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Following the steps of your skincare routine can be soothing and self-affirming. But sometimes as you massage in your moisturizer you may notice new issues like uneven skin texture.
If rough or uneven skin is plaguing you, here are some common causes and tips for smoothing skin out.
What causes textured skin?
Different factors can lead dead skin to buildup leaving your complexion looking rough. Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes and factors that can lead to uneven skin texture.
The epidermis (your skin’s outermost layer) gets thinner with age, which makes it more vulnerable to damage. As time goes by, your skin is exposed to more external factors like sun damage, smoking, and others that lead to an uneven skin texture. This combination may lead to skin that feels drier or looks more wrinkly (Zhang, 2018).
Cell turnover, which is when dead skin is shed and replaced with new skin, also slows down as we age. Too many dead cells not only dull the appearance of skin but also contribute to enlarged pores and areas of roughness. Our levels of collagen, a protein that helps skin look fuller, also decreases with age leading to fine lines and wrinkles (Zhang, 2018; Rodan, 2016).
Roughly 80% of skin changes we see on our face as we age is from sun exposure. Sun damage speeds up the aging process, resulting in wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and rough skin. Sun damage also lowers collagen levels, which may make wrinkles and uneven skin texture more noticeable (Zhang, 2018; Rodan, 2016).
Healthy skin requires lots of hydration. If you have a dry skin type, not getting enough water can make it appear dull and coarse in texture. Our skin also naturally gets drier over time (Gade, 2022; Zhang, 2018).
Skin conditions like sebaceous keratosis, acne vulgaris, rosacea, and melasma can also affect skin texture. Scar tissue from acne scarring may create uneven skin texture and areas of bumpiness (Samargandy, 2022).
Finally, lifestyle factors, such as smoking or drinking too little water, may affect your skin texture. Smoking can prematurely age your skin, changing the thickness or density of skin to different degrees. And your skin may feel more dry and uneven if you’re dehydrated (Yazdanparast, 2019; Liska, 2019).
How to get rid of dead skin on your face
How to improve skin texture
If your skin looks like it needs some rejuvenating, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Keep hydrated
Improving uneven skin texture may be as simple as drinking more water. Studies show that staying hydrated does the same for skin, making it feel less dry and more smooth (Liska, 2019).
Be sure to keep up with a daily moisturizing routine, too. Using a gentle cleanser and topical moisturizer helps iron out rough patches and improve your skin barrier function (Draelos, 2020; Rodan, 2016).
In one small study, participants with dry skin who followed a twice-daily regimen of facial cleansers followed by moisturizer reported better skin texture and significantly less dryness than those who didn’t use moisturizer (Kim, 2022).
2. Wear sunscreen
Protecting your face with a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen goes a long way in preventing sun damage, which can lead to an uneven skin texture. In one study, participants who wore sunscreen daily over a one-year period saw noticeable improvements in skin texture, clarity, and pigmentation (Randhawa, 2016).
3. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
Everyone deals with dead skin cells, but the good news is you can wash them away with a weekly exfoliating routine. Try a nice exfoliating scrub, chemical exfoliant, sonic cleaning brush, or exfoliating mitt. Gently rub your skin in a circular motion, paying special attention to areas that feel rough or uneven.
Some chemical exfoliators may be better for people with sensitive skin or who have acne. These use acids––like glycolic, lactic, malic, or salicylic acid—to strip skin of dead cells and unclog pores (Rodan, 2016).
Avoid falling into the trap of over-exfoliating, however. Doing it too often, too hard, or with abrasive products can irritate the skin and worsen its texture (AAD, n.d.).
Mottled skin: causes, symptoms, and when to be concerned
4. Try a chemical peel
This cosmetic procedure is a popular option for improving skin tone and texture. A chemical peel accelerates the exfoliation process by removing the top layer of skin. Chemical peels can rejuvenate the skin on your face, reduce pore size, and help skin issues like acne scars, rosacea, or pigmentary disorders (Samargandy, 2021).
A warning ahead of time: chemical peels are stronger than traditional exfoliants you use at home. While you can do it DIY with a gentle mask, it’s best to schedule a treatment with a healthcare professional to avoid any flare-ups or burns.
