All About Exfoliation Guide.
Welcome to Part III of our exfoliation guide!
There is a dizzying array of exfoliating products available on the market today, which can make selecting the best product confusing for newbies and veterans alike. Picking the right product is key though, as exfoliating in a way that benefits your skin lies as much in choosing the appropriate tools as in employing the right technique.
Using inappropriate products, especially over long periods of time, can actually damage skin, so it is important to use quality products, pay attention to directions, and use care. That's why this section (and its subsections!) are by far the longest in this series.
We first cover how to assess your skin to determine your needs, and from there, how to select a product to best fit these needs. In the following sections we offer a brief primer on the major categories of tools and ingredients on the market today.
This is a good starting place to get an overview of the types of products available on the market, and help you think about what types of products you may be interested in incorporating in your routine. This is not intended to be the final word on any particular exfoliation topic, nor is it an endorsement of any specific product. We believe that after a certain quality standard, product selection is a deeply personal choice that is and should be informed by additional factors such as tolerance for synthetic ingredients, commitment to sustainability/fair trade, and price.
While we hope primer gives a better feel for the topic, we recommend that if you are interested and looking to incorporate a new product or tool into your routine, you do additional research into that method for specifics on a product or approach.
Before we start: the most important rule in exfoliation is to use gentlest methods and ingredients that will still have an impact. You want gently polish not sandblast.
Always use products that are intended for use on the type of skin you are trying to exfoliate.
For example, use a face brush on your face, rather than a body brush on your face. While extreme misuse of products will hurt, and therefore most people are unlikely to do it, this becomes more important when the difference is slight, or the distinction is unclear. While a person might assume that it would be okay to use a facial scrub on their lips, because both are delicate skin types, this is not the case. Damage from using too harsh an exfoliant can build up over time leading to redness, irritation and inflamed skin, even in cases where you see no ill effects after the first, or first dozen uses.
How to classify types of skin
Think of skin in roughly 4 groups, from most delicate to least.
Group 1 is skin around eyes and on genitals. These areas should never be exfoliated. Period. Doing so can cause burning, bleeding, bruising, tearing or some combination thereof.
Group 2, going from most to least delicate is lips, bikini area, and face. These areas can be exfoliated, and, if you remove hair from these areas, should be exfoliated to prevent ingrown hair growth. Pay close attention to products for these areas though, as they are most susceptible to damage from exfoliation. While gentler facial exfoliants may be used on bikini areas, lips should only be exfoliated with products specifically formulated for lips.
Group 3 is hands and body. Skin in these areas is much thicker, and able to handle much stronger exfoliation. Scrubs and other products that aren't specifically formulated for a specific type of skin is generally intended for body.
Group 4 is feet. Feet have the thickest, toughest skin on the body, and require the harshest exfoliation to see an impact. However, it is still possible to over-exfoliate. Specifically when using physical exfoliation, it is possible to do so much scrubbing that you actually prompt foot skin to create more calluses to protect itself.
A good rule of thumb...
Skin should never feel uncomfortable after being exfoliated and moisturized. If you do feel discomfort, or see puffiness or redness, chances are the exfoliant is too strong. (You may feel a bit of a tingle with chemical exfoliation, but it should never be uncomfortable.)
When picking a product, consider what type of skin you are looking to exfoliate, how often you would use it, and your own specific skin.
Sensitive skin is more likely to see adverse reactions than other skin types, and if you have sensitive skin, you must be extra diligent in looking for adverse reactions, doing patch tests, and seeking gentler products. Darker skin tones can be more susceptible to discoloration (where patches of skin around otherwise unnoticeable damage collect extra melanin as they heal, becoming darker than surrounding skin). Exfoliating these darker areas more will worsen rather than improve the situation.
And remember: skin is a living organ
Your skin will change over time, as a result in changes in the weather, in your hormones, in your age, and as a result of other environmental and health factors. As a result, there is no such thing as the perfect product for every skin, and you may find that what works best for your skin changes over time. Always work with your skin to discover what works best for you, rather than attempting to shock it into submission. And if you are unhappy with the results, seek expert help.