This first strategy comes from YouTuber, Fresh Pepper. It is specifically noted as a method for retouching dark skin, but I’ve done this for lighter skin tones as well. (See below)
The first thing you want to do is duplicate your original image. You can do this quickly on a Mac with the shortcut below, courtesy of Fresh Pepper.
Cmd + j duplicates the layer
Do this twice. Fresh Pepper titles these layers low frequency and high frequency to keep track but you can name them whatever you want.
Next, you’ll need to apply a Gaussian blur to the “low frequency” layer. Make it just blurry enough so that the image seems out of focus but still recognizable.
Then with the high-frequency layer selected, you’ll want to use the ‘apply image’ feature. In the options box that will follow, choose the ‘low frequency’ layer as the layer and use the blending mode ‘subtract’.
*It’s best to keep your scale at 2 and your offset at 128.
After this, blend the entire high-frequency layer using the mode linear light.
Now, to start making your changes you’ll use the lasso tool over the areas you want to smooth. With your selection ready, apply a Gaussian blur that looks good to you.
And..that’s basically it! You can’t use the spot healing brush as usually for blemishes. Now you have a professional looking photo.
In case you’re a visual learner, here’s a link below.