"Two things change skin's texture: sun damage, which makes the epidermis thicken and feel leathery, and the natural aging process. As you get older, your dead skin cells shed more slowly, and start to build up in your upper layer of skin. This buildup leaves your complexion rough and dull. First and foremost, you need a topical product that will speed up that cell turnover; I recommend a serum or lotion that contains retinol. These relatively mild over-the-counter vitamin A derivatives shouldn’t make your skin flake (which happens more easily when skin is already rough). After about two months of nightly use, your skin will feel softer and look more luminous.
You may also need to rethink your basic cleansing regimen. Many bar soaps are very alkaline and strip natural oils from the skin, making it feel rougher. Choose a creamy, non-soap cleanser instead. Afterwards, use a moisturizer that contains an effective humectant—like glycerin, urea, or hyaluronic acid—and has a thick consistency (think jars rather than pumps). To go a step further, look for a moisturizer that also contains lactic acid. For treating roughness, I prefer lactic acid over its alpha hydroxy acid cousin, glycolic acid, because it not only triggers cell turnover but is a natural humectant. And, of course, in the morning always apply sunscreen.
If you want to see—and feel—immediate results, a superficial chemical peel is a great option. In my office, I usually mix lactic, citric, and trichloroacetic acids with hydrating and brightening ingredients, and swab the mixture over clean skin. They lift away dead skin cells within a few minutes. You'll see results after one peel, but for the biggest payoff I recommend four to six over a period of several months. You will look glowy right afterwards; within two days you should expect a couple of days of flaking, so make sure to keep your skin moisturized to mitigate it."
- Creamy daily cleanser (like Avéne Cold Cream Emollient Cleansing Gel, $22), morning and night
- Daytime moisturizer with glycerin, urea, or hyaluronic acid (like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $15)
- Sunscreen (like Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15, $16) every morning
- Nighttime retinol product (like RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $22)
- Four to six monthly chemical peels, $75 to 250 each