How often do you exfoliate? Is exfoliating something you only include in your facial skincare routine or do you exfoliate your whole body? For me, it seems the older I get, the dryer my skin becomes. No longer are lotions and moisturizers enough to keep my skin soft and bright. Our bodies do naturally replace dead skin cells with new ones but sometimes, especially as we get older, our skin can use a little extra help. This is where physical and chemical exfoliation come into play. Physical exfoliants include products and tools that require you to use a rubbing or scrubbing action. Chemical exfoliants are acids that react with the skin to help remove build up and excess oil. I personally have more experience using physical exfoliants so that will be the main focus of this post.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty (pun intended), let’s talk about who is and is not a good candidate for exfoliation. If you are prone to acne you may want to skip this step as it could lead to more inflammation or leave behind dark marks known as hyperpigmentation. Also, if you have any cuts or open wounds, hold off on exfoliating until they are completely healed. It’s also a misconception that you should exfoliate when you are sunburned. Again, wait until your skin is completely healed before exfoliating. Now, if you do not have acne, open cuts or a sunburn and you want to achieve brighter skin keep reading.
If you are experiencing dandruff, dry skin or oily hair, scalp exfoliation may help. This process involves using chemical or physical exfoliants to help remove excess build up of skin cells, oil, or hair products. Scalp exfoliation is performed on wet, clean hair by first combing through, then dividing the hair into sections and applying the exfoliant by gently rubbing in a circular motion with your fingertips. Most hair experts agree that regular scalp exfoliation is key to achieving shinier and healthier hair from roots to ends. While it is safe to massage your scalp daily you should limit exfoliating to no more than twice a week. Over exfoliating can lead to over production of oil and in some cases can make the scalp more sensitive.
Scalp exfoliating products to try:
- dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub*
- Shea Moisture Green Coconut and Activated Charcoal*
- DIY Scalp Exfoliator
Making your own scalp exfoliator is actually very simple and you may already have the ingredients on hand. Just mix 2 tablespoons each of brown sugar, finely ground dry oatmeal, and hair conditioner. After shampooing your hair apply the mixture and gently massage then rinse thoroughly. This will help remove any product buildup and leave your locks shiny and healthy.
Facial exfoliation is the most commonly discussed, so you may already be somewhat familiar with it. It helps keep our skin from looking dull, but it may not be the right skincare choice for everyone. If you deal with chronic or cystic acne you may want to skip this step or talk to a dermatologist to find the best course of action for you as exfoliating can cause more harm than good. So, who is a good candidate for facial exfoliation and how often should you do it? If you’re goal is to get ahead of premature aging and you do not have any open abrasions on your face, start exfoliating about once a week. The goal is not to leave your face feeling raw and red, it is more of a way to gently help your body’s natural process and to leave your skin glowing. Exfoliating with also help your other skincare products penetrate deeper into your skin and help them to work better.
Facial Exfoliating products to try:
- Caudalie Gentle Buffing Cream*
- Silicone Face Cleansing Brush*
- Dermaplane – Although you can do this at home I highly suggest going to a professional, especially for your first time. Because dermaplane treatments are done with a sharp blade (most professionals use a scalpel) you can easily cut yourself which could lead to an infection. Plus, the experience of having someone else do this for you is so much more relaxing.
- Retinol – Before using retinol, ask your dermatologist if it is right for your skin. Retinol is very potent. It’s not for everyone and you will need to gradually add it to your skincare routine. I use Skin Medica Retinol 0.25 because it is the lowest strength and I only use it twice a week.
Do you experience dry lips on a regular basis? If your chapstick just isn’t doing the job anymore then you may need to start exfoliating. Just like our scalp, face and body, our lips need some TLC too. Regular lip exfoliation is great for eliminating dry, flaking skin, and it is a great way to keep your lips soft and smooth. Because your lips are more delicate than other parts of your body, just make sure you don’t over exfoliate or rub your lips too hard as this can lead to irritation.
Lip Exfoliating products to try:
Making your own lip scrub can be easy and more cost effective by using ingredients you may already have. Just mix an exfoliating ingredient such as sugar or coffee grounds with an emollient like coconut oil or honey. My favorite DIY lip scrub is 1/4 teaspoon each sugar and coconut oil. You could always make more and store it in an air tight jar but I prefer to make mine as needed. Using your finger, gently rub the mixture in a circular motion, rinse with water and apply a conditioning lip balm after.
The main benefit of exfoliating your body is to breakdown and remove dead skin cells for a smoother appearance. It can also help stimulate and increase blood circulation. Because the skin on our body is thicker than, say, our face the rules of exfoliation differ some. We also have less oil glands on our body than our faces which is why the skin on our body is more prone to becoming dry. There are many different products you can use to exfoliate your body, from scrubs to brushes and even shower gloves. Ideally you should aim to exfoliate at lease once a week, but you may be able to increase to three or four times a week if needed.
Body Exfoliating Products to try:
- Silicone Bath Brush Body Scrubber*
- Bath Gloves*
- Dry Brush*
- Lush Buffy Body Scrub Bar – My absolute favorite! You use it in the bath or shower and it acts as an exfoliator and moisturizer.
Making your own body scrub is another fun DIY and makes a great gift. To make body scrub bars at home start with a base of 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup coconut oil, and 3/4 cup melted soap base. For the soap base I ordered a shea butter from Amazon, but there are other options you can choose from such as goat milk, hemp seed, and even aloe vera soap bases. Once you have the base you can personalize the scent to your preference and needs. If you would like to soothe irritated skin, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of rose water and 1/4 cup dried rose petals. To reduce inflammation, add 2 tablespoons dried ground green tea leaves, 1 tablespoon honey, and a few drops of lemon essential oil. To reduce scarring, use 1/4 cup lavender buds and a few drops of lavender essential oils. Lavender is also great for relaxation. Once you have all of the ingredients, mix them together and then pour into an ice cub mold. If you have a larger mold that would be best. Let sit until dry, about 3 hours. You can use these bars in the bath or shower by rubbing on wet skin and then rinsing off.
Before I wrap this up let me leave you with a few more pointers:
When choosing an exfoliator steer clear of any products with microbeads. Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic that some manufacturers add to their products to act as an exfoliant. As far as your skin is concerned, microbeads actually cause small tears on your skin which can lead to bacteria entering. These plastic pieces are so small that they pass through water filtration systems and end up in our lakes and oceans and are mistaken by fish as food. Not only are you doing your skin a disservice by using microbeads but you are also causing harm to marine life.
And remember, less is more! You never want to exfoliate so much that your skin is left raw. Be gentle and always remember to apply moisturizer after.