Scientific Skincare - How To Make Your Face Smooth

How To Make Your Face Smooth (According To 20+ Research Studies)

Skin texture, or smoothness, is widely coveted in the quest for brighter and younger-looking skin. However, the day-to-day exposure to pollution and solar radiation can lead to rougher skin texture and other signs of premature aging that leave skin looking lackluster. So, how do we get that baby soft skin? Here’s how to make your face smooth according to research…

But why are we so obsessed with smooth and blemish-free skin? What’s the big deal?

Well, the quest for smoother skin is not purely aesthetic, recent research suggests that those with smoother skin are perceived as healthier, more competent, and more trustworthy [1]. This means that smoother skin may not only makes us feel better about our appearance but may change the way potential employers view our professional capabilities. Talk about judging a book by its cover!

So what factors affect how smooth or rough our skin texture is? Why do we lose that super soft and smooth baby skin that we are born with?

How To Make Your Face Smooth

What Affects Skin Texture?

The biggest factor that affects the smoothness or roughness of our skin texture is sun damage!

That’s right. Rougher skin is not inevitable. In fact, natural and inevitable skin aging is characterized by smooth and unblemished skin with some fine lines (usually exaggerated expression lines). In contrast, prematurely aged skin is characterized by deep wrinkles, pigmentation, and dry and leathery skin [2].

In fact, in a study of outdoor workers who were regularly exposed to UV radiation for prolonged periods of time, their skin was rougher and pore size was larger the longer the duration of UV exposure. In addition, the skin of the outdoor workers was much rougher than what was considered to be appropriate for their ages [3].

While photoaging (a.k.a. sun damage) is the biggest cause of rougher skin texture, reduced skin cell turnover and hydration are also contributing factors. Aging, in general, is associated with decreases in glycosaminoglycan (GAG; e.g. hyaluronic acid) content of the skin and this reduction is larger in sun-damaged skin [4]. As GAGs help hydrate the skin, sun-damaged skin is more likely to be dehydrated than naturally aged skin and aged skin is more likely to be dehydrated than younger skin.

Skin cell turnover, which is the rate at which our skin sheds, is also reduced with age and is much higher in younger people than older people [5]. This is particularly the case with babies and young children due to the rate at which they grow. Essentially, that lovely, smooth, baby-soft skin is due to a particularly high skin cell turnover rate.

If you’re looking for how to make your face smooth in terms of acne scarring, please see here: Acne Scars vs Acne Marks – Causes & Treatment Options.

So, How Can We Use This Knowledge To Make Our Faces Smoother?

In order to obtain smoother skin, we need to focus on three main areas of skincare; protection, exfoliation, and hydration. We need to protect against sun damage, increase our skin cell turnover rate, and increase our skin’s hydration.

How To Make Your Face Smooth By Preventing Sun Damage

As prevention is better than cure, the first, and best, way that you can make your skin smooth is by preventing sun damage.

Sun damage accounts for about 80-90% of all facial skin aging and leads to rougher skin texture and enlarged pores [6]. However, the good news is that sun damage is preventable! That’s right! In fact, daily sunscreen use is the best scientifically-backed anti-aging treatment available.


Studies have demonstrated that daily sunscreen use can actually stop the visible signs of aging. Specifically, those who used a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily demonstrated no visible signs of facial aging over a four-year study period. This was in comparison to their counterparts, who applied sunscreen in their usual manner (i.e. only when it was sunny) [7].

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are those that protect the skin against both UVA & UVB radiation. In order to prevent premature aging from sun damage, we need to use a sunscreen rather than a moisturizer with added SPF. This is because SPF (Sun Protection Factor) only protects our skin from UVB rays. In addition, the amount of moisturizer that the average individual would apply is not nearly enough to achieve the level of advertised SPF protection.

Some sunscreen formulations offer more protection than others. For example, mineral sunscreens that contain both zinc oxide and iron oxides provide better UVA protection and even some protection from visible light (including damaging high energy visible light; HEV) [8].

Both UVA and UVB radiation, as well as other forms of solar radiation, cause the production of free radicals that damage DNA and break down collagen. This causes our skin to age faster than it otherwise should [9][10]. Unfortunately, sunscreen is only able to block 55% of the free radicals produced by UV exposure [11]and, alone, provides no protection from free radicals produced by other forms of solar radiation [12].

