A good skin care routine can make you feel like you’ve had a holiday weekend at the spa. But if your personal system isn’t delivering the results that you need, what could have been a soothing part of your day and week is, instead, a frustrating struggle that you dread having to do.
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of facial care is skin exfoliation. As your skin naturally regenerates, new skin cells are formed and older ones are pushed outwards, where they eventually fall away. This falling away can sometimes lag, leaving dead skin cells to collect and clog pores. As you go through the rest of your routine (applying makeup and moisturizers), these cells trap oil and other debris and absorb the products that are meant to affect the healthy, new cells underneath. This is where exfoliating comes in.
To exfoliate is to apply gentle abrasion to the skin in order to safely remove dead cells, thus exposing the radiant, fresh skin underneath. This makes moisturizers and creams more effective, makeup smoother and more beautiful, and your skin just healthier in general.
However, as beneficial as this process is, it isn’t something that should be a part of your daily routine. Your skin naturally only regenerates at a fixed rate and you want to keep up with its natural rate of shedding. If you over exfoliate, meaning you do it too often or with a material that is too harsh, you risk exacerbating existing skin problems and inflaming the healthy cells. For this reason, you should exfoliate no more than once or twice a week, and with a product that suits your skin. It’s also best to exfoliate in the evening, before any nighttime moisturizers or serums are applied. This is because exfoliated skin is an ideal base for moisturizers and serums.
When it comes to exfoliating, there are basically two possible directions you can go: you can either use a cream or paste with something abrasive mixed in, or you can use a cloth or sponge meant for facial scrubbing. The first is currently more common in Western cultures, while the latter has been used for centuries in bathhouses and skin care systems in Eastern countries like Korea and Japan.
Exfoliating Pads and Brushes
The purpose of an exfoliator is to help shed old skin cells and to increase blood circulation to the new cells.
Silicone pads are a common option. We recommend the S&T Lil’ Scrubbies facial cleansing pads. These pint-sized facial exfoliators are covered in a forest of tiny bristles that gently pull away any dead skin. They don’t contain any sharp edges, so they are one of the mildest options that could be used daily. They are easy to use, long lasting, and don’t require any special drying.
Spinning facial cleanser brushes such as the Clarisonic Mia have become quite popular. These systems, however, are generally costly and offer little more than the much less expensive options. A simpler approach is a product such as a konjac sponge. This three pack available on Amazon is loaded with activated bamboo charcoal that wicks away oil and impurities and is gentle enough to use on all types of skin. Each pad is made of a biodegradable, organic plant material, which is gentle enough to remove dead skin without scratching the skin. The sponges need to be replaced approximately every month or two because they get worn out over time.
Whatever product you choose, it’s important that you only use an exfoliating scrub or pad that is meant for facial skin. There are many products that are meant for full body use. These will be too abrasive for the sensitive and gentle skin on your face and they might scratch you too much. But with the right product, you can magnify the skin care routine that you are already following and get to experience the full joy of that do-it-yourself spa.
Exfoliating Scrubs and Creams
The better-known option for exfoliating is with a scrub or cream. Usually these products contain something naturally abrasive, such as baking soda or finely ground nut shells. It’s essential that you avoid any products that contain ‘microbeads’ as these are a known pollutant. Once the most common type of exfoliator, microbeads have been banned in America and will be completely removed from the shelves by July 2017.
A product such as Era Organics Microdermabrasion Face Scrub and Mask uses basic sugar and walnut shells to scrub away impurities and expose the beautiful skin underneath. It also contains aloe to soothe and nourish the skin as well as manuka honey, an antibacterial soothing agent.
Other products such as this Vitamin E Exfoliating Scrub use natural jojoba wax pearls to knock away grime instead of dangerous microbeads. Just a small amount applied and then rinsed after regular washing twice a week keeps skin glowing. Packed with essential oils and extracts such as lavender and calendula, this is a product that will really give you the natural spa feel.
The best option for anyone with extremely sensitive skin is an oatmeal-based exfoliator. Oatmeal is known for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory effects and can be used as a mild scrub. The Yellow Bird’s goat’s milk soap is loaded with oatmeal and lavender oil to exfoliate and lightly disinfect skin. Handmade from a coconut oil base, you can’t get any more personal love from a product.