Exfoliation is so important for clear, healthy skin, but it can so easily be done in a way that causes more harm than good. I have sensitive skin, and I shudder to think about my exfoliation methods in my teenage years and early twenties, when I’d rub firmly at my face with a variety of “scrubs” containing large granules of what basically amounted to sand, or those little plasticky “exfoliating beads.” I may as well have been using sandpaper on my skin; it’s no wonder I had so many breakouts!
It’s crucial to remove layers of dead skin cells on a regular basis, so that your cleanser and moisturiser and all those other lovely products you like to whack on your skin can get into your pores and do their job properly….but, and this is a very big BUT: it must be done gently, respecting the delicate skin on your face. Otherwise you will irritate your skin- and when you irritate your skin, all manner of unlovely things happen. It can get red and blotchy. It can become sensitive to the touch. It can be come very dry. It can swing wildly in the opposite direction and overcompensate by producing massive amounts of oil. Do we want to go down that path? No we do not!
The key here is to pay attention to your own skin and “listen” to what works for it. If a product is working, you’ll know. And if it isn’t working? Allow me to refer you to the list of yucky consequences above.
There are got two basic options* for gentle, effective, skin-respecting exfoliation. You can go with a physical exfoliator, which works manually on your skin to rub away the dead skin cells, or you can use a chemical exfoliator, which basically dissolves them with a mild, naturally-occurring acid. There are great versions of both available, and many, many opinions as to what works best. In my view, as long as you’re using something that is genuinely formulated to work with the delicate skin on your face (which is NOT as tough as the skin on your body, oh dear God it is not!) then you should be fine.
I personally like to use a couple of different products as part of my regular routine. First up I use Go-To Skincare’s Exfoliating Swipeys, which are lovely little single-use cotton pads, soaked in a gentle combination of lactic acid and hydrating essential oils. You just swipe one over your face for sixty seconds, letting the lactic acid do its work, and then rinse. Easy! And as a bonus, it’s all natural, does not harm the environment, animals, OR your face, and comes in Go-To’s super-cute signature packaging.
I only use the swipeys about twice a week, because Go-To is very strict in their instructions about not harming your skin by over-exfoliating with lactic acid. However, I find my skin responds best when I do some kind of exfoliation ever second day or so. So on other days, I use Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant, a physical exfoliator which has achieved cult status and won just about every skincare award you can poke a stick at. This clever product uses a rice-based exfoliating powder which activates upon contact with water, releasing micro-exfoliating rice enzymes (I KNOW! That sounds ridiculous! But it works soooo well) that oh-so-gently and effectively take care of your dead skin cells. Daily Microfoliant is formulated without artificial colours and fragrances, and is a lovely, non-irritating option. Just as the name suggests, it is gentle enough to use every day if you want to.
Lastly, don’t forget the skin on your body. This needs exfoliation once of twice a week, too, but unlike the skin on your face/neck/chest, it can take more of a vigorous scrubbing. Any natural salt or sugar scrub with an oil base (to balance the exfoliation with some hydration) should work. I am very fond of the sugar scrubs made by Hand In Hand Soap, which come in a variety of lovely flavours. I’m currently loving the White Tea version. For every product purchased, Hand In Hand donates a bar of soap and a month of clean water to a child in the developing world. They are well worth checking out.
Happy exfoliating, everyone! Next up, I’ll be talking about serums and face oils and treatments, oh my!
*Actually, I lied. There is a third option, which is to use an overachieving, multitasking product that does both physical and chemical exfoliation at once. I personally have quite enjoyed this one by Priori, if you’re the kind of person who likes to go in with all guns blazing.