Uneven skin texture is a complaint for a lot of people when it comes to their skin. It’s something that can seem almost impossible to improve. And with so much skincare advice out there these days, you might not be sure where to turn.
That’s where we come in. We’re going to cover exactly what textured skin is, what causes it and how you can improve it once and for all — and keep it that way! The best part is, it’s not difficult.
What is textured skin?
You might be wondering what we actually mean by textured skin, so here’s our definition. Textured skin refers to bumps, pits (often caused by acne scars), flakes, rough patches and even fine lines and wrinkles.
Textured skin can be visibly uneven with lots of small bumps and can make skin appear less luminous due to the way the light bounces off your complexion. It also can cause makeup to settle in a not-so-appealing way (read: a little bit cake-y).
Now, let’s be clear. Everyone (even those friends who appear to have totally perfect skin) have texture to their complexion. It’s all part of being human; no one has flawless smooth skin. However, of course, there are varying degrees of texture and skin tone problems, with some people more prone to it than others.
The key is knowing the causes and having tricks up your sleeve to deal with your skin's texture at home to begin a journey to smoother skin.
What causes dry and textured skin?
There are so many causes of textured skin. Throw in dryness and we could truly be here all day. But there are a few main culprits.
Keratosis Pilaris (also known as KP or even chicken skin) is a skin condition caused by the keratinisation of hair follicles of the skin.
This manifests as a bunch of raised bumps, typically presenting on the backs of the upper arms. It’s a very common skin condition and can be improved with a few simple steps (which we’ll talk about later).
Acne is another common skin concern that causes texture changes. It happens in those with both mild and severe acne, ranging from a small collection of bumps or papules to large surface areas of cysts.
If the acne is severe and persists for a long period of time, it can lead to moderate pitted scars, which can have long-lasting texture implications.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, affecting anywhere between 2.3% and 6.6% of the Australian population .
It presents as large scale-like patches of skin that can form on one or multiple areas of the body; commonly the arms, legs and scalp. Skin appears to be visibly dry, thickened and white, grey or red in colour.
Although in most people, ageing won't cause severe texture changes (and certainly won't happen overnight), it can still be a cause.
As we age, our cell turnover decreases, meaning our skin isn’t renewing as fast as it once was. The impact of this is that skin is thinner, less smooth and plump and it may also mean you take longer to heal.
Damage from sun exposure over time can cause texture changes in the skin, including rough, dry patches, thickened skin, increased wrinkles and fine lines, and a ruddy-looking skin tone.
What factors influence smooth skin?
There are many things that can influence smooth skin, including your lifestyle, genetics and your hormones and health conditions.
Things like smoking can have a detrimental effect on your skin, causing premature ageing which can result in skin texture changes . Drug and alcohol abuse can also have damaging impacts on the skin (not to mention the rest of the body), causing vascular changes .
Whilst there are no genes specific to acne, you can be prone to the skin condition if it runs in your family . It’s often unclear exactly what role genes play in many skin conditions, but it’s certainly true that many can be hereditary.
Hormones can certainly have an impact on conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea . This study also showed an increase in sebum (oil production) in the skin leading up to a woman’s period .
A link between skin conditions in women being exacerbated by hormonal factors has been suggested. These conditions can all have an impact on skin texture and smoothness.
Finally, health conditions can have a clear correlation with skin health and therefore, texture. It’s true what they say: the skin is the window to inner health because it can give a key indicator of what’s happening inside your body.
Certain rashes, texture changes and raised bumps can be key signs of health conditions. In this instance, texture changes can really help diagnose certain health issues.
How can you improve skin texture?
Once you’ve figured out the potential cause of your skin texture issues (and explored any potential underlying conditions) you can move on to improving skin texture.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to improve skin texture, including ridding dead skin cells, blocked pores, and dark spots, and overall renewing the skin's surface, to reveal healthy skin.
