Having an uneven skin texture is one of those annoying cosmetic beauty qualms that's certainly not the end of the world but is annoying nonetheless. Unlike discoloration, which we can handily hide with a quick dab of concealer, uneven skin texture is a lot harder to mask and can be even trickier to treat. Your first mission? To pinpoint the cause of a bumpy complexion and then go from there. Spoiler: Genetics, age, acne scarring, enlarged pores, and an inappropriate skincare routine and/or product usage are the biggest culprits.
"If your mom had big pores, you are likely going to have bigger pores than your friend whose mother had microscopic pores," explains Heather D. Rogers, MD, of Modern Dermatology in Seattle. "Additionally, as we age, our skin turnover slows down and dead skin accumulates creating a dry, dull complexion that can easily result in an uneven texture."
Oh, and those stubborn acne scars? Yeah, they're to blame too. "The best way to treat an acne scar is to prevent the scar from developing to begin with by using early, effective treatments," Joshua Zeichner, MD, of Zeichner Dermatology in New York explains. "If you already have scars, topical retinoids help improve texture by stimulating new collagen production. Or speak to your dermatologist about professional treatments like lasers or peels."
Ultimately, however, addressing and fixing uneven skin texture is going to involve both at-home and in-office TLC and maintenance. (And yes, there is hope!) "After the age of 30, skin cell turnover starts to slow down. This means that your body does not naturally shed cells as efficiently from the surface of the skin," adds Zeichner. "As the cells accumulate, the skin does not reflect light as well, which contributes to the loss of radiance and uneven texture." Your mission: Attack, prevent, and maintain. Both Rogers and Zeichner are here to help. Keep scrolling for the best at-home and in-office treatments to help fix uneven skin texture, plus the ultimate morning and evening skincare routine.
1. Acid-Infused Skincare
"Regularly using hydroxy acid cleansers or leave-on products is one of the easiest and most effective ways to fix uneven skin texture at home," says Zeichner. "These types of acids like glycolic or salicylic acid help remove dead cells from the surface of the skin and in turn, strengthen skin's foundation." Collectively, he says, this will help improve the texture and radiance of your complexion.
2. Zinc-Based Mineral Sunscreen
Both Rogers and Zeichner say right off the bat that a daily sunscreen habit (a mineral zinc-based formula is best!) is a key strategy for keeping your skin's health and texture in check. As Zeichner explains, UV light causes free radical damage to your natural collagen stores, which essentially serve as our skin's support network. If collagen becomes compromised, it can't provide an adequate frame for your skin, which will enhance the look of pores or other textural issues.
3. Antioxidant-Filled Formulas
As part of your daily morning skincare routine, Rogers adds that infusing your skin with antioxidants (which combat cell and environmental damage) is another easy way to maintain a smooth, glowy complexion. We love prepping our skin for the day with this delicious honey-, glycerin-, and vitamin-spiked mask from Farmacy. Or just look for anything boasting vitamin C as the main ingredient.
4. At-Home Microdermabrasion
Even though we often hear of microdermabrasion as an in-office treatment, Zeichner says microdermabrasion devices are now available for at-home use and can help remove dead cells from the surface of the skin to improve overall skin texture.
5. Topical Retinoids
"Retinoids help stimulate collagen to thicken the deeper layers of the skin while simultaneously thinning the outer skin layer," Zeichner says. "This gives the skin strength as well as a dewy glow."
That said, if you need something a bit more potent and have more severe textural issues, Zeichner suggests talking to your dermatologist about a prescription topical retinoid. "Altreno Lotion is the only FDA-approved Tretinoin formula on the market. Because of its unique formulation, it helps minimize skin irritation and enhances penetration and effectiveness."
