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Despite what all of the overly filtered pictures on Instagram will have you believe, nobody has completely smooth, flawless skin. "Uneven skin texture is common, and it refers to irregularities in the contours and feel of the skin," dermatologist Karan Lal tells Elite Daily. "This can occur after years of sun damage, it can occur if you develop scars after acne, and it can occur after certain rashes," he explains. To target the many causes of an uneven skin texture, there are lots of different treatment options available. Namely, the best products for an uneven skin texture include serums, toners, and lotions that contain ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid. You can also help prevent textural inconsistencies by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, something that’s especially important if you plan on using a retinoid or chemical exfoliant, since many of these ingredients can make you more sensitive to the sun.
Dr. Karan Lal, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist practicing with Schweiger Dermatology Group. He specializes in pediatric and adult dermatology, laser surgery, and soft tissue filler augmentation, among other things. He is a member of the DEI work group for the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.
What To Consider When Shopping For Products For An Uneven Skin Texture
The most effective products will address what's causing your uneven skin texture in the first place, and as Dr. Lal notes, you'll often need to turn to more than one treatment. "In essence, treatment is often multifactorial to get the best outcome," he says. "For example, if your skin has scarring, then treating the scars with topical retinoids, microneedling, and fractional lasers can be helpful," he says of combining over-the-counter products with in-office treatments from a board-certified dermatologist. "You want to make sure you get evaluated, because if [your uneven skin texture] is from a rash, then you have to make sure you treat that with prescription medications," cautions Dr. Lal, who adds that retinol and certain acids can actually aggravate skin rashes.
You can also experience uneven skin texture on your body in the form of hyperpigmentation from sun damage and acne, or conditions like keratosis pilaris (KP), which causes tiny bumps and rough patches. "The skin on your body is not as strong as your facial skin," Dr. Lal says. "I would look for body lotions with retinols (as opposed to retinoids, which may be too strong), glycolic acid, or lactic acid, which can gently exfoliate the skin."
Shop The Best Products For An Uneven Skin Texture
In a hurry? Here are the best products for uneven skin texture:
1. Best Serum: La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum
2. Best Lotion: AmLactin Rapid Relief Restoring Cream
3. Best Liquid Exfoliant: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
4. Best Retinoid: Differin Gel
5. Best Peel Pads: Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme
1. The Derm's Pick: Best Serum
"This is great for the face and evening out skin texture," Dr. Lal says of the La Roche-Posay’s Glycolic Acid Serum. In addition to 10% glycolic acid, the serum includes a derivative of salicylic acid to further exfoliate by speeding up skin cell turnover. Plus, kojic and tranexamic acids work to fade unwanted hyperpigmentation (so it’s great for skin with both an uneven texture and tone), while vitamin B5 and La Roche-Posay's thermal spring water provide soothing and moisturizing benefits. Because it's noncomedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free, it's tolerated by most skin types, but since it's also a stronger serum, you may want to introduce it into your nightly routine gradually.
Relevant Review: "I've been using this to lighten some post inflammatory pigmentation, and it's working surprisingly well. The spots are beginning to fade much faster and my skin looks even. It does sting a bit, which takes some getting used to, but it's absolutely effective.”
Active Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Kojic Acid, Lipo-Hydroxy Acid, Tranexamic Acid, Vitamin B5 Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
2. The Derm's Pick: Best Face & Body Lotion
For a multi-tasking formula, Dr. Lal recommends a moisturizing cream. "This is great for the face and body, and [it] can gently exfoliate your skin," he says of AmLactin’s Rapid Relief Restoring Cream, which combines 15% lactic acid with three ceramides, glycerin, and vitamin E to help bind moisture to your skin for up to 24 hours. Lactic acid is one of the gentlest AHAs, and the non-greasy cream is also unscented, and therefore safe for anyone with a fragrance sensitivity.
Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid, Ceramides, Vitamin E Size: 12 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
Relevant Review: "I love this product. After using for a couple of weeks I could see a big difference in the texture of my skin especially my arms.”
