With increasingly busier schedules, many of us are too busy to slow down and take care of some of the most important hygiene routines our bodies need. Sadly, some of these important steps towards healthier skin are almost considered a luxury due to the rarity at which we have the time to do them.
Many of us have seen skin care products being tweeted about on Twitter or featured and marketed through Facebook and Instagram. While those products may potentially benefit your skin and lead to improved skin health, there are better things that you can do now for your skin that will make a bigger difference.
Back to the Basics
It is common knowledge that washing our face is important. Almost equally important, though, is using a moisturizing product on our skin, especially our face. And in order for moisturizing products to work as effectively as possible, they need to be in direct contact with your skin rather than a buildup of makeup, oil, dirt and dead skin. One of the most neglected and overlooked skin care regimes is exfoliation. Through exfoliating, we clean our skin and better prepare it for the use of skin care products.
What is exfoliation?
Our body naturally exfoliates, shedding our old, dry and hardened skin cells to make way for newer, vibrantly healthy skin cells to take its place. It is not nearly as dramatic as a snake shedding its skin, but the principle is nearly the same. This process is called desquamation and occurs naturally in all of us. However, certain skin types play a role in the frequency and effectiveness of this natural process. Oily skin can actually slow down the process, leaving old & dead skin cells trapped on the surface of our skin because of the oily surface. This leads to issues such as acne as the pores begin to clog up.
In order to help remove those old skin cells, we can exfoliate our skin using exfoliating products. Using a specifically abrasive face wash and an optional exfoliator brush, we can manually remove that top layer of dead skin.
Why is exfoliating good for skin?
We all know that we should be exfoliating , but just why exactly is it important? We wildly underestimate just how important it is for our skin’s health to exfoliate regularly. Overall, one of the most important aspects of exfoliation is to remove the dead skin and bacteria that resides deep in our skin. When we fail to remove those unwanted guests then bury them with makeup or moisturizer, we are essentially locking in the bacteria to our skin, which leads to problems like acne.
Beyond just a deep clean, facial exfoliation leads to much smoother skin. This occurs as the elimination of the old rough and dry skin cells on the outermost layer of skin are removed, revealing much softer and healthier skin.
Exfoliating your face also prolongs signs of aging in your skin. The older skin cells that exfoliation easily removes are often the skin cells that exaggerate the appearance of aged skin, accentuate our wrinkles and make lines in our skin appear deeper and more pronounced. When that level of skin is gone, the signs of aging are far less pronounced, giving your skin a fresh, youthful look and glow.
We often think that great skincare products will magically repair our face and lead to perfect skin. While some products have that ability, they work much more effectively on clean, exfoliated skin. Because exfoliation removes all of the dead skin and deep cleans your pores, the skin care products used after that deep clean can penetrate into your skin much deeper and easier, leading to much better results.
How should I exfoliate my face?
After you have removed any makeup and cleansed your face, use a gritty scrub and gently massage all over your face. The scrub will feel like a wet gritty paste that you are scrubbing onto your face. Once you have scrubbed each area of your face, rinse off all of the gritty scrub. Applying skin care products after exfoliating is the best time since the pores are the cleanest. Moisturizers and serums will be best absorbed at this time. Try a skin care system that is tailored to your skin type, such as Skinceuticals, Kyani Fleuresse, or Obagi.
How often should I exfoliate?
Similar to all good things, do not overdo it. Excessive or too frequent exfoliation can lead to acne, inflammation or skin damage. There is no magic answer for how often you should be exfoliating because every skin type is different. If you have sensitive skin, try exfoliating less frequently. If you have oily skin, more regular exfoliation is helpful. Since our skin is one of our largest organs, it is important to consult a dermatologist for questions and concerns to ensure you are taking care of your skin in the best way possible. A dermatologist would be able to identify how often you should be exfoliating as well as the best products to be using based on your skin type.
Should I exfoliate more than my face?
Remember, our entire body is covered in skin, not just our face. When the outermost layer of skin dies, only a portion of that skin falls off, leaving the rest behind. Leaving all of these dead skin cells hanging out is not the most appealing thought, and is equally negative for our skin, no matter the location. Life is, after all, better when we shed what we no longer need.
Depending on the body part, the method at which you exfoliate varies slightly. Thankfully, there are some tools and skin care products that can help you exfoliate whatever area of skin you want.
Let’s start at the top with your scalp. Many of us, both male and female, have hair covering the skin on our scalp. This creates a bit of a barrier making it harder to exfoliate and also grounds for trapping the dead skin cells that fall off up there. The best way to exfoliate your scalp is by shampooing your hair and spending some time scratching the entirety of your scalp. As a bonus, scratching your scalp not only removes those dead skin cells, but it also stimulates your hair follicles. It doesn’t sound like much, but that stimulation can lead to prevented hair loss. This occurs through increased blood flow to the head and clean, unclogged hair follicles. It is strange to think that scratching your scalp while shampooing can actually prevent hair from falling out!
Yes, even our lips can use some exfoliation from time to time. They are regularly exposed to the sun which can sunburn your lips. They are also exposed to extreme cold. Certain stores or various online skincare retailers offer a lip scrub that will remove any dead skin on your lips in a gentle and safe way. Think of lip balm with a little grit. Soft, healthy lips are better than dry chapped lips any day.
Our feet usually take a beating in the skin department. They are regularly overlooked – mostly by men. The lack of skin care for our feet leads to lots of dry skin areas. Some people confuse these areas with calluses, but they are different. The best way to eliminate these dry areas is to use a salt scrub and gently scrub at those dry patches as well as the entirety of the foot and lower ankle, then rinse. This process may need to happen a few times in order to achieve the soft skin you have been missing. Once your feet are smooth and soft, it is important to apply some type of moisturizing foot lotion on a daily basis to keep the skin healthy and protected. One of the most effective times to put this moisturizing lotion on is prior to bed each night.
For the rest of our body, you can find an all over body scrub, general all-purpose gentle exfoliator or bar soap with exfoliating properties that you can use on your entire body. It is hard to believe, but there is a buildup of dirt, grime, and bacteria in places that are always covered. This occurs mainly in the legs, torso, arms, back, and shoulders. The pores on these areas of skin are a little different than skin pores and do not clog as often, but they are still susceptible to dryness or acne.
One thing to consider is the amount of time it takes to exfoliate all of these skin areas. Understandably, some of us simply do not have the luxury of that much time to take care of our skin. As a solution to this, you can pick up a night cream that contains AHA. There is no scrubbing involved and will dissolve the dead skin cells using alpha hydroxy acid. This product is a fantastic moisturizer and works with your body’s cellular regeneration to combat any wrinkles, lines or dark spots you may have.