4 Ways To Achieve Smooth Skin, According To Beauty Experts

Illustration by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,

What can I do to improve my skin texture? I’m pretty good with my skincare and have a routine that I stick to, but I still have a lot of scarring left from past breakouts and some kind of bumpy texture on several patches of my face. Makeup never looks as good as I want it to, and I’m not sure the skincare is doing much to change it. Please help!

Lily, 34
On returning to face-to-face (albeit distanced) socialising last week, I noticed something odd. As I looked around at the faces of passersby and friends, I realised that for over a year, the only images of people I’d seen were either on a video call, on social media or on TV. Even without retouching or beauty filters, which my friends are all too hot to use, these kinds of images have a certain degree of blurring or smudging due to their virtual nature. As such, I’d totally lost sight of what a real, unfiltered face looks like. And guess what – they had texture. I glanced in a compact mirror – I had texture, too!

What is skin texture?

I’m not trying to minimise your concerns or sweep them under the rug. I just think it’s important to remember that our perception of the uniformity, quality and appearance of our complexions has perhaps never been more skewed. We’ve spent at least 12 months looking at screens or seeing controlled images of others but been left to stare at our own faces in 4K detail without any filtering, in good light and in bad. I’m hopeful that the gradual unlocking of society will lead us to greater self-acceptance as we relearn how faces move, emote and look.
To your point: skin texture is a tricky thing to treat! This is because, according to cosmetic physician Dr David Jack, any scarring or marks that leave you with textured skin are an injury to a much deeper layer of skin. "Things like acne scars or marks occur on the dermis, not the epidermis, which is the layer that skincare treats," he explained. Essentially, anything like pigmentation or dullness (which is considered skin texture, although I would say it's more skin tone) can usually be remedied through the use of the right skincare products, like vitamin C and retinoids. However, once you’ve got a raised and/or sunken scar or mark, the root lies deeper than skincare may be able to reach. 

Can face peels help improve skin texture?

Depending on your skin type and colour, as well as the nature of the scarring or marks, there’s a range of different options. Dr Jack said that face peels, such as The Perfect Peel, can work really well to help resurface and brighten the skin, while dermaplaning is another option. He stressed the importance of not attempting anything on this level of invasiveness yourself – these are clinical procedures, often with some downtime, which need to be carried out in a safe setting. "Another option that’s popular in my clinic is something called Morpheus8. It’s a mix of radiofrequency and microneedling that works on the dermis layer of the skin. It essentially heats and remodels the skin tissue, and helps kickstart collagen production," explained Dr Jack, adding that you might need between one and three sessions. Another option for scarring on a smaller area, he suggested, might be to inject a little bit of hyaluronic acid filler to plump out the mark.

What are the best skincare products for smooth skin?

If the texture that’s bothering you isn’t scarring, it’s simply pores, then you may be able to make a notable difference with skincare. Cosmetic physician Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme explained that large pores are a very common complaint in her clinic but that the right routine can often alleviate them. "Pore size is generally dictated by an increase in sebum (oil) in the skin, a decrease in collagen, and a bit of dehydration," she explained. "There’s a genetic size that your pores are set to, as it were, but the way you’re looking after your skin can make them appear larger if you’re yet to find the right balance for you."

Can retinol and exfoliating acids help improve skin texture?

To help with collagen production, Dr Ejikeme suggested a retinoid skincare product. I’d really recommend something as gentle as La Roche-Posay's Retinol B3, or perhaps something stronger like the Medik8 R-Retinoate if your budget and your skin sensitivity can stretch to it. For sebum production, you’ll want to integrate some exfoliating acids into your routine, which will also help with the dehydration. Dr Ejikeme suggested starting very softly and just a couple of times a week — Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA is one of my favourites to recommend for beginners; if you’re more confident, the SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight Cream is a great weekly peel option – just ensure you’re not using it in tandem with your retinoid on the same night, and that you’re being scrupulous with sun protection. "When it comes to hydration, I'd be looking at trying to improve the superficial hydration with ingredients like panthenol, glycerin or hyaluronic acid," said Dr Ejikeme. CeraVe makes a great affordable serum, the Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, with all of the above plus moisturising ceramides to help prevent water loss.
I’m always conflicted about covering expensive, in-clinic procedures in my column because I appreciate that for many people, they’re way out of budget, and I don’t like the narrative or idea that we must ‘fix’ things with our skin. However, I like having treatments (I’ve had several with Dr Jack over the years) and I know I’m not the only one so it would be hypocritical not to mention them as an option. Plus, I’d much rather suggest a reputable, safe clinic rather than have people chance it and get injured – believe me, that happens. Also, I don’t want you to waste your money on endless products if they can’t fundamentally address your concern. I’d much rather keep it real with you.

Good luck,
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