Science Nature Beauty

The Skin behind the Glow

Glowing skin. Everyone is talking about it and in some ways we all want it. For some, glowing skin is an outward sign of skin health, while others wish to achieve this look for cosmetic reasons. But how do we get it and what exactly is behind this “lit-from-within” skin complexion? To answer these questions, we are going to break down the skin science, look behind the consumers´desire and the numerous factors which might be involved in creating glowing skin.

Between reality and cyber glow

The concept of glowing skin and the creation of skin appearance which is glowing, luminous, shiny or radiant is actually nothing new for the cosmetics industry. For years, there have been skin care products on the market covering this skin approach. New concepts keep on emerging, however. The new category of skincare and make-up hybrid products called “glotions”, for instance, combine the hydrating benefits of a moisturizer with the instant radiance-boosting effects of a highlighter.

The cosmetics industry is an inexhaustible source of products and ideas answering the demand for glowing skin appearance. It surely seems that the desire for glowing skin is taking on a new dimension for consumers, now, though. Where does this come from?

As well as in other areas of our modern daily lives, in beauty the lines between the virtual and physical are becoming increasingly blurred. Indistinguishable from a virtual filter, cyborg skin is the emerging base trend characterized by a high-shine, transhumanistic aesthetic. Our obsession with social media filters has entered the physical space and a new wave of tech-led beauty influencers, such as digital artist @johwska and XR (“extended reality”) developer @autonommy, are accelerating cyborg-glam aesthetics. Is this the root of the new consumer desire for “more” than glowing skin?


The new wave of cosmetic trends

Completely new terms for glowing skin are emerging in the cosmetic market. The “glass skin” concept refers to luminous, poreless and translucent looking skin. The K-Beauty trends, like “Dolphin Skin” or “Mirror Skin”, are about a revolutionizing skincare routine to create an extra glow on the skin.

Then there is the current yet questionable trend of “shaving glowing skin” (Dermaplaning) – where the whole face is shaved – to which the rediscovered Gua Sha stone face massage trend seems harmless in comparison. The high-tech skin care gadgets or devices market in the cosmetics industry has only just started to take off as well (e.g. GlowSolution).


A holistic approach to skin glow – the new “end goal” for consumers?

We all know that a healthy lifestyle positively influences skin condition. Dermatologists, aestheticians, and influencers agree that achieving glowing skin involves far more than just a cosmetic product.

In fact, not only the cosmetic industry is talking about this. The dietary supplement, health and well-being industries are focusing on this topic as well.

The inside-out approach for glowing skin includes pursuits from yoga postures to “beauty skin thoughts” in meditation classes followed by a healthy “beauty-sleep”. And the huge community of food bloggers seemingly accompany us throughout the day: starting with a superfood breakfast followed by a glowing-skin smoothie, and finishing up with a nutritious dinner recipe.

The dietary supplement industry, in particular, creates a playful way to satisfy the consumer’s desire for glowing skin with, for instance, a herbal tea infusion followed by a gummy bear for “Glowtastic Skin”.

The relationship between diet and skin health, or rather the influence of dietary habits on skin health and appearance, has long been the subject of research. People have started to understand more about the connection between what they eat and the way they look.

According to Lycored (The inner Light: Glow Category Report 2019) 73% of women believe that a healthy glow comes from a combination or balance of both internal and external factors and almost all respondents (98%) agreed with the statement “Good nutrition is necessary to achieve a healthy glow.” Consumers want a healthy glow, but think that cosmetic products can only do so much and that their goals can only be achieved through a complex combination of external and “from within”-factors .

Some cosmetic brands have already expanded their portfolio with supplement products to provide a holistic “beauty comes from the inside out”-approach to their consumers.


Skin science – reasons for glow

When it comes to skin science and the physiological processes inside the skin behind glow, there is still little scientific literature and many questions to answer.

What does skin glow mean and how does it relate to skin quality? What layers of the skin are decisive and what skin parameters influence the natural glow of the skin? Indeed, there is still no scientifically verified definition of “skin glow”.

Many consumers use the term to refer to skin that looks healthy and “awake” rather than dry, dull, or unevenly textured. Furthermore, glowing and radiant skin is even in color, rather than showing red patches or being inflamed. The skin is supple, this means plump with small pores, rather than tight or baggy. Additionally, the skin is adequately hydrated, being neither too dry nor too oily.

Healthy skin has a natural sheen or glow. Glowing skin has a smooth texture, and hence, is able to reflect light. Everyone’s skin is different, but a healthy skin is something that most people can work towards. Some people may naturally be more able to achieve a glowing appearance than others due to a range of factors: genetics, hormones, environment, lifestyle and also health condition and medications.

It seems that the maintenance of the skin barrier function is the basis of a healthy and radiant skin. Any factor that damages the stratum corneum can interfere with the barrier function and lead to skin problems. For instance, common skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or melasma skin present a compromised skin barrier function (Lee et al., 2012; Wolf et al., 2012; Wolf and Wolf, 2012). When we improve barrier function, the epidermis is more hydrated and is able to reflect more light, leading to a more glowing and radiant skin appearance.

Interestingly, another known factor that leads to more skin attractiveness are carotenoids. Colorful carotenoid patterns are signals of health in many species, playing a decisive role in sexual selection and breeding. In humans too, carotenoids provide a perceivable clue to health as they impart an attractive yellow-orange color to skin. In one study, a positive correlation was found between carotenoid pigmentation in the skin, attractivenes and, among other things, physical fitness. (original research published: 11 March 2020/fpsyg.2020.00392/ David I. Perrett*, Sean N. Talamas†, Patrick Cairns and Audrey J. Henderson)

Is this the possible proof of the positive holistic approach to healthy glowing skin? Well, it will require further studies into the relationship between skin color as well as skin health and aspects of a healthy lifestyle.


The future of glowing skin

Glowing skin continues to expand. According to Mintel, there will be sharpened focus on ‘micro-functional’ products targeting and highlighting specific issues. (Mintel: The Future of Skin Glow, 2021) Expansion of skin glow  into hand care and bodycare will be high on the glow agenda.

Overall, a cellular approach will most likely be adopted to increase efficacy. Following consumers’ rising demand for precision and well proven efficacy studies, the industry will need to work on the next “lit-from-within”-creating ingredient.

This will help brands cast their nets wider in communicating skincare benefits and their results. The inside-out beauty concept dives deep into cellular mechanisms to tell more stories beyond anti-ageing and hydration.

Naturally glowing skin is typically skin that is healthy and hydrated. People can work towards this by gradually implementing a tailored skintype care routine as well as by making changes to their diet or lifestyle where necessary.

What more is required? Knowing the individual skin needs and choosing the right CLR active  “working horse” for the skin behind the glow!



Elvira Ruppel

Product Manager