So how can we boost our skins free radical fighting ability?


Antioxidants are molecules that naturally co-exist in our skin to protect it from free radical damage. When added to sunscreen, antioxidants are able to reduce the production of free radicals by up to 78% [13]. This means that they can ‘mop-up’ the damage done by UV radiation as well as other extrinsic aging factors such as pollution and smoking.

As well as indirectly improving skin texture by preventing free radical damage, a number of antioxidants have demonstrated the ability to directly improve skin texture and reduce the size of pores, including:

  • Vitamin C [14]
  • Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)[15]
  • Vitamin E [16]
  • Vitamin A (Retinols/Retinoids) [16].

How To Make Your Face Smooth By Exfoliating

As previously mentioned, our skin cell turnover rate decreases as we age. This basically means that it takes longer for new skin cells to reach the surface of our skin and we can end up with a build-up of dead skin cells that will leave our skin texture looking and feeling rougher.

However, there are a number of skincare products that can increase the rate of skin cell turnover, as well as exfoliating away dead skin cells to reveal brighter and smoother skin.


Topical retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A that can increase the rate of skin cell turnover and renewal [4]. In addition, retinoids can reduce existing sun damage, boost collagen production, improve the appearance of wrinkles, reduce pigmentation, and increase skin hydration [4][16].

Studies have demonstrated that different types of retinoids (both prescription and OTC) can improve skin texture and smoothness and reduce pore size in as little as 28 days [17].

Chemical & Physical Exfoliants

Another way that skin cell turnover can be increased is through chemical and physical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic and lactic acid, helps to remove dead skin cells and loosen the top layer of skin. This, in turn, can increase skin thickness and firmness, improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture and softness [18].

Physical exfoliation uses abrasion to buff away dead skin cells and reveal smoother and brighter skin. In addition to directly improving skin texture, physical exfoliation can also indirectly smoothen skin by allowing other topical treatments to penetrate the skin more effectively.

How To Make Your Face Smooth By Hydrating Skin

Our skin can often look and feel rough, dull, and dry when it is dehydrated. Furthermore, our skin hydration decreases as we naturally age, especially if we have experienced a lot of sun damage. For this reason, keeping ourselves, and our skin, adequately hydrated can help keep our skin looking smoother as we age.

Skin hydration depends on two major factors; the presence of natural moisturizing factors (NMFs; e.g. amino acids, lactic acid, urea) and the structure and composition of the lipids (e.g. ceramides, cholesterol, free fatty acids) in the stratum corneum [19].

Using moisturizers that contain NMFs and/or lipids can help strengthen the skin’s barrier (the stratum corneum), thus improving skin hydration by increasing the water content of the skin and reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL) [19].

As mentioned earlier, the GAG content of the skin is reduced as we age. One such GAG is hyaluronic acid that forms a film on the surface of the skin, reducing TEWL and protecting the stratum corneum. In addition to this, it acts as a humectant to draw water into the skin and increase the water content of the epidermis [21].

Research suggests that hyaluronic acid can improve skin hydration, roughness, and wrinkling almost immediately, with lasting results seen after 8 weeks of use [22].

A Summary Of How To Make Your Face Smooth Using Science

In order to make your face smoother and softer you need to protect it from the biggest cause of rough skin texture – sun damage! This means wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen every day, 365 days a year. To further enhance this protection, you should also include antioxidant serums in your daily skincare routine to help prevent the free radical damage that sunscreen is unable to protect against.

In addition to protecting your skin from damage, regular exfoliation or the use of products that can increase skin cell turnover can be useful. This basically encourages the rough dead skin that builds up on the surface of the skin to shed away faster and reveal brighter and smoother skin.

Lastly, you want to ensure that your skin is adequately hydrated. This is because dehydrated skin can often feel dry and course. Luckily, with the right products, skin texture can be improved almost instantly!



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  11. Haywood, R., Wardman, P., Sanders, R. & Linge, C. (2003). ‘Sunscreens inadequately protect against ultraviolet-A-induced free radicals in skin: implications for skin aging and melanoma?’, J Invest Dermatol, 121(4), 862-868. Available at:
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