Photo: Chris Eckhert/Studio D.

You'd probably love to start the new year by putting your best face forward—but that's the very time when your complexion is likely to have lost its radiance. Cold air, wind, and indoor heating strip the skin of proteins and natural oils, says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "The skin loses its ability to hold moisture, exacerbating dryness and causing dullness," she says. The brighter side? Getting a glow is as easy as 1-2-3!

1. Hit Refresh

Treatments and creams work best if they can enter the skin—hard to do if dead cells have built up on the surface. Eliminate this debris and the active ingredients in your products will penetrate better, says Gohara. Plus, light will reflect more evenly off the skin, which brightens your complexion. The best way tocome clean is with either a physicalexfoliator (a scrub with a gritty texture that buffs away the dead cells) or a chemical one (a lotion that dissolves the "glue" between the cells, allowing them to be sloughed off). Which should you use? "For maximum results I recommend a combination of the two," says Gohara. Her advice: Once or twice a week, cleanse with a nonsoap face wash and a washcloth, or instead try a gentle scrub or a face polish. Then apply a mild chemical exfoliant containing the vitamin A derivative retinol or an alpha hydroxy acid, such as lactic or glycolic acid. Remember that it's a good idea to exfoliate at night, when skin cell regeneration reaches its peak.

Photo: Sarsmis/iStock

2. Treat Yourself
To go from lackluster to luminous, you need a powerful serum. Look for one with star ingredients hyaluronic acid and antioxidant vitamin C. Hyaluronic acid draws water to the skin, moisturizing and temporarily plumping fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C helps fade dark spots and fights free radicals—the damaging molecules generated by sun exposure and pollution that lead to wrinkles and discoloration. Since vitamin C has been shown to add this extra protection against UVA and UVB rays, it's best to apply the serum every morning.

Photo: b-d-s/iStock

3. Play Defense
Radiant skin is well-moisturized skin. In the morning after you've applied a serum and in the evening after exfoliation, layer on a moisturizer that contains glycerin (another humectant that attracts water to the skin), dimethicone (a silicone that forms a barrier to prevent moisture from escaping), and hyaluronic acid. "The thicker the moisturizer, the more hydrating it's likely to be," says Gohara. So if your skin still feels dry after you use a lotion, graduate to a heavier cream; if you need even more hydration, try a layer of facial oil first. And remember to apply an SPF 30 sunscreen every day.

Maintain your results by sticking to this routine. "People underestimate the power of consistency," says Gohara. "But you'll see. Discipline pays off!"