Who doesn’t want smooth skin? After all, the smoother your canvas, the more likely it is to appear fresh and youthful. And while texture and pores shouldn’t be something we ‘fight’, discovering how to make the most of what we have naturally can make our skin healthier, and make us happier in the process.
“There are numerous causes of uneven texture on the skin,” says Dr Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare. “It can be a result of dry skin, which is more likely to occur during the winter months because colder temperatures, central heating and windy weather all dry it out. It can also result from large or clogged pores, acne scarring and even sun damage.”
One of the key contributors to rough skin texture is the natural ageing process, whereby the degradation of collagen and elastin “results in a loss of radiance and a smooth-looking appearance”, explains dermatologist and founder of the eponymous brand, Dr Dennis Gross, who says that the aforementioned dryness, pollution and hard water can also exacerbate it, resulting in enlarged pores, irregular oil production and fine lines and wrinkles.
“There are also two hormonal changes that contribute, too. During menopause, a loss of naturally-occurring hyaluronic acid results in dehydration and roughness, while during pregnancy, circulation is shifted to the baby, which can cause surface dryness,” he adds.
A skin problem that prompts many to knock on dermatologist doors is acne scarring, which is caused after a blemish clears and the body starts to repair the damage by producing collagen. “A scar may form when too little or too much collagen is created,” says Dr Murad. “For example, a depressed scar is typically a result of too little collagen, while a raised scar may form if too much collagen has been produced.” Some people are more prone to scarring than others, due to genetics.
Whatever has caused your uneven texture, there are an array of ways to soften it and boost the appearance of your skin. From products to use at home to in-clinic treatments, below, the experts share their top tips on how to achieve smoother skin with Vogue.
To reduce the build-up of surface dead skin cells, look no further than the simple act of exfoliating. “It’s a powerful way to smooth skin,” explains aesthetic doctor Dr Jonquille Chantrey, “You can do that by using physical (scrubs) or chemical (acids) methods. Acids such as glycolic, salicylic and lactic can loosen up the bonds between the dead cells, revealing a brighter, smoother skin surface—and you can use them in a cleanser or a toner at home.”
If blocked pores and dead skin cells are your nemesis, seek out alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic), which help to smooth, unclog and encourage skin cell turnover, while those suffering breakouts and inflammation should look to beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic. Of course, you can also use both, depending on your skin’s needs. You might also consider trying an in-clinic chemical peel to supercharge these results, too.
Increase cell turnover
“The other important method is to increase skin cell turnover—which means effectively shedding older dead skin cells to improve skin quality,” says Dr Chantrey. “Retinol is a powerful way of doing this.” Religious use of a retinol product (use of which should be built up over time if you’re a beginner), not only boosts cell turnover but also ups collagen production, helping to soften the appearance of enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles. “It also has a positive effect on skin tone and hydration, and prevents congestion and breakouts,” adds Dr Chantrey.
Meanwhile, Dr Gross heralds retinol as the gold standard for smoothing fine lines, thanks to its ability to “stimulate the production of new skin cells”, which subsequently fixes uneven texture, diminishes dark spots and blemish scars, and reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pores. His new Advanced Retinol & Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum combines two types of retinol with rambutan, ferulic acid and bakuchiol, to increase cell turnover and help thicken the skin within two weeks, and all without irritation. “Adding these soothing ingredients mitigates irritation from retinol and reinforces the moisture barrier for a brighter complexion—it is made for all ages,” he says.
What you do need to know about actives like retinol, says celebrity facialist Debbie Thomas, is the importance of being militant about applying it consistently, otherwise you simply won’t get the results you want. “If you use a product for just one cycle of the skin, which is about six weeks, you’re able to give only one set of cells the message of how to work differently in that time,” she says. “But you’ve got to reinforce that message so the brain really gets it.” She says that you should be prepared to wait nine months for real changes in the skin. The message? Keep at it.
When it comes to in-clinic treatments, there are lots of different options, depending on your skin and its concerns—all experts agree that consulting a professional can help you achieve results much faster. How to treat scarring? “Options include microneedling, which we combine with a mesotherapy solution to help trigger regeneration and healing,” says Thomas. “Then we can try laser resurfacing, used in several different ways.”
Two tools she often deploys are fraxelated and full ablation lasers—and these can be combined. “If I’ve got a client who has a couple of deep scars, I use a full ablation laser to almost shave down the edge of the scar so that it blends into the surrounding skin,” she says. “Then we do the fraxelated laser to encourage lifting, which works well.” She also recommends chemical peels to help unblock pores, reduce active acne and trigger regenerative processes within the skin, to help the scar tissue heal faster. She will often marry this with the HydraFacial, which gently helps exfoliate, cleanse, extract and hydrate simultaneously.
We all know that applying hyaluronic acid topically can help plump and smooth the skin, so consider the benefits of having it injected for much better skin texture. At Dr Chantrey’s clinic, injectable hyaluronic acid treatments, such as Profhilo and Juvederm Volite, are supremely popular, and while they’re not always administered to address uneven texture in the first instance, she has found they can also help. “In an international clinical study I was involved with, we found that following one treatment of Juvederm Volite, skin hydration improved for up to nine months and there was also a benefit in skin texture,” she tells Vogue. “My patients tend to have these treatments once every three months once they are happy with their skin quality.”
How long it can take
For true results to take effect, you have to play the long game. Thomas says you should expect to see marked results within six to 18 months, while Dr Chantrey says she has seen improvement in texture in as little as four weeks in some clients. Combined with a healthy lifestyle and structured skincare routine, regular in-clinic treatments drastically speed up the process and are more than worth the money if your skin texture bothers you. But the key thing to note is that consistency is key: scarring might feel like it’s for life, but actually all it takes is a little effort to improve their appearance—potentially dramatically.
This article originally appeared in British Vogue.