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What is skin texture? A guide to understanding and enhancing your skin's surface

Learn what causes uneven texture and how you can get a smoother complexion.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
Woman with beautiful clear skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What causes uneven skin texture? 
More

When it comes to skincare goals, one stands out as universally desired: achieving a smoother  skin texture. Skin texture refers to the physical characteristics and qualities of the surface of your skin, ranging from smooth and even to rough, bumpy, or uneven.  

Skin texture plays a significant role in the overall appearance and feel of one’s complexion. Whether you're struggling with acne scars or general skin roughness, understanding your skin texture and exploring treatment options can be helpful when it comes to getting a healthier, more radiant complexion. Here, Curology’s dermatology experts break down what you need to know.

What causes uneven skin texture? 

Several factors contribute to an uneven skin texture, including, but not limited to, aging, sun damage, and acne scars. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Aging and sun damage

As you age, your skin undergoes various structural changes that can result in an uneven texture. This happens because of the natural gradual breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers in your skin. These proteins help maintain your skin's firmness, elasticity, and smoothness. 

Reduced collagen and elastin production makes your skin more prone to wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging. These changes can lead to an uneven appearance and texture and can be made worse through excessive exposure to the sun.¹

Acne scars

Acne breakouts are very common. They affect around 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30, but can continue even deeper into adulthood. Many people experience scarring alongside those breakouts. Acne scars form during the post-breakout healing process when the body doesn’t produce the right amount of collagen. This can negatively affect skin texture by creating depressed or sunken scars (atrophic scarring). 

One of the best ways to see a noticeable improvement in acne scars is to use a combination of proven treatments tailored to your skin. It’s important to speak to a dermatology provider and address your active acne before starting your scar treatment since untreated acne can continue to create new scars, even in previously treated areas.²

How can I improve textured skin?

You can improve your skin texture by speaking with a dermatology provider and starting a treatment plan tailored to help you reach your skin goals.

Improving textured skin from acne scars

If acne scars caused your textured skin, your doctor will likely recommend some of the following treatment options:³

Laser treatment: Lasers like the Fractional Erbium-doped laser (EDL) and Picosecond Alexandrite laser (Picosure) have been shown to improve atrophic acne scarring and rolling scars. The procedure is generally safe and has fewer side effects than some other procedures.

Dermabrasion: This is a procedure that involves the removal of the epidermis with or without part of the dermis. It can be used for well-defined scars with distinct borders or those with indistinct borders.

Chemical peels: These are used to treat small, depressed scars. They induce injury to the skin that stimulates collagen remodeling and can vary in depth, with each depth carrying its own potential benefits and risks.

Microneedling: This involves using tiny needles to puncture your skin, initiating wound healing and growth factor release, which leads to collagen production and your scars filling out.

Radiofrequency: This technique delivers a current through the dermis to stimulate dermal remodeling, producing new collagen and softening scar defects.

Fillers: Injectable fillers can be used to augment soft tissue, particularly in soft atrophic rolling or boxcar scars. They can be temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent, depending on the type of filler used.

It’s important to keep in mind that treating acne scars takes time, and you will likely have to undergo multiple treatments before you start to see results.

Tips to improve the general texture of your skin

Aside from filling out your acne scars, you can also improve your skin texture through a solid skincare routine. Here are the steps that should include.

Cleanse

Cleansers play a vital role in deep cleaning your pores and helping prevent acne, which can contribute to uneven skin texture.⁴ Look for cleansers that contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide has been used for decades to treat acne vulgaris effectively. It can reduce the presence of P. acnes, a bacteria associated with acne. It’s particularly effective in addressing inflammatory (red, swollen, and painful) acne and moderately effective for noninflammatory acne.⁵

Exfoliate 

Regular exfoliation can help improve your skin texture. Exfoliation stimulates cell turnover by removing excess skin cell buildup, resulting in a smoother and more polished skin surface. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), like glycolic, lactic, and malic acids, and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), like salicylic acid, are commonly used chemical exfoliants to improve skin texture. It's important to note that concentrations above 10-15% for AHAs and 2% for BHA should be administered by professionals. However, generally, concentrations below these thresholds may be safely used at home regularly.⁶

Moisturize

Moisturizing can also help improve your skin texture. In addition to improving the appearance of fine lines and providing hydration, moisturizers may offer additional benefits that enhance your skin's texture. Moisturizers may help soothe inflamed skin and provide anti-inflammatory effects through various mechanisms. This can help address skin conditions associated with inflammation, such as redness, irritation, and uneven texture.

Use the right products and ingredients 

If you’re trying to improve your skin texture, you should consider the following scientifically backed ingredients and tips.

