Monday, September 2, 2013

Everything You Need to Know About Exfoliating

Exfoliating is definitely my favorite part of my skincare regiment.  Why?  The gentle abrasion feels really nice, and my skin is so radiant and soft afterwards...I can't stop feeling it!

Essentially, exfoliating means removing the dead cells from your skin.  Thus...
  • Dark spots, hyper pigmentation, and scarring will fade faster.
  • There will be fewer dead skin cells to clog your pores and cause breakouts.
  • You will have a smoother canvas on which to apply your makeup.  It will go on more easily and stay on for longer.
  • Your skincare products will work better.  Moisturizers and serums won't have dead skins cells standing in their way of penetrating your skin.
  • Mature and dull skin will look brighter.
Although people traditionally associate exfoliating with scrubs, there are two main ways that you can exfoliate:

First, you can do it mechanically.  Mechanical exfoliation can mean traditional scrubs. Simply wash your face with them, as you would with a face cleanser.  Scrubs come in multiple strengths...super gentle ones like the Avene Gentle Purifying Scrub ($18 on that you can use daily or moderate ones like the JUARA Skincare Rice Facial Scrub ($29 on, which you should use 1-3 times per week.  Avene and JUARA are two of my favorite toxin-free brands.  Both of these scrubs are great for even the most sensitive skin and leave your face feeling nice and soft!

Keep in mind that unless a product says that it's a "cleansing scrub," it will not necessarily clean your face (remove makeup and impurities) like a regular face cleanser would (The JUARA scrub cleanses too!).  If you are wearing makeup or have blemish-prone skin, wash with cleanser before using a scrub. In addition, stay away from apricot or nut-based scrubs. The grains are often so sharp that they can tear skin and spread acne...make breakouts even worse!  In fact, they are too harsh to be used daily.  Additionally, be careful of salt scrubs because they can be quite aggressive on your face (they're perfectly fine for the rest of your body).  Instead, look for fine, round beads like those made from rice or bamboo, which won't scratch the skin.

If you have dull or puffy skin, try a coffee scrub.  The caffeine will help stimulate circulation and wake up your complexion.  If you have dry or sensitive skin, try an oatmeal scrub with its soothing, calming, and moisturizing effects.  Or for a quick and cheap fix, mix a scoop a teaspoon of rice flour with your cleanser and lather away.  Rice flour also has natural soothing, calming, and moisturizing properties.  For normal, combination, or oily skin, use baking soda instead, which will naturally draw impurities out from your pores.  

Another form of mechanical exfoliation comes from some of the tools that you're using during your routine.  Wash cloths, cleansing pads (Oxy/Stridex/Clearasil pads), which provide more mild exfoliation.  Facial  stationary and  motorized brushes also help your skin shed dead skin cells.  For example, Clarisonic ($150-$200 depending on the model at Ulta) brushes have become really popular over the past few years.  It's basically an electric tooth brush for your face.  It definitely polishes your face nicely and deep cleans.  I would highly recommend getting one.  Just be careful because it is a tad strong to be using daily.  Use it once or twice per week instead.  The Clarisonic can be quite pricey, so for a cheaper alternative try the Olay Pro X Advanced Cleansing System ($30 at Ulta).

The most intensive form of mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion.  These
procedures may be done at home with products like the Neutrogena MicroDermabrasian System ($45 in drugstores), but are most often conducted in salons.  There are two parts to the procedure.  First, exfoliating crystals are applied to the loosen the dead skin cells.  Second, you follow up with a little vacuum-like tool that lifts the outer layer of dead skin off of your face.  You may see some scrubs and creams that are labeled as "microdermabrasion" products because they are strong exfoliants that mimic the results of the procedure.  After an intense exfoliation treatment like this, your skin will be sensitive, so stay out of the sun and avoid applying potentially irritating/drying products.  Microdermabrasion is slightly invasive, and salon procedures should be limited to every few months, while some store-bought products may be used once per month.    

Second, you can exfoliate chemically with hydroxy acidsSalicylic acid is a hydroxy acid often found in acne-fighting products like the natural Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser ($26 at Sephora) that helps your skin chemically rid itself of dead skin cells and promote the cell turnover process.  Most products that contain salicylic acid are very mild chemical exfoliants.  Other hydroxy acids include lactic and citric acids.  

Chemical peels feature hydroxy acids in helping a layer of old skin cells to peel off of your face so that your skin will regenerate fresh, new skin.  Some peels are more mild and reach only the very outer layer of the skin, while others are stronger and reach deeper skin tissue.  Most store-bought chemical peel products are gentle similar in strength to a face scrub.  For example, the natural Origins Brighter by Nature High-Potency Brightening Peel with Fruit Acids ($40 at Sephora) is a mild and refreshing product that can be used twice per week.  On the other hand, chemical peel salon treatments are much more powerful and should be done no more than every few months.

The nice thing about exfoliation is that it takes no extra effort.  Simply substitute your face wash for a purifying scrub twice per week, or use a brush rather than your fingers to massage cleanser into your skin.  Overall you should be doing a moderate level of exfoliation on a weekly basis.  Different methods of exfoliation have different levels of intensity.  I've assigned each method an approximate point value to give you a better idea of the proper amount of exfoliation.  Shoot for around 8-12 exfoliation points per week. Older women as well as those with oily skin should have closer to 12 points, while younger women or those with normal or dry skin should aim closer to 8.  When you're done, it's best to soothe skin by following up exfoliation with moisturizer.

Cleanser/Toner/Moisturizer/Serum Containing a Hydroxy Acid:  1 point
Mild Chemical Peel:  4 points
Wash Cloth/Cleansing Pad:  1 point 
Gentle Scrub:  2 points
Cleansing Pad:  2 points
Moderate Scrub:  3 points
Stationary/Motorized Brush:  4

However, over exfoliating can be even more harmful to your skin by stripping it of its natural properties and causing irritation.  If you are using a retinol, your skin will be especially sensitive, so make sure you are extra gentle with your exfoliation methods and stick to mild scrubs.  Don't use strong mechanical and chemical exfoliating techniques together unless you are directed otherwise.  Lastly, NEVER exfoliate in the morning, night-time only.  Your skin is extra delicate and freshly repaired after sleeping, so don't aggravate it with an exfoliant.  

Also, don't forget about the rest of your body.  Switch your shower gel for a soothing body
scrub twice a week to leave your skin healthy and glowing.  One of my toxin-free faves is the Alba Hawaiian Sugar-Cane Body Polish ($11 on

What's your favorite way to exfoliate? 

No comments:

Post a Comment