When it comes to our skin, most of us will try lots of things to keep it soft and glowy. But there’s so much room for error…especially when it comes to exfoliating. So how do you exfoliate your skin like a pro? We talked to two skincare experts, so you don’t have to.
There are plenty of ways to exfoliate the wrong way, which can lead to irritation and even longterm damage — no thanks!
Before we talk about the best ways to exfoliate your skin, it’s important that we talk about what it actually is. Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the top layer of skin. It sounds weird and a bit gross, but it’s all totally natural. Our skin sheds on its own roughly every 25 days, but as most people get older, that layer of dead skin tends to stay put, sitting on top of the fresh skin underneath. This can make your complexion appear dull or uneven, which none of us really wants…right?
The pros recommend exfoliating to get rid of the dead epidermis and allow the smooth skin underneath to surface. But how do you do it to avoid irritated, dry, or itchy skin? We asked two skincare experts for the details.
HelloGiggles talked to Hannah Sowd, a licensed aesthetician and founder of Hannah Sowd Skin Care, and she gave us the scoop on how to slough the right way. She explained that exfoliating becomes important as you add candles to your birthday cake each year, saying, “As we age, skin cell turnover slows so exfoliating becomes necessary.”
Sowd gave us tips for keeping our faces baby soft, no matter what our skin type is.
If your skin is dry or sensitive, especially during the harsh winter months, you’ll want to use extra care on the products you choose. Sowd says, “I love enzyme exfoliators for dry and sensitive skin. Enzymes are gentle yet effective and can be used 1-3 times per week to help remove dead cells, excess oil, and surface debris that may turn into comedones (blackheads or whiteheads). Enzymes require a few minutes [to sit on skin]. I recommend clients cleanse their skin then apply the enzyme product on clean skin before a shower. Take advantage of the steam from the shower to activate the enzyme before rinsing it off.”
And as for ladies struggling with adult acne? “Acne-prone skin requires a more aggressive approach since the skin is generally more oily and acne bacteria is present. Glycolic acid is one of the most user-friendly exfoliating products on the market for acne. A product containing 10% glycolic acid, used 2-3 times a week, is an important part of an anti-acne skincare routine.”
When it comes to the best time of day to exfoliate, Sowd recommends a nighttime routine, and notes that checking the ingredients is crucial. “Many ingredients like retinol are photosensitive so they shouldn’t be used during the day.” Photosensitive means they’ll react to sunlight, potentially causing skin to burn more easily…a big “no no” by all accounts.
HelloGiggles also talked to facialist and aesthetician Andy Millward, who echoed similar sentiments about exfoliating our faces. “Anything too aggressive that inflames the skin can lead to a compromised barrier function and sensitized skin over time.” His ingredients of choice include pineapple, papaya, cranberry or gentle alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as lactic acid or mandelic acid.
Millward agrees that over-exfoliating is definitely something to watch out for with all skin types, especially if you use a wash cloth…and don’t we all? “Another factor to consider is whether or not you use a wash cloth to remove your cleanser, as this will also be providing additional exfoliation so an extra ‘exfoliation’ stage may not be needed at all. Over-exfoliation can lead to a compromised barrier function, an increase in trans-epidermal water loss and leaving the skin more vulnerable to infection.” Yikes.
Millward agrees that a before bed routine is best, and adds that “post-exfoliated skin allows for greater product absorption,” remarking that we should apply hydrating products like serums, moisturizers, or an overnight mask immediately after we exfoliate for best results.
As for the best method for exfoliating? That’s up to your personal preferences, and what feels best for your skin. The many options include skin care brushes (like the very popular Clarisonic), facial peels and scrubs, exfoliating face lotions, or good old cleanser and a wash cloth.
Now that we know how to remove the dead skin cells from our faces, what about our bodies?
Millward says that exfoliating our bodies can be done daily, if needed. “For body exfoliation the skin is thicker and therefore more tolerant. I like dry body brushing prior to the shower, as not only does this provide a form of exfoliation but it’s also fantastic for stimulating the circulatory and lymphatic systems, therefore providing great detoxifying and drainage benefits to the tissues.”
He adds, “alternatively using exfoliating mitts in the shower with your body cleansing products” works, especially if you’re short on time.
But if you’re looking for a more relaxing, spa-like experience, Millward recommends Himalayan salt scrubs, but recommends avoiding sensitive areas such as the chest and neck (and bikini area), which can be irritated by scrubs and beads. You can also try exfoliating body lotions and peels for similar results.
Some last tips for body exfoliation include working in a circular motion, which is both soothing and effective for covering large areas. You can be a little firmer on thicker skin, such as your elbows and knees, but don’t be too aggressive with any skin on your body.
Lastly, you should avoid exfoliating if your skin is irritated, sunburned, or if you’ve got any open cuts or wounds at all. Keeping skin hydrated is crucial, so always follow up exfoliating with your moisturizer of choice. Maintaining a routine that works with your schedule and skin type will leave you feeling silky smooth and glowy…trust us, your skin will thank you.