A few years ago I had a facial. During the initial consult, I was told by a bright young 20-something year old how I was exfoliating completely wrong. So, I did what anyone would do, I packed up by tatty, ancient and abused skin and hightailed it out of there… After 60 mins of pure facial bliss – I’m only human!
Of course, she was right. While I knew exfoliating was essential, I completely misunderstood the whole thing. I was over scrubbing, not using the right product for my skin needs and exfoliating far too often.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation, keep reading to learn what exfoliating does, why you need it, how to exfoliate and which exfoliator you should use for your skin type and concerns.
What Does Exfoliating Do?
Exfoliating removes dead and dulling skin cells to reveal smoother, healthier skin cells beneath.
Healthy skin completely renews itself naturally every 25 to 30 days in younger adults. This gradually increases with age (it happens to the best of us!) reaching 40-60 days in older adults. When regeneration slows, your complexion appears dull and aged. Adding to this, the production of collagen—a protein crucial to skin’s firmness and elasticity—also decreases with age, resulting in progressively-thinning, structurally-weakened skin.
Benefits of Exfoliating
Exfoliation removes dead cells to reveal smoother, brighter, more refined skin. But there are plenty of other benefits too:
- Unclogs and minimises the appearance of pores
- Reduces blackheads
- Helps increase skin cell turnover
- Controls excess oil
- Brightens dull skin
- Improves overall tone
- Softens skin texture
- Enhances skin clarity
- Helps lighten hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone by helping to shed areas of darkened skin sooner, resulting in brighter skin
- Getting rid of old, dead skin cells also helps your subsequent skincare products like moisturisers and serums, to absorb more effectively
Can Exfoliating Help Ageing?
Yes. Exfoliating will help reduce signs of premature ageing by increasing cell turnover, fading and blending areas of uneven skin tone and smoothing skin’s texture.
How Often Should I Exfoliate?
Less is more. Exfoliating once or twice a week is sufficient. Exfoliate too much, and you’ll find yourself with dry, sensitive skin that’s prone to reactivity.
Types of Exfoliants
There are two types of exfoliants:
- Physical Exfoliants
Physical exfoliants such as brushes, cloths and scrubs physically buff the top layers of the skin away. Scrubs are very effective at quickly smoothing your skin. If you prefer a scrub, look for one with smooth, round granules and avoid fruit pits and nut shell as they can tear the skin.
- Chemical Exfoliants
Don’t be put off by the term, it’s just a descriptive term for how the ingredients perform. Chemical exfoliants gently loosen the ‘glue’ that holds dead skin cells together using either:
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like lactic or glycolic acid, exfoliate the skin’s surface and are great if you you have dry skin or sun-damaged skin.
- Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, so great if you’re prone to breakouts and blackheads.
What Exfoliant is Best for my Skin?
Best Anti-Ageing Exfoliator
If you’re concerned about ageing, a chemical exfoliant containing both salicylic and glycolic acid will stimulate your skin’s own production of important proteins that support the skin such as collagen, preventing fine lines and wrinkles from forming. We love Skin Compost Super Acai Exfoliator by Eco by Sonya Driver and the Mandarin + Lime Facial Scrub from Cedar + Stone.
Best Exfoliator for Oily or Acne Prone Skin
Stay away from physical scrubs. Opt instead for a chemical exfoliant or a face wash that contains AHAs like glycolic or salicylic and use once or twice a week. We love Skin Clear Tea Tree Exfoliating Face Scrub from Dr Organic and Golden Grind’s All Natural Turmeric Face Scrub.
Best Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin
Steer clear of rough or gritty scrubs and opt for a mild, short-contact exfoliating product. Be sure you don’t over-exfoliate as this can damage skin, making it even more vulnerable. We love Trilogy’s Gentle Facial Exfoliant.
Best Exfoliator for Dry Skin
Try a gentle chemical exfoliator (an AHA-rich serum dissolves bonds between dead cells) or a light facial scrub immediately followed by a gentle hydrating lotion.
How do I exfoliate?
How to exfoliate your skin depends on your skin type and skin concerns as well as the type of exfoliant being used. As a general rule of thumb:
- Always follow the instructions provided
- Start by cleansing your skin
- When using a chemical exfoliant, clean and tone your skin beforehand
- If you’re using a physical exfoliant, tone before or after the scrub to make sure you rebalance your pH levels. Always apply to moist skin and avoid using too much pressure