: 

  • Grey 
  • Lifeless
  • Tired

Sometimes it can be easy to hide with makeup, but other times, even the most full coverage of foundation won’t brighten your complexion. Luckily, there is something you can do about it.

Here at Face Dr, we’ve helped thousands of clients brighten their complexions and get the dewy, healthy-looking skin we’re all striving for. Our team of experts have decades of experience with the latest products, in-clinic treatments and tips and tricks to help. To book your free online video skincare consultation with a Face Dr Skin Expert, tap the button below, or read on for more information on dull skin.


If you’re looking to revive dull skin, read on to find out how. 

What causes dull skin?


Dead skin cells 


As our body creates new skin cells, the old ones die and naturally fall off of our face. Except that all too often, they don’t all quite fall off. When dead skin cells build up on the surface of the skin, they can make your complexion look dull and—literally—lifeless. Ageing and skin conditions like eczema can also cause these dead skin cells to build up. 




A dehydrated body can’t work its best and that includes the skin. If you’re dehydrated, skin can lack suppleness and a fresh colour. But it’s not just in need of a glass of water, skin can also be dehydrated if its natural moisture barrier is damaged meaning it can’t hold onto moisture very well. 


Poor diet and lifestyle 



nighttime snack of pizza and prosecco


What you eat and drink shows up on your skin. A diet full of alcohol and fast food, smoking, lack of sleep and stress all wreak havoc with the look of skin, stripping it of much-needed moisture, clogging pores and generally not allowing it to work—and therefore look—it’s best. 




Our skin protects us from the outside world, but that means everything in the outside world can take its toll on the look of our complexions. Everything from pollution to dry air, cold temperatures to excess sunlight can damage the skin, cause a buildup of dirt and oil, and break down skin’s natural barrier.


Sun damage 



Woman squinting looking directly into the sun


Speaking of excess sunlight, sun damage is a common cause of dull skin. As our skin comes into contact with sunlight, it creates melanin—the pigment that gives skin and hair its colour. Melanin often appears on the surface as a tan or as sunspots, but it can also cause an all-over greyness, discolouration and “off colour,” leaving it looking tired and dull.


The wrong products


Just like how the wrong products can cause an acne flare-up, your skin can also react to things it doesn’t like by becoming increasingly more dull, dry and grey looking. This includes everything from everyday cleansers and moisturisers to once-a-week treatments and even the makeup you wear. 


How to treat dull skin 


But don't despair. Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to get your skin glowing again. 





Closeup shot of an exfoliating product with blue microbeads


As we said, a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin is a leading cause of a dull-looking complexion. So one of the first steps to promote a dewy complexion is to exfoliate. 

Exfoliating products break down dead skin cells and buff them off your skin, revealing the alive and glowing cells underneath. Start slowly, especially if your skin is sensitive, and build up to exfoliating two to three times a week. 

Product example to try: 


ZO Exfoliating Polish





Woman spraying skin with hydrating mist


First up, up your water intake to ensure you’re hydrating your skin from the inside. Next, focus on healing your skin’s moisture barrier and providing it with plenty of moisture-boosting ingredients to boost hydration levels. Opt for products with hyaluronic acid, squalane and glycerin and invest in high-grade hydrating products like a moisturiser, non-drying cleanser and soothing serum. 

Product examples to try: 


ZO Hydrating Cleanser


  • ZO Skin Health Hydrating Cleanser around £40 — an everyday cleanser that removes dirt, oil and makeup without stripping moisture 
  • iS Clinical Moisturising Complex  £72 — a lightweight moisturiser with botanicals and vitamins to brighten complexion 
  • SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier Serum £90 — a hyaluronic acid serum to boost skin’s levels of the moisture-holding ingredient by 30%  

Upgrade your diet and lifestyle 


We know you’ve heard it all before, but getting your five a day really does do wonders for your health. Now, there’s another reason to eat healthily—your skin! Opt for food high in antioxidants like berries, leafy greens and even dark chocolate. Get your healthy fats from avocados, nuts and seeds and keep an eye on your sleep and stress levels. You'd be amazed at how much of a difference these small things could make!




Most of the time, we can get all of the vitamins and nutrients our skin needs from our diet alone. But if you’re finding it hard to eat a varied diet and need a boost, supplements can help. 

Consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you live somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight or vitamin B12 if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. The supplements that are the most beneficial for reviving dull skin include vitamin C and E, which stop damaging free radicals and brighten discolouration, and fish oil or an alternative omega-3, which improves texture, boosts hydration and promotes a healthy glow. 



It can be hard to avoid pollution and harsh weather, but you can still make environmental tweaks to help refresh tired-looking skin. Consider a humidifier to add moisture to the air if you live in a dry area. Avoid hot showers and central heating, which can strip the skin of moisture, and limit time spent in direct sunlight. 

Wear sunscreen



Woman applying sunscreen to face


When it comes to the sun, you don’t need to avoid it altogether though, just be sure to wear a proper sunscreen. Look for one that’s broad spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB rays and opt for one with at least an SPF of 30. Remember to wear year-round—even on overcast days. Take a look at our sun protection collection here.

Product examples to try:

  • ZO Skin Health Broad Spectrum SPF 50 around £45 - An ideal lightweight, non-irritating facial sunscreen that protects the skin from UVA, UVB, infrared and blue light. 
  • AllSkin Med Mineral Fluid SPF 50 £35 - An advanced photoprotection product with 100% mineral filters. Protects against damage caused by UV, visible light and infrared-A plus cellular DNA damage. Enriched with powerful antioxidants to protect the skin from within.


Use the right products 



Face Dr Products


Spend some time finding the perfect skincare routine for you and your skin will thank you. Find out if you have dry, combination or oily skin and opt for products designed with this in mind. Using the right moisturiser—cream-based for dry, lotion for oily—can make all the difference.

Opt for skin brightening products with ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid and glycolic acid. These could be part of your everyday cleanser and moisturiser or come in a serum or mask treatment. 

Product examples to try: 

  • Skinceuticals Discoloration Defence Serum £85 — a brightening serum with kojic acid to lighten discolouration and exfoliate away dead skin cells 
  • ZO Brightalive Skin Brightener around £96 — exfoliates and brightens the skin for a more even and glowing skin tone 
  • Kiehl’s clearly corrective dark spot solution £42 — vitamin C and botanical extracts lighten discolouration and promote a healthy complexion 

Need professional advice?


Dull skin doesn’t have to stay dull, with a few simple tweaks you can get a glowing healthy-looking complexion. Want tailored advice on where to start? Why not speak to one of our skin experts. 

You can book a free consultation and a member of our team will analyse your skin. They can then recommend tips, tricks and products to help with your exact concerns. If you decide to go with any of our recommendations, we’ll send the products straight to your door so you can get started straight away. 

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