3. Best Liquid Exfoliant
For more sensitive skin types, the concentrated formula of a serum might be too strong. Instead, try a gentler leave-on treatment like Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, which has more than 45,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. The treatment pairs a lower concentration of the BHA salicylic acid with soothing green tea to help exfoliate uneven skin without causing irritation. That said, the brand recommends working your way up to daily use, starting with every-other-day application — a crucial tip especially if you have sensitive skin.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Green Tea Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: "I have tried everything you can imagine to help with the texture of my skin. I have some acne scarring from years ago of severe acne and this [has] worked miracles! Your skin feels so clean after using it too. My skin is glowing because of it! [...] Little goes a long way! Highly recommend. I’ve been using it for a month now and am extremely happy… finally!!”
4. Best Over-The-Counter Retinoid
If you can’t swing a visit to the derm to get a retinoid prescription, Differin Gel is your next best bet (the key ingredient, adapalene, did indeed once require a prescription). It’s mainly used to treat and prevent acne, but because it works by increasing the rate of skin cell turnover, it helps promote a more even skin texture and tone, too. You may experience irritation as your skin adjusts to the retinoid (known as retinization), which can present in the form of dryness, redness, and peeling. If you've never used a retinoid (or its gentler counterpart, retinol) before, you can minimize reactions by applying the product once or twice a week at first, and slowly working your way up to nightly use. Also, remember that you only need to be using a pea-sized amount, and don’t forget to moisturize after.
Active Ingredients: Adapalene (Retinoid) Size: 0.5 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
Relevant Review: "I have had cystic acne from age 12 until now. I am 29 and have tried everything aside from Acutane. BUY THIS. The purging is horrible and your skin will be dry. Like flakes coming off. You will break out worse than ever before. It pulls EVERYTHING out. After week 4-5 you will have brand new skin. It will begin to clear up and the texture of your skin will be completely different (in a good way.) Stick out the purge and you will be so happy you did. [...]”
5. Best Peel Pads
You can also find acid ingredients in peel pads, which are designed to make incorporating exfoliants into your skin care routine quick and easy (you only need to use them two to three times each week). These Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads are saturated in a formula that includes 5% glycolic, salicylic, lactic, and mandelic acids to help dissolve the outer layer of dead skin, which can, in turn, make your skin appear smoother and more even. Additionally, hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and niacinamide are included to help keep skin hydrated (niacinamide also helps with evening out an uneven skin tone and minimizing the appearance of congested pores).
Active Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin B5 Size: 60 Pads Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: "My new go-to holy grail. [...] It is smoothing out the texture of my face and evening out the skin tone. I’ve been using it every other evening and putting on Cera-ve moisturizing cream after so it doesn’t dry me out. I’ve had professional glycolic peels many many times and this is very mild but it’s nice because you don’t have that downtime (peeling for days) like an aggressive peel yet it really does wonders over a short period of time.”
6. Best Body Wash
For unevenly textured skin on your body, an in-shower wash with an alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid can help smooth out bumps and rough patches. CeraVe’s best-selling SA Body Wash uses salicylic acid, a BHA, to get the job done, as well as niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and three ceramides to keep your skin moisturized and strong. Because it's noncomedogenic, fragrance-free, and doesn't contain any harsh microbeads, it's gentle enough to use daily.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Niacinamide, Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid Size: 10 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
Relevant Review: "This body wash works - PERIOD. I’ve tried so many products for my chicken skin and Nothing has ever worked. This body wash changed the texture of my skin dramatically in an amazing way! It doesn’t have any scent.I’m getting my next bottle soon. I’d definitely recommend this product.”
7. Best Body Scrub
If you prefer a scrub to a body wash when it comes to treating uneven skin texture, this First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser is a cult favorite. Though it's aimed at helping with the bumps and rough patches associated with keratosis pilaris, the scrub can help anyone experiencing uneven texture as a result of dryness and dead skin buildup. Pumice, glycolic acid, and lactic acid provide the exfoliation in this grainy scrub, while bisabolol, colloidal oatmeal, and vitamin E help to soothe and condition dry skin. Because it combines the benefits of a chemical peel and a microdermabrasion, you only need to use this one to two times each week to see results.
Active Ingredients: Pumice, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Colloidal Oatmeal, Bisabolol, Vitamin E, Green Tea Size: 8 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: "I’ve been using this scrub for ONE WEEK and I’ve already noticed a major improvement in my skin’s texture. I will definitely repurchase.”
Dr. Karan Lal, M.D., board-certified dermatologist practicing with Schweiger Dermatology Group