5. Use a vitamin C serum
When it comes to skincare, vitamin C is your friend. This antioxidant may help reverse some signs of aging like smoothing out uneven skin texture. Topical vitamin C may also defend your face from many things that contribute to rough skin, such as enlarged pores, brown spots, and age spots (Zhang, 2018; Pullar, 2017).
6. Explore topical retinoids and retinol
Retinoids help brighten and smooth skin, while also reversing signs of aging. They can increase collagen production, too, which helps fill out uneven skin textures (Zhang, 2018; Rodan, 2016).
To avoid irritation, start slowly and gradually add retinoids to your daily routine. It’s important to know that retinoids increases skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so be sure to pair it with at least an SPF 30 sunscreen (Rodan, 2016).
7. Stimulate collagen production with microneedling
During a microneedling treatment, a device with thin needles (called a dermaroller) is used on the skin. The procedure works by creating small injuries that trigger a repair response, in turn boosting collagen production. Some studies have shown microneedling to improve skin texture by as much as 50% (Iriarte, 2017).
8. Look into laser resurfacing
For people with chronic skin issues, professional treatments like laser resurfacing are an option. This procedure uses a laser to delicately remove top layers of skin, which can improve skin texture, pigmentation, and acne scars (Pressig, 2012).
Skin cancer: types, symptoms, stages, and treatment
It takes time for skin to adjust to a new routine, so be patient. These tips can help smooth out rough skin and strip away dead cells, but if uneven skin texture continues to be a problem or is caused by an underlying medical issue, talk to a dermatologist or healthcare professional. They can recommend the most effective products and treatments for you based on your skin type and concerns.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). (n.d.). How to Safely Exfoliate at Home. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/routine/safely-exfoliate-at-home
- Connolly, D., Vu, H. L., Mariwalla, K., & Saedi, N. (2017). Acne Scarring-Pathogenesis, Evaluation, and Treatment Options. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 10(9), 12–23. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29344322/
- Draelos, Z. D., Hall, S., & Munsick, C. (2020). A 14-day Controlled Study Assessing Qualitative Improvement with 15% Lactic Acid and Ceramides in Skin Moisturization and Desquamation. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 13(8), E54–E58. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33178384/
- Gade, A., Matin, T., & Rubenstein, R. (2022). Xeroderma. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565884/
- Iriarte, C., Awosika, O., Rengifo-Pardo, M., & Ehrlich, A. (2017). Review of applications of microneedling in dermatology. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 10, 289–298. doi:10.2147/CCID.S142450. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28848356/
- Kim, S., Ly, B. K., Ha, J. H., et al. (2022). A consistent skincare regimen leads to objective and subjective improvements in dry human skin: investigator-blinded randomized clinical trial. The Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 33(1), 300–305. doi:10.1080/09546634.2020.1751037. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32239984/
- Liska, D., Mah, E., Brisbois, T., et al. (2019). Narrative Review of Hydration and Selected Health Outcomes in the General Population. Nutrients, 11(1), 70. doi:10.3390/nu11010070. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30609670/
- Preissig, J., Hamilton, K., & Markus, R. (2012). Current Laser Resurfacing Technologies: A Review that Delves Beneath the Surface. Seminars in Plastic Surgery, 26(3), 109–116. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1329413. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23904818/
- Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients, 9(8), 866. doi:10.3390/nu9080866. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28805671/
- Randhawa, M., Wang, S., Leyden, J. J., et al. (2016). Daily Use of a Facial Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Over One-Year Significantly Improves Clinical Evaluation of Photoaging. Dermatologic Surgery, 42(12), 1354–1361. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000000879. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27749441/
- Rodan, K., Fields, K., Majewski, G., & Falla, T. (2016). Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 4(12). doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000001152. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28018771/
- Samargandy, S. & Raggio, B. S. (2022). Skin Resurfacing Chemical Peels. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547752/
- Yazdanparast, T., Hassanzadeh, H., Nasrollahi, S. A., et al. (2019). Cigarettes Smoking and Skin: A Comparison Study of the Biophysical Properties of Skin in Smokers and Non-Smokers. Tanaffos, 18(2), 163–168. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32440305/
- Zhang, S. & Duan, E. (2018). Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside. Cell Transplantation, 27(5), 729–738. doi:10.1177/0963689717725755. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29692196/
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.