Let’s talk exfoliation.
That word appears in almost every skincare blog, and, now that we’re spending more time at home, it’s in the spotlight. YIn stressful times, it’s good to take care of your skin because it does such a good job of holding you together during tough times.
One way to keep your skin looking and feeling young and healthy is to make sure it’s clean and ready to take on the day.
We mean really, deeply clean.
While using soap and water when you’re in the shower works fine when you’re a kid, as you get older, you may find your skin needs a little more care. This usually means incorporating some exfoliation into your skincare routine.
But what does exfoliation mean exactly? And how often should you be doing it? You’ve probably heard that too much exfoliation is bad for your skin, and you don’t want to do more harm than good.
Luckily for you, we’re here to explore the ins and outs of exfoliation, giving you everything you need to make it work wonders on your skin.
Know What Exfoliation Is
Exfoliation is a fancy way of saying that you’re removing dead skin cells from your face.
By exfoliating, you get rid of a dull appearance, brighten your complexion, and increase blood circulation.
Skin needs a little help from time to time, as certain skin conditions lead to a build-up of dead skin cells, which can clog your pores and mix with your facial oil—sebum—which can infect your pores, causing unwanted breakouts.
Skin takes about 28-30 days to turnover, meaning that new skin cells have grown, the older skin cells have died, and those dead cells have been sloughed off. When that process works naturally, it’s great. Unfortunately, sometimes, dead skin cells get trapped in the oils or dirt, and might even get infected and lead to acne. This is where exfoliation comes in.
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Know The Best Ways To Exfoliate
The most important thing to remember is that you can have too much of a good thing. Over-exfoliation leads to dry, cracked skin, which is the opposite of what you want. Plus, if you dry out too much, your skin’s sebaceous glands may overreact and produce more oil than your face can handle. That leads to breakouts we know you’d rather avoid. So, how do you exfoliate properly to give your face the fresh look it deserves?
What Skin Type Do You Have?
First, there are different methods of exfoliation based on your skin type. You should evaluate your face before starting a new skincare routine of any kind. For example, if you have sensitive skin, you may have noticed that your skin itches or stings when you use an acidic product.
The most common type of skin is combination skin, which means that you aren’t excessively dry outside of the cheeks and jawline, and your T-zone (your forehead, nose, and chin) is oily enough that you have to deal with occasional breakouts.
You can have a dermatologist assess your skin, or you can test yourself at home with this simple process:
- Clean your face thoroughly, and rinse with warm water.
- Wait an hour after you cleaned your face—don’t apply any makeup or moisturizer.
- Use a tissue to blot your face.
If your tissue comes up dry, you either have normal or dry skin. If there is only oil around the T-zone, you have combination skin. If there is oil everywhere, you have oily skin, and if you see any flakes, you have dry skin.
What Kind of Exfoliant Will You Use?
You can choose between two main types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.
Mechanical exfoliation may utilize a brush, sponge, washcloth, or another type of scrubber for your face. Think about what skincare products you already have in your routine and which method would work best for you. Certain medications your doctor prescribes may make your skin drier or more sensitive and would not do well with exfoliating.
Generally, mechanical exfoliation is used by people with thick, oily skin to deeply cleanse their faces.
Let’s look at a list of the most popular types of tools on the market for mechanical exfoliation:
- • Glove: This works great for people who are worried about gripping a sponge or brush or who are showering in tight quarters. It can be helpful for people with limited mobility who still want to keep their skin fresh and beautiful. Slip on the textured glove, lather it up with your cleanser and gently massage your skin.
- • Sponge: If you’re concerned that a washcloth isn’t quite doing it for you and want to use something with a little more pressure, a sponge might be right for you. You have lots of options when it comes to how rough of a sponge you choose, so it’s easy to find one that fits your skincare needs
- • Washcloth: This is the most common option, but it is by no means ineffective. If you don’t want to spend a lot buying something new, a washcloth is a small, convenient way to exfoliate during your shower.
