I often get asked about what steps or products can be easily introduced into the skincare routine that can significantly improve the texture and appearance of the skin; one of those is exfoliation. I find that exfoliation of the skin allows for a better smoother, more radiant skin surface. Which in turn allows makeup to wear and look better on. Consequently you might even find you enjoy wearing less makeup, with your skin looking naturally smoother and healthier!
In a nut shell, exfoliation works to remove dead skin cells from the outer surface of your skin. Its important to note that exfoliating the face is delicate terrain because the facial skin can often be more sensitive and thinner than the skin on the body. There are two main types of common facial exfoliants; one is mechanical- physically scrubby exfoliating products and the other is chemical- which sounds scary but are actually awesome.
Traditional scrub exfoliants will have a mechanical or physical ingredient to help remove dead skin cells. Often those particles are sugar, apricot kernel, rice, oat etc. these products will feel gritty and they will work in an abrasive manner on the skin to physically remove dead skin cells. I can’t stress enough how important it is to not overdo it when it comes to exfoliating; especially if you have sensitive skin. I think we sometimes love the feeling of a gutsy, effective exfoliation but on your face less is more. Too much abrasiveness can lead to skin irritation, increased sensitivity, and breakouts. One of my favourite certified natural facial exfoliants is the Trilogy Gentle Facial Exfoliant; the exfoliant is actually a Jojoba wax bead and in my experience with this product it is almost impossible to ‘overdo it’. I find it gentle but still effective. If you’re using an exfoliating product I highly suggest you look out for what the physical exfoliator is. Natural ingredients like jojoba/ wax beads, sugar, kernels are biodegradable but plastic isn’t. Believe it or not plastic microbeads are being used in personal care products and they end up in our streams, rivers and oceans destroying marine life and the greater ecosystem.
Chemical exfoliants come in a few different varieties; mainly they are Hydroxy Acids and Enzymes.
Hydroxy acids are things like Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid. Generally speaking they work by weakening the connection between dead skin cells, speeding up the normal shedding process, improving skin texture and unclogging pores. I really like the use of these Alpha Hydroxy and Beta Hydroxy acids (AHA/BHA) to exfoliate my skin. My long-time favourite product for this at home are the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Pads. They can be used daily and I can honestly say they have made a huge improvement to my skin. I used these in the lead up to my wedding and I continue to use as ongoing maintenance for my skin. These are a great option for someone looking to not only smooth out the surface of the skin but also to help unclog pores and work on improving fine lines. They are really easy to use because they come in a two-step system. Simply swipe your clean skin with wipe step 1 and then with wipe step 2.
Enzyme exfoliators are made from biological enzymes such as Papain (found in Papaya) and Bromelain (found in pineapple) to stimulate exfoliation as they work to gently break down the connection between dead skin cells and assist them to sloth away. A product I enjoy that contains both of these enzymes is the Trilogy Age Proof Active Enzyme Cleansing Cream. It’s gentle enough for everyday use as it is technically a facial cleanser with the added benefit of enzyme ingredients (so I think of it as maintenance for keeping the complexion clear and skin turning over).
The Dermalogica Daily Micro Exfoliant is another great product that I have used over the years. It uses a combination of exfoliating aspects mentioned above; Papain, Salicylic Acid and Rice Enzymes that when activated with water help to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells.
Which option is best for me?
This comes down to personal preference. Some people love the feel of a good scrub, some enjoy the subtle tingle of a hydroxy acid. Most of the products I have used and love have claims to be suitable for daily use; I personally like using a mixture. For example I might use a facial scrub twice a week, peel pads once or twice a week (because $$) and my enzyme cleanser each morning. So the skin is getting great variation and exposure to the different aspects of each different method.
Sensitive skin types; I would always recommend to proceed with caution when trying new products. Patch test and especially watch out for signs of over stimulation or reaction to abrasive ingredients. In my experience I find an enzyme cleanser a great option for sensitive skin.
How often should I scrub/wipe/swipe?
This depends on the product. However I would suggest using a scrub type product once or twice a week- especially to begin with. The Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads, Dermalogica Daily Micro Exfoliant and Trilogy Active Enzyme Cleanser are all suitable for daily use.
Can I just use my body scrub on my face?
As tempting as it might be to have an all in one/ all over product it is important to have something specific for your face. Our facial skin is often more sensitive and thinner than the skin on the rest of our body; this is a key reason why body exfoliants such as rough large kernel (apricot, walnut shell etc.) based products shouldn’t be used on the face.
If you have any comments or questions I would love to hear from you.