Skin cells die naturally. It’s part of the process that keeps our bodies regenerating. Unfortunately, these cells don’t always make an exit when we need them to, leading to ingrown hairs, acne, wrinkles and clogged pores.
Luckily, we know that exfoliation can remove buildups, making way for new, fresher layers of skin. Chemical exfoliators typically rely on acids to do this, while a physical exfoliator works like a sander.
What are the risks? While skin is more resilient than we give it credit for, it’s also a delicate, vital organ. Too much cleansing can leave us dried out, while too much scrubbing can give us friction burns.
So, how often should you exfoliate?
Finding a happy middle ground that takes your skin type into account is key to a healthy routine. Although some beauty gurus go for a ‘no-pain, no-gain’ approach, it’s more effective to work with your body than against it.
Always be aware of pain and stop the moment you feel potential damage being done to the skin.
Exfoliating your face:
Some ways to exfoliate your face might be better for you than others. Frequency plays an important role in this.
For oily skin, pores tend to appear larger. Using an exfoliator that controls sebum production can reduce these.
There’s a catch though:
By removing natural oils from our skin, we can trick the sebaceous glands into producing more, more frequently. Strong creams with abrasive textures might not be suitable for daily use.
Those with oily skin should aim to exfoliate no more than 2-3 times a week. For those with extremely oily skin, daily exfoliation can sometimes be necessary.
For dry skin, it’s better to use chemical exfoliants. These work by breaking the bonds between skin cells, allowing dead ones to be shed naturally.
A product with an ingredient like salicylic acid is going to be extremely effective. Because this chemical focuses only on the outer layer, you’re not risking wear-and-tear via scrubbing.
Ingredients like this also tend to be anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, meaning they’re able to help with healing. People with dry skin should exfoliate no more than 1-2 times a week - removing dead cells without irritating.
For sensitive skin, consider natural alternatives. It can be too easy for us to reach for the strongest exfoliant on the market when nature has already given us some excellent, safe solutions.
Oil exfoliation is an alternative to chemicals and scrubbing. By applying jojoba oil to the skin - like a mask - then gently smoothing a ball of cotton wool over the area, we can remove dead skin naturally. This method can be used more frequently.
This is great for those who’ve already injured their skin from conventional exfoliation methods. Sometimes, being nicer to your body can reap the best results.
Exfoliating for your climate:
Different seasons and climates present a serious challenge for beauty fans. With major differences in temperature and humidity, it’s important to change your beauty regime to match the environment.
Winter is a uniquely difficult season. Low humidity/temperature means the sebaceous glands produce less facial oils, leading to dried, cracked skin. Because of this, people generally exfoliate less to avoid removing further moisture.
Unfortunately, Winter also means a buildup of dead skin, making exfoliation indispensable.
Try exfoliating once a week in the colder months and ensure you’re using a good quality moisturiser to revitalise your skin.
In Summer, it’s important to make similar provisions. Because exfoliation exposes new skin, you’re increasing sensitivity to the sun by 45%.
Switching the amount you exfoliate down from 2-3 times a week to 1-2 times a week should help. More importantly, wearing sun cream and proper clothing will protect you even more.
Exfoliating your body:
How often should you exfoliate your body? As often as your face.
Obviously, there are some major differences. Because the skin on our body is less delicate, mechanical exfoliation tends to be stronger. Body scrubs generally include larger granules to lift dead cells from thicker skin below the neck.
Salt scrubs are a popular, natural way to exfoliate this area. They are particularly good for rougher skin. Sugar scrubs can be used for more sensitive skin as the particles are smaller.
After showering, use a loofah to scrub the body down 2-3 times a week. Depending on seasonal temperatures, you may want to reduce this.
Using the right techniques:
It’s important to treat your skin sensitively. Excessive rubbing or inappropriate technique can result in damage.
Avoid using sponges. These tend to trap skin and become bacterial hotbeds. Exfoliating gloves do an excellent job of gently scraping the epidermis. The best part is that they can work without added chemicals.
When using a mechanical exfoliant on the body (scrubs, loofahs) a little goes a long way. It’s not necessary to scrub your skin heavily, but a light, repetitive grazing of the surface will be enough. Stop long before pain is inflicted.
Because older people’s skin tends to be drier and more delicate, mechanical scrubbing can often be too intensive. It’s worthwhile consulting a dermatologist for advice.
When applying a chemical exfoliant, there should be no scrubbing action. Rather, try to gently move the solution around the surface of the skin. This action will be enough to gently pick up dead cells.
Exfoliating is an effective way to improve your appearance. By helping the natural process of shedding dead cells, you can keep your pores clean and expose new skin. Listen to your body. Exfoliating too much has diminishing returns, and can lead to some unpleasant side effects. When performed correctly, it’s one of the easiest, fastest ways to breath life into your beauty regime.