- • Brush: This option is for people who are more hard-core with their exfoliating. It’s a bristle brush used to scrub off the dead skin cells accumulated. Some of them can even be used for dry brushing, so you can exfoliate when you’re not in the shower. When using a brush, use light, short strokes.
- • Powder: An exfoliating powder absorbs extra oil and dead skin cells when mixed with water to form a paste. This is similar to some kinds of facial masks, but powder involves massaging the paste into your skin.
- • Scrub: Although this could technically be listed under either mechanical or chemical exfoliants, there is a process involved with the scrub. Use a circular motion to apply it to your skin. Then, let it sit, rinse, and say goodbye to those dead skin cells.
Chemical exfoliation involves a combination of natural or man-made ingredients that gently dissolve dead skin cells without extra scrubbing. Make sure not to combine the methods unless the product you’re using has specific instructions to do so. Otherwise, you may end up irritating your skin.
Also, if you are suffering from certain skin conditions, your doctor or dermatologist may recommend that you abstain from exfoliation to avoid irritating your delicate skin.
Chemical exfoliation is commonly used by people with sensitive skin or people who are prone to acne. This is because the deeper exfoliating properties found with mechanical exfoliation can overwhelm that sensitive skin and cause redness and swelling.
If you think you’re somewhere in between, try using a mild soap and gently massage the skin with a washcloth that isn’t super rough. Whether you’re using a chemical exfoliant or just a little bit of soap and water, rub it in gently, then rinse it off with room temperature water. Hot water dries your skin out further.
If you have especially dry skin, chemical exfoliation is much gentler and won’t irritate your skin the same way mechanical tools might. There’s no need to take added risks with your skin.
Know How Often To Exfoliate
Many people simply exfoliate whenever the whim hits, which isn’t the best skincare advice. If you notice any bug bites, sunburns, or particularly severe acne breakouts, avoid using an exfoliator for a while because it may further irritate your skin. The same thing goes for open cuts, wounds, or infections.
Overall, the rougher your method of exfoliation is on the skin, the less often you should do it. Also, you should always follow up exfoliators with a soothing moisturizer to calm the skin after being purged. Using an exfoliant without a moisturizer can lead to your skin becoming dry, red, and irritated. So, give it the extra TLC it needs.
Does it differ by body part?
Actually, yes. Whether you’re applying a chemical exfoliant with a cotton pad or manually scrubbing, the pressure you apply, and the best type of exfoliator depends on where you’re exfoliating.
Mechanical exfoliation works best for your arms and legs unless you have especially sensitive skin because your limbs are hardier and not as sensitive as your face and pubic area. The pubic area should be especially well-looked out for, so use warm water to soften your skin before very gently scrubbing and rinsing it.
If you want to exfoliate your feet, there are rougher brushes for those tough calluses on the soles of your feet. Those are called pumice stones and should never be used on other parts of your body.
Usually, for most skin, exfoliating one or two times a week is plenty. If you have especially oily skin, you might want to exfoliate more frequently, but you should work up to it. If your doctor prescribes you a special exfoliant, follow the directions for the product.
If you’re using a homemade or natural remedy, try it on a small section of skin beforehand to see how your skin reacts. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to potential allergies.
Know What To Avoid
As with anything in your skincare regimen, there are things to avoid when you’re picking out an exfoliator.
It’s best to check the ingredients, but if you see things like nutshells, very coarse-grained salts, sugars, beads, or baking soda, you might want to think again. They can all be harsh on your skin, so unless you’ve experimented with them before or know that you have thick skin, it’s best to avoid those ingredients.
Once you’ve exfoliated, moisturize, and remember to put on sunscreen afterward. You should be diligent when it comes to staying safe from the sun because exfoliating removes some of your skin’s natural protective barrier. You may also want to take a break from makeup right afterward if you’re feeling especially sensitive.
Exfoliation is a key element to keeping your face looking smooth, even, and radiant, but you have to perform the process with care. Choose what works best for your skin, and listen to what it’s telling you. We hope you stay safe, exfoliated, and beautiful.
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