The 2021 Approach to Glass Skin

One of the OG K-beauty trends to make it stateside, Glass skin is a way to describe skin so smooth and luminous, it resembles a pane of glass. But this particular trend isn’t exactly attainable for many, since it’s based on the assumption that your skin is so-called “normal” — in other words, you’re not dealing with breakouts, dark spots, and other very common concerns.

That’s why these days, the interpretation of “glass skin” is a little different. Glass skin  — healthy, beautiful, and bouncy — can be achievable for all skin types, rather than being a pipe dream of your skin being flawless or looking poreless (neither of which is realistic, by the way). It’s inclusive of all skin types, textures, and concerns, and relative to what you’re working with. All to say: Regardless of blemishes or cystic acne, you can still get glass skin for yourself. 

How to make that happen? Give your routine a holistic makeover, with gentle exfoliants to refresh skin and active ingredients that help your own texture shine though.

First, a little background: Skin texture describes how your skin looks and feels, and glass skin is just one way it can look — like glass. However, there are a ton of factors that affect it. “In some situations, skin texture can be affected by dryness or irritation of the skin that may also lead to flaking of the skin,” says NYC dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD. “Similarly, sometimes having acne breakouts or scarring can impact the texture in that some areas of the skin may seem more raised or elevated, while other areas may be depressed or indented.” All these things can make your skin texture unique.

Got breakouts? Don’t miss our Glass Skin Tutorial for Acne-Prone Skin with makeup artist Nina Park!

Then, there are pores. “Pores exist on everyone, but in some individuals they may be larger,” says Dr. Garshick. “You don’t want to overdo it when trying to improve the appearance of them, because they won’t go away completely.” And you shouldn’t want them to, since pores release the sebum that serves as your skin’s natural moisturizer.

Not overdoing it is a good rule of thumb. For instance, buffing away all blemishes, flakes, and rough patches can seem like the obvious way to smooth skin, like sandpaper on wood, that does more harm than good. (If anything, it just opens a Pandora’s Box of skin barrier issues, from discomfort to redness.) Rather, to get your own version of glass skin, be gentle. “It’s best to avoid over-exfoliating or harsh scrubs that can disrupt the skin barrier, as this can lead to irritation, dryness, and increased moisture loss from the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. If you’re too enthusiastic, they can actually create micro-tears in the skin.

A less-is-more approach is key for efficient exfoliation. “It allows the dead skin cells to be shed and eliminated without causing injury to the skin barrier,” Dr. Garshick explains. “In general, this can be done with chemical exfoliating ingredients that help to dissolve the bonds between skin cells to help get rid of the dead skin cells.” For daily use, our Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm prevents irritation by using papaya enzymes, which dissolve only dead skin cells without harming the healthy cells underneath — leaving skin baby-soft and smooth.

In the right formulas, exfoliating acids are another good idea. “Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, are important for skin texture as they help to shed dead skin cells — which not only improves dullness of the skin, but also keeps the skin feeling and looking smooth,” says Dr. Garshick. “Beta hydroxy acid, such as salicylic acid, is especially good for those with enlarged pores or breakout-prone skin, as it helps to unclog pores too ok reduce breakouts while also exfoliating to keep the skin soft and acne free.” Our Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, which pairs two natural sources of beta hydroxy acid with hydrating cactus water, leaves skin with a healthy glow.

Brightening ingredients, such as vitamin C, help you double-down on radiance. Pineapple-C Brightening Serum is one of our original formulas for glass skin, since it contains vitamin C — which repairs damaged skin, evens out skin tone and dark spots, and stimulates collagen production — alongside a combo of pineapple enzymes and natural AHAs (for that gentle exfoliation we mentioned).

Retinols are another safe bet for smooth skin. “They’re designed to help regulate skin cell turnover” says Dr. Garshick. “They also help to promote collagen production, making it a good option for fine lines and wrinkles.” With our Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, the formula does you one better by encapsulating the retinol, so it’s released deep within skin and thus without surface irritation, and pairing it with nourishing avocado oil to keep skin moisturized and smooth.

Learn the how, why, and when of using retinol with our comprehensive guide.

Speaking of moisture: It’s similarly essential for the glass skin look, and that goes for each and every skin type. “Proper use of moisturizer, while recommended for everyone, can help to improve skin texture by reducing areas of dry or flaky skin,” says Garshick. Look for a moisturizer chock full of emollients, like Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream; these fill in the gaps in your skin barrier to keep skin as smooth and soft as possible.

For both an instant and long-term boost of luminosity, try a highlighting serum like Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops. Niacinamide is one of those versatile ingredients that does it all — namely, quell inflammation in skin and brighten uneven skin tone over time. But this particular formula also gives a dewy sheen to skin, so you can get the glossy finish of glass skin immediately.

Last but definitely not least, keep your skin luminous with diligent sun protection. “We know that skin texture can be affected by prolonged exposure to the sun, which can lead to DNA damage and loss of collagen, so it is important to be consistent with sun protection,” says Garshick.

Ultimately, at its core, glass skin is your skin — just healthy and glowing. So, take this as your cue not to fight your natural skin texture, but embrace it. Your skin will be better for it.

Read more about how to treat your skin this year: