Dr. Dennis Gross: Skin Exhaustion Is a Real—But Fixable—Clinical Condition

Skin exhaustion magnifies your existing skin issues by a thousand

Is your skin as exhausted as your body? Wind back the clock by hyper-charging your mitochondria.
Is your skin as exhausted as your body? Wind back the clock by hyper-charging your mitochondria. Sanah Suvarna/Unsplash

Demanding jobs, an ever-expanding to-do list, and a shortage of downtime are pretty much the norm in our day-to-day lives. It’s no wonder that we feel so tired all the time. You know what else is exhausted? Your skin. Just like your body can run out of steam, so too can your complexion lose its natural vim and vigor.

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While skin exhaustion might sound a bit fanciful, it’s actually a very common problem. I spent years researching this phenomenon and discovered that looking run-down is actually a real, clinical condition. The best way I describe it to my patients is this: If you look in the mirror and see your skin isn’t living its best life, but can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong, chances are you’re suffering from tired skin.

Tired skin is just what it sounds like: Skin that gives you the overall appearance of being exhausted and overwhelmed. Unlike other common skin issues, there’s no specific indicator that tells you that you do in fact have skin exhaustion.

In general, the hallmarks of tired skin are a complexion that appears dull, less radiant, lax and droopy, has large pores, deeper wrinkles and crow’s feet. Skin exhaustion takes whatever your existing skin issues are and magnifies them by a thousand. And it doesn’t take long to see these changes in your skin—one morning you wake up and there it is. Not the best way to start the day.

The reason your skin starts looking like this in the first place is pretty simple. Basically, your skin’s battery isn’t charged. Your skin cells contain mitochondria, which power everything from collagen production to fighting off dullness-causing free radicals.

As we get older that battery starts to deplete, meaning your skin doesn’t have the energy to replenish and regenerate like it used to. Other factors like too much stress, not enough sleep, one too many glasses of wine and even the environment can speed up cellular energy drainage. In order to keep your skin firing on all cylinders, you need to protect those mitochondria from harmful free radicals and repair any damage that’s already been done.

All that research led me to discover that re-charging the skin’s battery—one of the fundamentals of keeping your skin looking young and healthy—is as easy as applying a face cream. Skincare products that contain energy-boosting ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C, CoQ10, carnitine and superoxide dismutase are solid choices. These are all antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals that the mitochondria are spending all their time fighting and instead allow them to do what they do best: keep your skin looking firm, glowing and plump. The best part is they not only work, but they work in a flash. While skin exhaustion might appear overnight, these ingredients can revive your skin in a matter of hours.

I developed an Energy Complex featuring those supercharged ingredients and added it into my C+ Collagen Brighten + Firm Vitamin C Serum. I love serums because they give you a targeted, quick-acting treatment that boosts your skin’s healing capabilities. Moisturizers containing one or more of those ingredients listed above are also good because they hydrate as they heal. And one of the most convenient ways to keep the skin energized is to use a face spray—you can keep it on your desk or in your purse and spritz it on your face every few hours to give your skin a boost whenever you start to feel run down. Just be sure to examine the ingredient lists of your products to make sure they contain those exhaustion-fighting ingredients—the more of them the better.

Of course, making healthy lifestyle choices is an important first step to good skin. Eating foods containing these energizing ingredients only make the topical products more effective and give you better, longer lasting results. You might not be able to do anything about finishing that to-do list, but recharging your skin back to its fresh-faced, glowing, firm glory is an easy step that even the busiest of us can handle.

Board-certified dermatologist, dermatological surgeon and native New Yorker, Dennis Gross, M.D., founded his NYC practice in 1990 following extensive research at prestigious institutes, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering. He and his skincare expertise have been featured in publications including The New York Times Magazine, Elle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Find him on Instagram at @dennisgrossmd or www.dennisgrossmd.com.

Dr. Dennis Gross: Skin Exhaustion Is a Real—But Fixable—Clinical Condition