Here’s the final part of this series on exfoliation. We’ve looked at all of the physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants, now we’re turning to the most important question: Which exfoliant should you use? And how often?
Or which exfoliants, rather. Because once you start seeing the results from exfoliating – the glowy skin, the smooth texture, the pigmentation fading – you’ll want to try more. It’s a slippery slope into pretty skin. Unfortunately though, this process can be painstaking and slow, since it takes a while to see the results of any changes in your skincare routine, so have patience!
- Guiding Rules
- How to Get Started
- Choosing an Exfoliant
- My Exfoliation Routine
Let’s lay out some guiding principles before we get too excited…
1. Add one new product at a time, a couple of weeks apart
Introducing a whole bunch of skincare products at once is tempting, but a bit of self-control is a good idea. The key reason is that if your skin has a reaction (allergy, irritation, breakouts or just clogged pores), you won’t be able to work out what the culprit is for a while. You’ll have to take everything out, then reintroduce them one by one a couple of weeks apart to check.
Best case scenario? Your skin doesn’t react, it looks amazing, but now you don’t know which of the 5 new products worked. Your skincare routine now takes 3 hours and costs $200 a month.
2. Go slow
This applies to all dimensions of exfoliation. For everything, you need to patch test first if you have sensitive skin. If you have robust skin, you should still patch test first, but I’m the first to admit that I’m too impatient for this most of the time.
In terms of frequency, this means start off with once a week, and if your skin can handle it, then work up gradually.
In terms of harshness for physical exfoliation, start gentle – this means starting with the softest brush, or the finest grains, or pressing gently and scrubbing for only a few seconds.
For chemical exfoliation, this means starting on a lower percentage and working upwards, or starting for a few minutes if it’s a wash-off product, before working up to 10 minutes or whatever the maximum recommended time is.
3. Watch out for overexfoliation
Sensitive, red, tight, weirdly shiny (not in a good way) skin is a hallmark of exfoliating too much, too fast. Your skin needs its protective outer layer, and scrubbing too much off will lead to inflamed, dehydrated skin. If this happens to you, put a hold on all exfoliation until your skin gets back to normal – then let it rest for a few days before going back to exfoliating.
4. Your mileage may vary
This applies to skincare in general. Human skin is all the same to some extent, but it’s still different enough that no product will ever work for everyone the same way. So don’t blindly follow someone on social media who has great skin and scrubs with diamond dust for 5 hours a day – but at the same time, if there’s someone with similar skin concerns as you, and a particular product worked fantastically for them, then it could be a good starting point.
5. Don’t just exfoliate
How to Get Started
Depending on your skincare routine and how well you know your skin, you may be able to skip some of these steps.