how to exfoliate

How to Exfoliate Your Skin? – The Skincare Basics

Exfoliation can be an often-overlooked step in a basic routine. Ever feel like your skin is dull? Or that your products don’t absorb properly? You might need to remove your dead skin cells layers.

There are many ways to achieve clear and smooth skin, exfoliation being the easiest one. You can get glowy skin in the comfort of your home and with budget-friendly products. However, as I previously mentioned, overdoing it is a real problem. Learning from trial and error, here is an easy and basic guide on how to exfoliate your skin based on my experience.

Disclaimer: recommendations are based on my own experiences and one product might work for me but not for you. Please do your research to further decide if this is something you wish to try.

What is exfoliation ?

Exfoliation is simply the process of removing the layer of dead skin cells with a dedicated product.

It can either be physical exfoliation or chemical one. You can even very gently exfoliate using a towel or a skincare brush. For example, the Foreo or Clarisonic brushes are designed for that. You also have more simple brushes without the fancy battery aka hand motorized. I have a Foreo Luna Mini tucked in a drawer somewhere and I regret not using it more.

Why you should exfoliate ?

For the glow, duh! As your skin is constantly in a process of renewing itself, it sheds the dead skin cells that form a layer on top of it. Although it has its protective benefits from external aggressors, this layer can also do harm. Your skin may appear dull and clogged. Removing the dead skin layer on your skin will improve your skin texture and even out the skin tone. The new layer will better absorb your skincare products thus increasing their potency.

What products to exfoliate with?

There are several forms of exfoliation, but these are the ones you can do in the comforts of your home:

Physical exfoliation

This includes basically scrubbing your face with a dedicated product. You all know the famous devil, St. Ives Abricot scrub – STAY AWAY FROM IT!

On a positive note, physical exfoliation can have its benefits, and you don’t need to absolutely exclude it from your routine. I have certainly observed this in my own routine. With the right products and technique, it can be safe.

Stay away from crushed shells (i.e. walnuts). They are very uneven, and many times not finely milled, which can cause uneven exfoliation. Some spots on your face may be more impacted than others. This can cause sensitivity and splotchy skin. You have also probably heard of micro-tears. They are not actually scientifically proven, however, given the uneven edges and the possibility to puncture your delicate skin, why risk it.

Equally, stay away from plastic beads. I hope we are past this. It is not environment friendly to flush plastic down your drains.

Finely mild rice powder exfoliants are a great option. They are gentler and the resulting powder is more evenly distributed on the skin. Finely mild sugar, such as the Fresh Strawberry Sugar cleanser, can also be an option as it dissolves in the water making sure you can’t go overboard.

Many products offer a combined physical and chemical exfoliation with added fruit enzymes or another form of acid. It can be a great start if you want to delve into it and have the best of the two worlds. The acids are usually in lower concentrations and are more friendly for the beginners.

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I use the Good Molecules Pineapple Exfoliating Powder (gifted), which combines fruit enzymes and rice powder. It foams up and dissolves while you work it in circular motions on the skin.

Chemical exfoliation

Whether you opt for presoaked pads, toners, masks, or any other form of products I haven’t heard of, chemical exfoliations are in my opinion – the best choice.

It includes using a form of acid :

  • AHA – alpha-hydroxy acid. Water-soluble. It works on the surface of the skin, by loosening the “glue” between the skin cells. Examples – glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid.
  • BHA – beta-hydroxy acid. Oil-soluble. This one works also at removing the impurities such as pollution, dead skin cells, but from deeper within the pores. This is the salicylic acid so much adored by acne-prone skin such as me.

Both acids are great, and neither is better than the other. They both tackle hyperpigmentation and inflammation of the skin. Both remove the dead skin cells and diminish the appearance of pores and fine lines.

It all comes down to your skin type. For example, dry skin with uneven texture may benefit more from glycolic acid. Oily and combination on the other hand may benefit more from the salicylic acid.

Personally, I would recommend having both in your routine for different needs. You don’t want to layer them, but you can alternate. I find that AHAs are best to tackle hyperpigmentation, and BHAs are best for breakouts and clogged pores. I often use one only in my T-zone.

My favourite acid exfoliating product at the moment is the Blithe Splash Patting Mask. I’ve gone through 3 bottles already and I keep repurchasing it!

How often should you exfoliate ?

The rule of thumb is to exfoliate once a week, but the more life appropriate rule is to exfoliate when you think your skin requires a good scrub. Everyone’s skin is different, and the skin cell turnover is thus different. You might be covered in dead skin layers in 3 days as well as in 2 weeks. If you are a beginner try the once a week method. Depending on your skin type you might want to adjust from there. If you feel like your skincare is sitting on top of the skin, you definitely need to exfoliate. This happens to me way too often. Use your regular cleanser, exfoliate, and then proceed with your regular skincare routine. I have a previous article that covers the basics of a skincare routine if you wish to learn more on that!

Hello, my name is Dana, and I forget to exfoliate.


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How to exfoliate your skin

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