How to Exfoliate Your Face, How Often and What With?
Well, this is a big can of worms to open and I wonder how I will ever be able to end this section on exfoliation! For me, exfoliation is an absolutely crucial part of your skincare routine.
I know that saying ‘I couldn’t live without an exfoliator’ is quite a drastic statement, but it's not far from the truth! I feel SO MUCH better after I have exfoliated my skin. I feel fresher, more invigorated, my skin looks and feels smoother, it is brighter, and I can tell it has created the perfect prepped foundation to allow my serums and moisturisers to work their magic.
Ok, so let's start right at the beginning...
How often should I exfoliate my face?
The simple answer is every single day!
Your skin is producing new skin cells all of the time and its best to encourage your old ‘dead’ cells to shed from your skin by exfoliating them off. This has a number of benefits: it allows any products you apply to your skin after exfoliation to then penetrate into your live skin cells and actively do the job they are designed to do, as opposed to sitting on the surface of your skin and only being absorbed by dead surface layer cells.
Getting yourself into a good exfoliating routine will also brighten your skin as it is often the dead skin cells on the surface that cause the dulling look to your face.
There is also an anti-ageing aspect of your exfoliation routine. When we are younger, our full skin ‘cycle’ is around 28 days. This is the process where our skin fully renews itself. As we get older, this process slows down and continues to do so throughout our lives. Exfoliating helps speed up your skins cell turnover process which helps your skin to behave at an age younger than your years.
What can I exfoliate my skin with?
There are so many different types of exfoliation, you might not realise that some of your products may actually have a built-in exfoliator in them already. Exfoliators don’t have to be physical, by this I mean something ‘gritty’ that you can actually feel buffing away your dead skin cells.
Your exfoliator can be working by using a chemical that you might not actually feel, such as Lactic acid, Glycolic acid, Salicylic acid, Retinol and many more. The best way to describe how these work is if you imagine little Pac-Men wriggling around your face ‘nibbling’ all of your skin cells.
Sometimes you might feel a tingling sensation on your skin from a chemical exfoliator as the ‘little Pac-Men’ are busy at work, but you also might not for 2 reasons: your skin may have built up a tolerance to being resurfaced so is used to it, or it could simply be that the exfoliation level isn’t very high in that particular product.
Whatever is happening, whether you can feel a tingle, can’t feel a tingle or are using a grainy exfoliator, the most important thing is that you don’t OVER exfoliate your skin. Over-processing your skin is only going to damage it, making it appear uneven, dull, feel sensitive, look and feel dehydrated along with it probably stinging when you then apply your creams.
Should I exfoliate in the morning or night?
I recommend the same to my clients as I will to you, use one type of exfoliator once a day in your skincare routine and your skin will thank you for it. I very much prefer it in my morning routine as the immediate benefits are exactly what you want from your skin as you are about to start your day face-first :)
What exfoliating ingredients should I look out for?
So - going back to the hidden exfoliants in your products, there really are too many to mention and I wouldn’t want to miss any out so read the product label and anything you don’t recognise have a little Google. Particularly anything that contains the words Enzyme, Glycolic, Lactic, Acid, Fruit Acid etc. Your cleansers can very often contain them, but so can your moisturiser!
This would especially be the case for anyone using products to help with acne. This can be either face acne, chest acne or back acne. A huge amount of these products will contain exfoliating ingredients, and for very good reason which I will explain fully in my acne chapter.
How to exfoliate skin safely
When you start to exfoliate your skin you need to think of yourself as setting off on a little journey or imagine it as a climb up a ladder. As with a ladder, you need to start at the bottom to be able to get to the top, the same applies for your exfoliation ‘level’ or ‘grade’.
As I mentioned above, your skin becomes tolerant to certain levels of exfoliants and can ‘handle’ deeper levels of exfoliation without becoming over-processed as you become more and more committed to the cause.
The International Dermal Institute offer a 15 stage scale for all of their exfoliation products, which I personally feel is really helpful as it even educated me! It shows that the level or grade of exfoliation in different products can actually be quite deceiving.
So, for instance, a product can have very gritty, almost scratchy grains in so most people would probably assume the exfoliation grade would be high. As it doesn’t have any type of acid or enzyme exfoliation included it is therefore only a physical exfoliator then it could actually be one of the lowest grade exfoliants. Then at the top end of the scale could be a product you leave on as a mask for 10 minutes with no grains, and unless you were told otherwise might not even know its exfoliating your skin.
There are also alternatives to products such as Clarisonic and LumiSpa exfoliating face brushes. I really do love these, they are great if you are concerned that exfoliating products may irritate your skin, I like to use these when my skin is feeling a bit sensitive to products. Apply your cleanser then use these brushes while your cleanser is still on, this then accelerates your cleansing step to your cleansing and exfoliating step in one!
If you are going for a really resurfacing experience then these brushes can even be used while your chosen exfoliator is on your skin, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are very far along your exfoliation journey and really know your own skin.
One important point I want to make is to remind you that there is no need for you to apply pressure on your skin when using these brushes. They rotate/vibrate just the right amount to create the perfect amount of exfoliation and you applying too much pressure will potentially over process your skin, so let the brushes to do their job by just holding them on the skin, not pressing them on.
The only downside to these brushes is the price, they are not cheap, they range from anything between around £90 - £200, but along as you look after them correctly they will last you for years!
How can I exfoliate at home?
Being kind to your skin and doing only what your skin can handle is the only way to get the best from it. There is nothing wrong with certain treatments creating a controlled trauma to force your skin into the correct state of repair for example, but I personally would only recommend this is carried out by experts, not on yourself at home. For your at-home skincare regimen, I recommend baby steps (or at least toddler steps to start off with.)
If you are new to exfoliating I would recommend you start off with an exfoliator that is just physical (by that I mean grainy with no acids or enzymes added), one that uses oats or jojoba, or with one of the brushes I mentioned just before.
Start with this for about a month then go more and more advanced with your exfoliation level around every month, but don’t forget to listen to your skin if it becomes sore or irritated take the exfoliation level down a notch until your skin's tolerance builds up by either lowering how often you exfoliate or using something even milder than what you have started with.
Glowing skin is always in!! And finding the perfect exfoliation step for yourself is going to help give you that glow better than any other step in your routine so let get our glow on!
Love from Lois xxx