Skincare can make a huge difference when it comes to improving texture. Often people don’t need to look into any in-clinic options after establishing a good skincare routine and remaining consistent with it.
We already mentioned it, but it’s worth noting again. Not only can sunscreen reduce sun damage caused by UV rays, but it can also help improve skin texture and clarity.
A study from 2016 found a 40% to 52% improvement from baseline in skin texture . If that’s not reason enough to use sunscreen every single day, we don’t know what is.
If you’ve established a good skincare routine at home but still find yourself wanting some extra help with skin texture, there are plenty of in-clinic professional treatments you can try.
Microneedling, also known as skin needling, and chemical peels can be effective in treating skin texture. The former helps to speed up the cell renewal process of the outermost layer of the skin and increases collagen production, while the latter gently exfoliates away the top layer of skin, revealing a smoother, brighter complexion.
Laser skin resurfacing might also be an option but isn't as common and is case-dependent.
As we mentioned earlier, lifestyle factors do play into skin texture so it’s well worth looking into cutting back on alcohol and smoking habits for your skin and your overall health.
What skincare ingredients are best for smooth skin?
It seems logical that physical scrubs will literally buff away any roughness and imperfections but unfortunately, that isn’t true. To improve texture through exfoliating, it’s best to do that with chemical exfoliants (you might also have heard this referred to as an acid), which gently sloughs off dead skin cells and rids rough skin.
Without getting too complicated with it, acids are derived from various sources and impact the skin in a number of ways; some are better than others depending on your skin type or condition.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few key ingredients that help with creating a smoother appearance.
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and works to slough off dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to gently exfoliate.
Over time, your skin’s texture will be smoother, you’ll see less visible fine lines and overall improved brightness. Glycolic acid is best for those with pretty resilient skin types (we’re talking about those not prone to sensitivity or irritation).
Salicylic acid is particularly good if you’re acne-prone, have oily skin, or find you’re really congested. This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) works by reducing oil production, which can lead to blocked pores, and subsequently breakouts.
This, in turn, will improve texture from reduced blemishes and inflammation. For these reasons, salicylic acid is particularly good for the treatment of keratosis pilaris. Often used in the shower as an exfoliating wash to reveal smoother skin over time.
Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash can be used across the face and body (allowing you to target body acne in places like the chest, back and arms) 2-3 times per week and helps reveal smoother skin.
Known as the gold standard in skin ageing, retinoids (a vitamin A derivative) can help many skin concerns, including bumpy and uneven skin. This ingredient works by speeding up cell turnover, replacing old, dull and rough skin, in place of smoother, brighter and more even skin tone and texture.
Azelaic acid is also a great treatment option for those with blemishes, scarring and inflammation, and even sensitive skin types like rosacea-prone skin that cannot tolerate retinoids very well. This ingredient works by stabilising the production of keratin, which, in turn, has an exfoliating effect on the skin.
Software's prescription ageing treatment contains a cocktail of texture-improving prescriptive ingredients that’s personalised to you and will gently work to smooth skin texture, reduce fine lines and restore skin clarity.
Of course, you should be wearing sunscreen every single day to protect your skin, but it’s extra important to remember this step if you’re introducing active ingredients into your skincare routine.
How to shrink pores and smooth skin
Despite popular belief being that we can open and close (or shrink) pores, unfortunately, this isn’t true. Your pore size is down to your genetics. However, not all hope is lost because you can make them appear to be smaller and more smoothed out.
The key is regular, gentle exfoliation using the ingredients we listed above — but not all of them at the same time! We don’t want to burn out skin or dry it out, but we do want to break down those sticky bonds that are clogging pores and causing blemishes and uneven and rough skin texture.
Congestion can certainly give pores an enlarged appearance so the best way to make them appear smaller and smooth them out is to adopt (and maintain!) a skincare routine that includes gentle exfoliation, moisturiser and SPF.
Photo credit: Getty Images