1. Dermaplaning: When rough, dead skin and peach fuzz are professionally and carefully removed with a scalpel to reveal a smoother complexion. The treatment is usually performed by a medical master aesthetician. Cost: ~$150
Downtime: According to Rogers, you can expect to be slightly inflamed for the rest of the day, and you should avoid active skin treatments (retinol, vitamin C serums) for 48 hours to prevent skin irritation. Use restorative products like Doctor Rogers Restore Face Cream ($72) and zinc-based sunscreen to help the skin recuperate.
2. Chemical Peels: When rough skin is removed by chemical exfoliation using ingredients like alpha and beta hydroxy acids. The treatment is usually performed by a medical master aesthetician in a physician office. Cost: ~$150
Downtime: "Expect to be a slightly inflamed for the rest of the day and avoid skin treatments for 48 hours to prevent skin irritation," says Rogers.
3. Microdermabrasion: When dead skin and build-up is removed by physical exfoliation and is typically performed by a medical master aesthetician in a physician's office. Cost: ~$150
Downtime: Again, your skin might be a little bit red or irritated after the treatment and should avoid any aggressive skin treatments for 48 hours to prevent irritation.
4. Microneedling: "The effectiveness of this technique depends on the provider (aesthetician vs. MD) and how aggressive they can be without causing damage," Rogers explains. "Better results require deeper penetration with the microneedles and more passes at each treatment. Unlike lasering, there is not a heat component to these treatments, just mechanical injury." Cost: ~$450
Downtime: Rogers says to expect one full day of downtime of pinpoint bleeding followed by three to five days of rough skin. She recommends using an occlusive ointment the first night, daily zinc-based sunscreen, and then a bland moisturizer mixed with an ointment for five days at night. (Her Restore Healing Balm ($30) is a dream!)
5. Clear and Brilliant 1540 or 1927nm Low-Energy Laser: Rogers explains this kind of laser as delivering a controlled, superficial injury to 5% of the skin to promote skin turnover. "This procedure lifts brown and smooths texture, stimulating your body to make beautifully refreshed skin about two weeks later. The results are more impressive than the above options, but the downtime is still quite short. This is a very popular treatment. It is my favorite to have done two weeks before a big press event." Cost: ~$450
Downtime: Expect mild swelling and redness for the first six hours followed by seven days of noticeable dryness.
6. Fraxel/1540/Fractionated Nonablative Resurfacing: According to Rogers, this is a similar treatment to the Clear and Brilliant laser but just delivers more energy to a higher percentage of the skin, which yields long-lasting results. She says to expect greater improvement in brown spots, fine lines, and overall skin texture. Cost: ~$1000
Downtime: Expect two days of redness and swelling, seven days of "crusting," and 14 days of dry skin with mild inflammation. By day four, Rogers says you'll be able to use your makeup again and go out. Woo!
7. Carbon Dioxide Laser/10,600nm/Fractionated Ablative Resurfacing: "This is the most aggressive laser treatment for texture, targeting wrinkles, pore size, sagging eyelids, and acne scarring," shares Rogers. "It causes a deeper injury to the skin, which stimulates significant amounts of new collagen and elastin formation. It is my favorite treatment to fix uneven skin texture because the results are the most impressive." Cost: ~$1600
Downtime: Roughly four days of swelling, redness, and "grid" marks on face. Then, seven to 14 days of crusting, and 14 to 28 days of dry skin with slight inflammation. By day five, Rogers gives the okay to apply makeup and go out.
The Recommended A.M. Skincare Routine:
Below, Rogers provides the optimal morning and evening skincare routine for those looking to fix an uneven skin tone—studded with our favorite product picks.
Step 1: Wash With a Gentle Cleanser
Step 2: Antioxidant Serum with Vitamin C
Step 3: Moisturizer-If Needed
Step 4. Zinc-Based Sunscreen
The Recommended P.M. Skincare Routine:
Step 1: Wash With a Gentle Cleanser
Step 2: Specialized Retinoid or Acid Treatment
Step 3: Moisturizer
Step 4: Bed!
Next up: I'm a Pimple-Prone Beauty Editor, Here's the Daily Skincare Routine I Swear By
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.
Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.