A major component— and signal— of healthy skin is a natural glow. But causes like lack of sleep, stress, age, and even what you eat can rob your complexion of its radiance. The good news is that you can transform skin that looks dull and tired to luminous and glowing at home. Just follow these expert skin and makeup tips, home remedies, and best skincare product picks from Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab scientists and dermatologist experts on how to make your face glow naturally, no matter how much time you have: months, a week, overnight, or even instantly!
1. Cleanse regularly (and fully!)
Key to radiant skin: Clearing your “canvas” by thoroughly removing debris like dirt, oil and pollution particles that can clog pores and cause dullness. Wash your face morning and night by massaging in a small dollop of face cleanser lightly with fingers in circular motions, working from the inside of the face out for full coverage, says GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann.
For daily use, try the Beauty Lab's best-tested face wash for boosting radiance, Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, and do a deeper cleanse weekly by applying your face wash with a facial cleansing brush, like Beauty Lab test winner and Good Housekeeping Seal star ProX by Olay Advanced Facial Cleansing Brush System.
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2. Exfoliate your skin
“One of the best ways to brighten skin and boost its glow both immediately and long term is by exfoliating,” Wizemann says, yet nearly half of GH readers skip it, our survey found. “The process removes skin’s outer layer of dead cells so its surface is smoother and clearer and reflects light.”
Apply either a physical exfoliant, like a face scrub, two to three times per week or a chemical exfoliatior, such as a face peel, once per week for sensitive or dry skin and three times maximum for other skin types, she suggests. Try the GH Beauty Lab’s top-tested skin-brightening face scrub, Acure Brightening Facial Scrub, or peel, Philosophy The Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel, which also evens skin tone, 71% of testers reported.
3. Then, hydrate and protect
For more radiance, follow with a layer of moisturizer, like the GH Beauty Lab favorite Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. When skin is moisturized, it also reflects light, making it instantly appear more glowing. And be sure to shield skin with broad-spectrum SPF 30+ facial sunscreen or day cream, as exfoliation makes it more prone to sun damage, including dark spots. GH Beauty Lab test winner L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal SPF 30 also contains glycolic acid, a gentle exfoliant, as well as brightening vitamin C.
4. Look for brightening skincare ingredients
- Vitamin C, “an antioxidant that brightens skin by blocking an enzyme that produces pigment,” says GH Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek. Try GH Seal star No7 Early Defense Glow Activating Serum, made with vitamin C.
- Niacinamide (vitamin B3) “slows pigment production to lighten dark spots,” Wizemann says — GH Beauty Lab test winner SkinCeuticals MetaCell Renewal B3 Serum is packed with it. Resorcinol and alpha-arbutin break down pigment for a more even skin tone, says Cynthia Price, M.D., a dermatologist in Phoenix. She suggests SkinBetter Science Even Tone Correcting Serum Face.
Daily application of these star brighteners can illuminate your complexion over time: Effects can be visible within a few weeks, with optimal results in about three months.
5. Moisturize skin regularly
Don't apply moisturizer just once in a while or when skin feels dry. "Lack of hydration makes your complexion dull and even accentuates wrinkles," says Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist at Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. "Apply a topical moisturizer morning and evening to replenish hydration."
The best type to choose? "Our testing shows that face lotions and creams are generally more hydrating than oils, serums, and other formulas," explains GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D. "They're emulsions (blends of oil and water components) that carry hydrating ingredients into skin's top layers, helping it hold moisture." To rehydrate the skin barrier, try GH Seal star Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, which increased skin's moisture content by 50% over 24 hours in GH Beauty Lab testing.
6. For a fast fix, try a face mask
To get instant skin-plumping and glow-boosting benefits when skin feels lackluster or before a special event, smooth on a hydrating face mask and let it soak into skin. GH Beauty Lab test winner Skin Laundry Hydrating Facial Sheet Mask raised skin moisture levels by 25% in just minutes, according to measurements with the Corneometer device.
7. Or make your own DIY mask
Whip up this homemade skincare face mask from Joanna Vargas, a celebrity facialist in New York City, to enhance skin's vibrance. "It's soothing and tightens pores," she says. "If you want extra exfoliation, add two tablespoons of almond power and scrub the formula onto the skin before leaving it on as a mask— your skin will be glowing!"
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup mashed strawberry
- 1/4 cup honey
Mix all ingredients together together in a bowl. Apply to face and neck, avoiding the eye area. Leave on for five minutes, then rinse.
8. Give your face a massage
A massage is good for more than relaxing your muscles. "Every day, I massage my face as I wash it — the motion increases circulation and gives skin a natural vibrance," says Mona Gohara, M.D., a dermatologist at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT. "Do a few upward and downward strokes on each cheek to see an effect.”
9. Use shimmery lotion to boost glow
Good news: You can also get a glow in seconds! The new category of skincare and makeup hybrid products called "glotions" combine the hydrating benefits of a moisturizer with the radiance-boosting effects of a highlighter. (One GH Beauty Lab favorite: L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer.) These formulas contain humectant ingredients, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, that draw moisture into skin to immediately make it appear plump and smooth, Wnek explains, mixed with finely milled minerals like mica that reflect light to give skin an immediate but subtle allover glow.
Smooth one on as you would a face lotion before makeup, wear alone for a natural look or tap a dot on the high points of your face, such as the tops of your cheekbones and underneath the arches of your eyebrows, to get a touch of no-makeup radiance. Try the GH Beauty Lab's picks, below.
10. Eat antioxidant-rich foods
Yes, what you eat can have an effect on your skin's glow. Load up on grapes, berries and nuts like pecans and walnuts, which are rich in polyphenols such as ellagic acid and resveratrol. “Preliminary research has linked this type of antioxidant to helping protect skin cells from UV damage like hyperpigmentation,” says former GH Nutrition Director Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D. Aim to incorporate them into your diet daily in meals, like breakfasts, salads, or desserts, or alone as a snack.
11. Hydrate from the inside out
And don't forget good old H2O. “Proper hydration is directly related to skin cell regeneration,” key to a glow, London says. Aim for eight to 10 cups per day of unsweetened drinks like water (including sparkling or fruit- infused), tea and coffee.
12. Know when to call a dermatologist
To tackle stubborn skin hyperpigmentation issues such as large or numerous dark spots (from sun damage or other causes) and melasma for long-lasting clarity, visit a board-certified dermatologist, who can recommend the best options for you. These can include prescription topical products, in-office medical skincare treatments like professional facial peels, microdermabrasion and lasers, or a combination of therapies, says Pearl E. Grimes, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA in Los Angeles.
“For sun damage, like dark spots and pigmentation from acne scars, lasers such as broadband light and intense pulsed light are very effective,” Dr. Price says. “Procedures like microneedling, an intensive form of exfoliation, as well as a series of chemical peels, work best for melasma.”
April (she/her) is the beauty director at Good Housekeeping, Prevention and Woman's Day, where she oversees all beauty content. She has over 15 years of experience under her belt, starting her career as an assistant beauty editor at GH in 2007, and working in the beauty departments of SELF and Fitness magazines.