Exfoliating is one of the keys to healthy, glowing skin. However, there are many ways to exfoliate and you should be careful to do it the right way to avoid damaging your sensitive skin.
Some types of exfoliation can be done at home, while others require a visit to an esthetician or dermatologist. And the best ways to exfoliate can vary based upon your skin type.
So, let’s discuss the importance of exfoliation in skin care, how to do it, and some factors to consider before you select your chosen method.
Why Should You Exfoliate the Skin on Your Face and Body?
For starters, exfoliation involves removing the excess layers of dead skin cells from the outermost layer of your skin. Now, doing this may make your skin look more radiant because it can help improve your skin’s tone and texture. You’re removing dry, rough skin, helping to lessen the appearance of pores and improve light reflection – which is what helps give you that look of radiance.
By exfoliating, you’re also helping to stimulate the turnover of your skin cells, resulting in a fresh outer layer of skin that looks polished, smooth, and translucent.
Exfoliation can be done either physically or chemically, and there are many ways to accomplish it, including:
- Abrasive scrubs (physical)
- Mechanical brushes (physical)
- Microdermabrasion and dermabrasion (physical)
- Other abrasive tools, like exfoliating rollers (physical)
- Dermal laser (physical)
- Glycolic and lactic alpha-hydroxy acids (chemical)
- Salicylic acid (chemical)1
Healthy Exfoliation: How to Exfoliate to Avoid Redness and Irritation
Now that you understand how exfoliation works, let’s discuss some of the ways you can exfoliate your face, body, and feet at home.
Your skin type will dictate the ideal exfoliation methods for you. You may even find it ideal to skip harsher exfoliation on certain areas of your face or body, especially if they are sensitive.
Another factor to consider is that exfoliation can exacerbate certain skin conditions. And keep in mind, these are methods that are safe to do at home – always leave the professional methods to the care of a licensed esthetician or dermatologist.2
How to Exfoliate Your Face:
Based on your skin type, you can choose a physical or chemical exfoliator. For dry skin, a mild scrub or a light brush is ideal. Look for products marketed towards dry or sensitive skin. Oily skin generally requires more exfoliation, as well as something to combat those oils, making salicylic acid an ideal choice. Normal skin can handle a variety of exfoliation methods or even deeper treatments at the dermatologist.3
Once you select your technique, you want to gently exfoliate cleansed skin, and follow with the right moisturizer for your skin type.
With physical exfoliants, take an extra gentle approach. Let the product do the work, and don’t press hard or pull at the delicate skin of your face. It is recommended to scrub lightly for only about 30 seconds, no more than 2-3 times a week. If you’re using a chemical exfoliant at home, follow the product instructions carefully. Never leave a chemical exfoliant on for longer than advised. And, if you have any adverse reactions, see a dermatologist.4
How to Exfoliate Your Body:
Body exfoliation is most often done by physical means. You may not even realize that when you scrub with a washcloth or loofah, you’re giving your skin a nice, healthy exfoliation. But remember to be gentle with your body, just as you are with your face. You can also find body scrubs that have either physical or chemical exfoliants in them. Alternatively, you can make your own scrubs at home with ingredients from your kitchen – like sugar or salt.
How to Exfoliate Your Feet:
Now, the skin cells on the bottom of your feet can easily build up, form calluses, and become dry, scaly, and flaky. And this is a protection mechanism. The skin on your feet must withstand far more daily rubbing than skin elsewhere on your body.5
For this reason, physical exfoliation is usually the preferred method of foot exfoliation. You can even find foot/heel files to help with this often problematic area. Remember though, just like with the rest of your skin, don’t overdo it. Allow your chosen products and/or tools to do the work, and don’t get too rough. If you over-exfoliate, you can easily damage your skin.
As far as frequency goes, this is another factor that will be determined by your unique skin type and skin care needs. You may be able to exfoliate daily, or it could be best to exfoliate weekly or even every other week or two. Again, it can’t be stressed enough to consult the pros if you’re unsure.
Exfoliating Problematic and Sensitive Skin: Chemical Exfoliators
If you have sensitive skin, or if you suffer from any kind of skin condition, it’s important to talk with an esthetician or dermatologist about your preferred methods of exfoliation. Exfoliating at home is not ideal for every person.
And if you find that your products or methods irritate your skin, then it’s best to stop using those products or techniques. There are plenty of other options for your sensitive skin. Mild peels, combined with other exfoliation methods and performed by a dermatologist or esthetician, might be the best option for you.6
Other Warnings to Consider
If you wish to undergo a more intense method of exfoliation, such as dermabrasion, dermal laser, or strong chemical peels, seek out a professional, licensed esthetician or dermatologist. These professionals have the knowledge and tools to guide you towards the best exfoliation methods for your specific issues and skin type.
Certain exfoliation methods penetrate much deeper into the dermal layers and scrub away far more cells than other forms. So, your esthetician or dermatologist will also be able to provide you with the proper forms of follow-up care for these techniques.
Now, it can’t be stressed enough that it is risky and potentially dangerous to buy harsh chemical exfoliants online to do at home. And you can end up making matters far worse in the process. Bottom line, let the professionals guide you in the right direction for your individual skin care needs.
Exfoliate Regularly for a Healthy Skin Care Routine
Once you’ve gotten the proper information from the pros, you’ll be ready to start your at-home skin care routine. By gently exfoliating those rough, dry, dead skin cells away, you’ll be able to enjoy a fresher, healthier, and more radiant complexion.
Just remember… the keyword is gentle. Leave the more intense methods to the pros.