Sunscreen for sun protection: Protecting your skin from sun exposure is crucial for preventing sun damage, which can negatively impact skin texture. Regular sunscreen use helps shield your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. It’s recommended to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.⁷

Tretinoin: Tretinoin, a vitamin A derivative, has been found to improve skin texture effectively. Multiple studies have shown that tretinoin can help improve roughness as well as fine and coarse wrinkling.⁸

Oral collagen and antioxidants: Consuming the right ingredients is also important for maintaining healthy skin texture. One study showed that oral supplementation of collagen bioactive peptides and antioxidants for three months improved skin texture. This study demonstrates that some supplements may help enhance your overall skin health, though more research is needed.⁹

Gentle skincare for sensitive skin: Research has shown that following a gentle skincare routine specifically developed for sensitive skin can significantly affect skin texture by improving skin hydration, decreasing the appearance of wrinkles, and stimulating collagen production.¹⁰

Incorporating these recommendations into your skincare routine can improve your skin texture and promote overall skin health.

Seek the help of a dermatology provider 

When addressing and improving your uneven skin texture, it’s highly recommended to consult a dermatology provider. Licensed dermatology providers can diagnose and treat skin conditions related to texture irregularities. They can assess your skin, develop a personalized skincare routine, and recommend suitable products and treatments. 

If you have depressed scarring or more severe textural issues, dermatologists can perform in-office procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, dermal fillers, laser resurfacing, or microneedling. These procedures aim to stimulate collagen production and improve the appearance of your scars.¹¹

FAQs

What do you mean by skin texture?

Skin texture refers to the physical quality and surface characteristics of your skin, including its smoothness or roughness.¹²

What determines skin quality?

The quality of your skin can be categorized into three main aspects: visible attributes, mechanical attributes, and topographical attributes. Visible attributes encompass characteristics like uneven pigmentation, redness, and radiance. Topographical attributes refer to the texture of your skin, including smoothness or roughness, fine or coarse lines and wrinkles, and enlarged pores. Mechanical attributes include the elasticity, firmness, and tightness of your skin, which can be influenced by factors such as aging and sun exposure.¹³

What is considered good skin texture?

Good skin texture typically refers to a clear, soft, even, and radiant complexion. It can be characterized by smooth, well-hydrated skin with a balanced tone and minimal imperfections. Achieving and maintaining good skin texture requires following proper skincare practices. If you need help improving your skin texture, speak with a dermatology provider.

Improve your skin texture with Curology 

Curology offers a custom formula for acne that can help improve not only your acne's appearance but also your skin's overall texture in some cases. Our personalized approach considers your skin concerns and a licensed dermatology provider can prescribe a formula tailored to your specific needs.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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curology bottle

Our personalized formulas may include ingredients such as tretinoin and azelaic acid, known for their effectiveness in treating acne and improving skin texture. Tretinoin helps to promote cell turnover, reduce clogged pores, and smooth out your skin's surface.¹⁴ Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to minimize the appearance of blemishes.¹⁵

Try our products today* and take the first step towards a personalized skincare solution to achieve your desired results.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Ganceviciene R, et al. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinology. (2012, July 1).

  2. Connolly, D., et al. Acne Scarring-Pathogenesis, Evaluation, and Treatment Options. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (September 2017).

  3. Connolly, D., et al. Acne Scarring-Pathogenesis, Evaluation, and Treatment Options. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  4. Draelos, Z.D. The effect of a daily facial cleanser for normal to oily skin on the skin barrier of subjects with acne. Cutis. (July 2006).

  5. Del Rosso, J.Q. What is the Role of Benzoyl Peroxide Cleansers in Acne Management?: Do they Decrease Propionibacterium acnes Counts? Do they Reduce Acne Lesions? Journal of Clinical Aesthetics and Dermatology. (November 2008).

  6. Rodan, K., et al. Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plastic Reconstruction and Surgery Global Open. (2016, December 14).

  7. Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2020, December 14).

  8. Mukherjee, S., et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical Interventions and Aging. (December 2006).

  9. Genovese, L., et al. An Insight into the Changes in Skin Texture and Properties following Dietary Intervention with a Nutricosmeceutical Containing a Blend of Collagen Bioactive Peptides and Antioxidants. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. (2017, May 20).

  10. Spada, F., et al. Use of formulations for sensitive skin improves the visible signs of aging, including wrinkle size and elasticity. Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. (2019, June 6).

  11. Connolly, D., et al. Acne Scarring-Pathogenesis, Evaluation, and Treatment Options. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  12. Humphrey, S., et al. Defining Skin Quality: Clinical Relevance, Terminology, and Assessment. Dermatologic Surgery. (2021, July 14).

  13. Humphrey, S., et al. Defining Skin Quality: Clinical Relevance, Terminology, and Assessment. Dermatologic Surgery. Ibid.

  14. Mukherjee, S., et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical Interventions and Aging. Ibid

  15. Sieber, M.A. and Hegel, J.K.E. Azelaic acid: Properties and mode of action. Skin Pharmacological Physiology. (2013, November 13).

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Curology Team

Image of Laura Phelan Nurse Practitioner

Laura Phelan, NP-C

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