Glow-How: A Step by Step Guide to Going with Your Own Glow

womanwashingfaceDoris Day, MD

Have you ever noticed that some people seem lit from within? Their skin appears naturally luminous whatever its shade, from porcelain to richest ebony. They don't necessarily have flawless features, but they know how to protect and enhance their skin's natural radiance. These radiant people go with their own glow, and you can do the same.

The first step is to discover your own genuine, innate glow. If you've been tanning, allow your skin to fade back to the natural color on parts of your body that have had little or no exposure to the sun, like the inside of your arms, or your buttocks. This is your own personal, beautiful, natural glowing tone.

What's Your Glow ?

It is also the shade you should use to help determine your true skin type (also called the Fitzpatrick skin type), which can give you an idea of your genetic risks of skin cancer and your reactions to sun exposure. The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Quiz will give you in-depth sun protection advice tailored to your skin type.

Daily Routine for Glowing Skin

  • Morning Routine

    1. Cleanse

    Proper cleansing, morning is a must for glowing skin. Your cleanser doesn't have to lather or foam to work: Many cleansing cloths, for instance, don't lather, yet take all the effort out of washing your face.

  • Morning Routine

    2. Vitamin C Serum
    (Optional)

    In the morning, if you use a vitamin C serum, put it on after cleansing your skin.

  • Morning Routine

    3. Sunscreen
    (SPF 15 or Higher)

    Then apply a sunscreen with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.

  • Morning Routine

    4. Makeup
    (Optional)

    Apply make up if you choose.

  • Evening Routine

    1. Cleanse

    Proper cleansing, at night is a must for glowing skin. Your cleanser doesn't have to lather or foam to work: Many cleansing cloths, for instance, don't lather, yet take all the effort out of washing your face.

  • Evening Routine

    2. Exfoliate

    If you exfoliate, do it after cleansing in the evening.

  • Evening Routine

    3. Retinoids
    (Optional)

    Then, if your skin can tolerate it, apply a prescription or over-the-counter retinoid (topical vitamin A, used to treat signs of aging).

  • Evening Routine

    4. Moisturize

    Be sure to use a your moisturizer or night cream with your retinoids. Because retinol and other vitamin A skin treatments make your skin sensitive to sunlight, use these products only at night, and be sure to use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen during the day, reapplying every couple of hours if you're out for an extended period. Also, take a few days off before having a facial treatment such as waxing or a chemical peel.


    A little bit goes a long way for both serums and retinoids, so you don't have to apply a lot. This also applies to the many antioxidant-rich topical, over-the-counter products available in a broad price range. So remember, going with your own glow doesn't have to cost a fortune.


Proper cleansing, morning and night, is a must for glowing skin. Your cleanser doesn't have to lather or foam to work: Many cleansing cloths, for instance, don't lather, yet take all the effort out of washing your face.

In the morning, if you use a vitamin C serum, put it on after cleansing your skin. Then apply a sunscreen with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, followed by makeup.

If you exfoliate, do it after cleansing in the evening. Then, if your skin can tolerate it, apply a prescription or over-the-counter retinoid (topical vitamin A, used to treat signs of aging) with your moisturizer or night cream. Because retinol and other vitamin A skin treatments make your skin sensitive to sunlight, use these products only at night, and be sure to use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen during the day, reapplying every couple of hours if you're out for an extended period. Also, take a few days off before having a facial treatment such as waxing or a chemical peel.

A little bit goes a long way for both serums and retinoids, so you don't have to apply a lot. This also applies to the many antioxidant-rich topical, over-the-counter products available in a broad price range. So remember, going with your own glow doesn't have to cost a fortune.

Makeup

If feel you must have some color on your face, consider bronzers and blushes, which come in both powder and cream formulas.

If you have pale skin, a light pink blush will give you a natural-looking glow. For darker skin, a bronzer or blush in deeper colors looks great. Use a large, densely bristled brush with a slightly flared, fluffy head to apply color to the apples of the cheeks (the fleshy, round skin that's most visible when you smile) as well as to other areas the sun would tan - the center of the forehead, bridge of the nose, and chin. But use a light hand: You can always apply more! The idea is to have definition, not to look like you're wearing a lot of makeup.

When purchasing makeup in a department store, try it on your hand or near your jaw line first to make sure it's the right shade. Many stores have special "daylight" lighting that should give you a good idea of how the product will look in natural light, but you can always go outside to check the color. If you're buying makeup in a drugstore, check the return policy - many stores will let you return opened packages as long as you have the receipt.

Sunless Glow

If you simply can't resist a tan, sunless tanners work well, producing an overall tanned look without causing skin damage. They come in many different formulations, including lotions that darken your skin gradually, as well as options for people with naturally lighter or darker skin. Added fragrances have improved the way they smell, and special ingredients minimize streaking or uneven tanning.

Before applying a self tanner, prep your skin by exfoliating with a scrub or loofah, then moisturize. This ensures that the tanner will be absorbed evenly. Since self tanners can cling excessively to dry skin, depositing a great deal of self tanner and leaving you with an uneven color, make sure you don't apply too much to typically dry areas like the knees and elbows.

When you're using self tanner, follow the directions on the package, and wait at least 12 hours after shaving to apply. Avoid using sunless tanner on skin with active eczema. Remember, even if the self tanner includes sunscreen, you need to apply a separate SPF 15+ sunscreen each subsequent time you go out in the sun.

Finally, preserve your own glow by following The Skin Cancer Foundation's Prevention Guidelines every single day. These include seeking the shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher, and avoiding tanning and UV tanning booths.

Proper cleansing, exfoliation, topical lotions, creams, serums, and gels, makeup, self tanners and sunscreen together provide easy and effective ways to enhance your natural glow while protecting your skin. So go on, get glowing!

Dr. Day is clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University's Langone Medical Center.