Before we jump into exfoliating your skin, let’s chat about the science behind it. Have you ever wondered how many dead skin cells you shed each day? It might surprise you to learn that it’s around 30,000.
Now, here’s the kicker – it’s not just 30,000 a day, but a whopping 30,000 every single minute! Believe it or not, that’s the reality!
Your skin is constantly getting rid of old cells, and that’s a good thing for your health and how your makeup looks. If your body didn’t do this, you’d end up with layers of dead skin cells on the surface, which can make your skin appear dull, dry, and cakey.
Today, we’re here to answer all your questions about exfoliation, from what it involves to how often you should do it for your face. Let’s dive into the world of exfoliation.
What is Exfoliation?
Exfoliation means getting rid of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin using things like a gritty product, a special tool, or certain chemicals. While these dead cells would eventually come off on their own, exfoliating helps remove them earlier, making your skin appear fresher, brighter, and more youthful.
But here’s the deal – if you don’t exfoliate the right way for your skin type, you could end up irritating or harming your skin or causing breakouts. So, before you start exfoliating:
- Figure out your skin type (whether it’s normal, oily, dry, sensitive, or a mix of these)
- Think about the beauty and skincare products you’re already using
Some medications and over-the-counter treatments, like products with retinol or benzoyl peroxide, can make your skin more sensitive. Using them with exfoliation might worsen dry skin or lead to breakouts. However, with a little care, most people can enjoy the benefits of exfoliation without any problems.
How to Exfoliate Your Skin
To exfoliate your skin at home, you can choose between two common methods:
- Mechanical Exfoliation (Physical Exfoliation): This method uses a tool like a brush, sponge, or scrub to physically remove dead skin cells.
- Chemical Exfoliation: This method gently dissolves dead skin cells using chemicals like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs, like glycolic and citric acids) or beta hydroxy acids (BHA, such as salicylic acid).
Here’s a guide to picking the right method based on your skin type:
- Dry, Sensitive, or Acne-Prone Skin: Avoid mechanical exfoliation as it can be too harsh. Instead, use a gentle chemical exfoliator along with a soft washcloth.
- Normal Skin: Start with a cloth or sponge and a mild chemical exfoliator. If you don’t see results after a few tries, consider using a brush or a stronger AHA.
- Oily Skin: Try mechanical exfoliation using a scrub or opt for a stronger chemical treatment with a BHA to unclog pores.
- Darker Skin Tone or Prone to Dark Spots: Avoid strong chemical or mechanical exfoliation, as it can lead to dark spots. Before trying on your face, test exfoliation techniques on your neck or the inside of your wrist.
Remember that the golden rule of exfoliating your skin is to be gentle. Avoid exfoliating if you have open cuts, a sunburn, or if your skin is broken out.
How to Exfoliate Skin in 8 Ways
Here are some natural ingredients you can use to exfoliate your skin:
- Honey: Honey is not only good for your health but also your skin. It can help heal and hydrate your skin due to its antimicrobial and humectant properties.
It even contains gluconic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids, which have been used for centuries to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. To exfoliate with honey, apply a small amount to your face, rub gently in a circular motion, and then rinse with water.
- Yogurt: Yogurt contains lactic acid, which can remove dead skin cells and promote new skin growth, giving you a more even complexion. It’s a gentle exfoliant. To use yogurt for exfoliation, apply plain yogurt to your face, rub in a circular motion, let it sit for 20 minutes, and then rinse.
- Sugar: Sugar contains glycolic acid, a natural exfoliant that can remove dead skin cells when used gently. Sugar scrubs are better for the body than the face because the crystals are large and can harm sensitive facial skin.
To exfoliate with sugar, mix raw sugar with natural oil to create a paste, apply it to your skin, rub gently, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then rinse. Sugar scrubs are great for dry skin.
- Lemon Juice: Lemon juice contains citric acid, another natural exfoliant. It can help shed dead skin cells and brighten your skin. To exfoliate with lemon juice, mix it with cane sugar to create a mildly abrasive paste, apply it gently to your skin, let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse. Be cautious, as lemon juice may be harsh for sensitive or damaged skin.
- Papaya: Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which is effective for exfoliation. It dissolves dead skin cells, promotes blood circulation, and improves skin elasticity. To exfoliate with papaya, mash it into a paste, apply it to your face, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse. Papaya is suitable for combination or oily skin, as it can help prevent acne and cleanse pores.
- Coffee: Ground coffee is a great way to manually exfoliate your skin by scrubbing away dead cells and debris. Caffeine in coffee can also make your skin look plumper and help reduce signs of aging like wrinkles and dark spots.
To exfoliate with coffee:
- Mix one-quarter teaspoon of used coffee grounds with one tablespoon of your favorite natural oil to make a thick paste (adjust the amounts to get the right consistency).
- Apply to your face with your fingers using a circular motion.
- Leave it on for five minutes.
- Rinse with water.
Some physical exfoliants can be harsh, like the St. Ives Apricot Scrub, which contains tough walnut shell pieces that can cause micro-abrasions. Finely ground coffee mixed with a soothing oil, like coconut oil, makes for a gentler scrub. You can also use coffee grounds as a stimulating mask for a tingly, exfoliating effect.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a common ingredient in skincare products, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s gentle and non-irritating for most people and can potentially help protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
To exfoliate your face with oatmeal:
- Mix one tablespoon of finely ground oats with one tablespoon of your favorite natural oil or honey (to help the oats bind together).
- Apply it to your face with your fingers using a circular motion.
- Leave it on for five minutes.
- Rinse with water.
Oatmeal is an excellent choice for exfoliating scrubs, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. Make sure to use organic oats that haven’t been treated with pesticides or chemicals.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is not just a spice; it’s also an effective exfoliant. It contains curcumin, the compound responsible for its yellow color, and many health benefits. Turmeric is used medicinally in South Asia to treat skin conditions and can reduce inflammation and fight infection when used for exfoliation.
To exfoliate with turmeric:
- Mix one teaspoon of ground turmeric with yogurt, natural oil, or water to create a paste (adjust the amount as needed). You can also add chickpea flour for extra exfoliation if you prefer.
- Apply to your face using a circular motion or short strokes with a brush.
- Leave it on for 10 minutes.
- Rinse with water.
Turmeric is a good choice for exfoliating all skin types, especially if you have sensitive skin. Look for Kasturi turmeric (Curcuma aromatica) in Indian grocery stores, as it doesn’t stain the skin.
These natural ingredients can be used to exfoliate your skin at home. Be sure to use them gently and consider your skin type to avoid any irritation.
How Often Should I Exfoliate My Face?
How often you should exfoliate depends on two things;
- Your skin type.
- The strength of your exfoliation method.
Here’s a basic rule: The stronger your exfoliation method, the less frequently you should do it. So, if you have normal or oily skin, exfoliating once a week is enough. If you’re following an intense exfoliation routine, you might even stretch it to once every few weeks.
However, if you’re using a gentle approach like a washcloth and a mild chemical exfoliant, sticking to once a week is a good guideline.
Tips for trying a new natural exfoliant
It’s important to remember that the skin on your face is more sensitive than the skin on your body. Some exfoliants that are suitable for your body might be too harsh for your face. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when using a new natural exfoliant at home:
- Before using a new exfoliant, test it on a small area of your skin, like your arm, to check for any adverse reactions.
- Make sure your hands and any tools you use are clean before applying the exfoliant.
- When exfoliating, be gentle and only massage the product into your skin for about a minute.
- Rinse your face with room-temperature water.
- After exfoliating, apply a good-quality moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
- It’s generally recommended to exfoliate in the evening because most skin cell growth happens overnight.
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