Face and Body: How to Exfoliate Your Skin
Exfoliating does wonders for your skin and is necessary to keep your skin young and glowing. Exfoliation promotes cell turnover, or in other words, sloughs off dead skin cells and allows for cell regeneration.
There are many benefits of exfoliating, including reducing the risk of breakouts and revealing clear, healthy skin.
Exfoliating weekly also means getting more bang for your buck out of all your skin care products. It’s hard for products to properly penetrate your skin when you have a bunch of dead cells sitting on top. In fact, you’re just hydrating and nourishing dead skin cells if you don’t exfoliate. Talk about a waste of product and a waste of time!
So you know exfoliating is good for you, but how exactly do you exfoliate your skin? To determine what is best for you, you must first understand the different types of exfoliation.
Mechanical Exfoliation VS. Chemical Exfoliation
No matter what type of exfoliant you choose, it will fall into 1 of 2 categories: mechanical or chemical.
Also considered a physical exfoliation, mechanically exfoliating means you are manually exfoliating your skin with either a scrub, a dry brush, or a sponge. Scrub products contain granular substances that have a slightly rough or grainy texture that remove dead skin cells. Scrubs may contain nuts, salts, sugar, or beads. A dry brush or sponge can also be used to remove flaking skin.
Avoid products that have shards of fruit pits in them. These have sharp edges and leave lacerations on the skin and cause damage. This can cause wrinkles and over time leads to accelerated aging.
Although they may seem to really deep clean your skin at first, they are really causing micro-injuries to your skin.
Salts and sugars are mostly used in body scrubs, although you may find a sugar scrub for your face or lips as well. Scrubs containing nuts and beads are mostly used in facial scrubs. It’s important not to use a body scrub on your face (unless the product says it is safe to do), as it may be too harsh for facial skin.
To properly exfoliate manually, make no more than 3 passes over your face and body. I usually stick with this rule when using either a scrub or a dry brush. Too much pressure or passes can cause over-exfoliation.
Products considered chemical exfoliants are acids that dissolve the dead skin cells. They can contain natural substances like enzymes or alpha hydroxy acids from things such as fruit. They usually work with other ingredients to create a chemical reaction that removes the dead skin cells.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are different types of acids used to exfoliate the skin.
AHAs are water-soluble, so they have to work a little harder to penetrate the skin. However, they are very powerful in eliminating breakouts and breaking up hyperpigmented cells. AHAs are usually safe to use when pregnant, although it is best to talk to your doctor who will determine if you are able to use this type of exfoliant. You may find an AHA in a cream base that you can use every night. Always make sure to follow instructions and wear sunscreen when using chemical exfoliants.
BHAs are oil-soluble, so they can get deep into the pore lining to clean them out. Beta-hydroxy acids are usually best for those with an oilier skin type. In fact, you may find that a lot of skin care lines designed for acneic skin will contain ingredients like salicylic acid, which is a BHA. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor as they may advise against you using BHAs.
Enzymes are another type of chemical exfoliation derived from fruit and do not contain acid. They work very well for sensitive skin types as they will not sting or burn the skin (which other chemical and mechanical exfoliants may do).
Enzymes work to dissolve a keratin protein within the dead skin cells into smaller particles. This process gently removes dead skin cells while revealing smooth, glowing skin.
Whichever type you use, chemical exfoliation leaves the skin feeling even smoother than mechanical exfoliation.
Examples of popular chemical exfoliants include glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane), lactic acid (from milk, fruits, vegetables), citric acid (from citrus fruits), malic acid (from apples), and tartaric acid (from grape wine).
Popular enzymes include that of papaya, pumpkin, and pomegranate.
Strong exfoliants like chemical peels should be performed one or two times a month by a professional. This ensures safety to your skin as there are different concentrations of exfoliants. Using one that is too strong for your skin too soon can have damaging results like burns that can lead to scarring and hyperpigmentation.
A professional will analyze your skin type and see what is best suited for your skin condition. They will also be able to inform you of how to care for your skin post- peel and when to schedule your next appointment.
A consistent combination of both mechanical and chemical exfoliation techniques will give your skin the best results.
How to Exfoliate Your Face and Body
It’s important to always apply any skin care product in an upward direction when applying to both your face and body.
- Scrubs: Work in circular motions around the entire face and neck about 3 times. Apply in circular motions upwards on your body about 3 times.
- Dry Brushing: Brush the skin in an upward direction over the entire body. Make 3-4 passes in each area. Avoid the face and neck.
- Sponges: Whether you are using a facial sponge or a body sponge, work upward making 3-4 passes in each area
- Acids: These can come in many different forms such as liquid toners, creams, masks/peels, eye creams, body lotions, serums, and cleansers. Due to the difference in forms and potencies, always follow directions and do not overuse.
- Enzymes: Always apply to damp skin for the product to work (can steam your skin to open up your pores) and follow product directions.
No matter what type of exfoliating technique you use, it is vital for your skin’s health to apply a sunscreen after the treatment.
**Always consult with a professional to avoid damage to your skin!**
Products to Avoid
- Scrubs containing fruit pits
- Salt scrubs (on your face)
- Acids with too high a concentration for the level your skin can currently handle
- Anything to abrasive or strong for sensitive skin
- Dry brushing on your face
- Make sure to always follow instructions for individual products
- Follow your esthetician or dermatologist’s advice for your at-home routine
- Avoid over-exfoliating!
Getting on Track with Exfoliation
If you aren’t used to exfoliating then now is the best time to start getting into the habit of it. Exfoliation will help keep acne away while leaving you with healthy, glowing skin.
Keep a youthful look and restore your skin’s vitality by avoiding wrinkles and the signs of aging by exfoliating every week. And don’t forget to make appointments with your Esthetician or Dermatologist to keep you on track with your skin care.
Thoughts or comments on exfoliation? What products do you use? Let me know below!