Exfoliating removes impurities including dead skin cells, dirt and oil that dull your skin and steal that healthy, youthful glow from your face. Exfoliation is a part of any good skin care routine, just like cleansing and moisturizing. Let's review the most important things to know about exfoliating your face.
This may surprise you, but one of the best tools for exfoliating your face doesn't come in a small tube from the skin care counter. Use a soft washcloth when you wash your face and you'll not only get cleansing benefits of your daily face wash but you'll also remove oils, dirt, sweat and any dead skin cells that have built up, dulling your complexion. Be sure to use a fresh cloth for each wash and don't share that washcloth with other body parts to avoid spreading bacteria.
Facial brushes work in a similar way but should be used for weekly rather than daily exfoliation. These brushes are available in both manual and battery-powered style -- think of it as the difference between a manual and electric toothbrush -- and work with your cleanser to slough off dead skin cells and impurities.
Facial scrubs are another popular way to exfoliate your face. The best way to choose which scrub is best for you is to base your selection on your skin type as well as the part of your body you want to exfoliate. While you may be tempted to put your body scrub to work on your face, keep in mind that they contain ingredients that are often harsher than facial scrubs and may cause irritation and small abrasions on your face's delicate skin. Also consider how frequently you want to use an exfoliating facial scrub. Daily scrubs are milder than others, and scrubs that contain microbeads are the most gentle compared to other scrubs that contain ingredients such as crushed apricot seeds, salt and sugar. Do-it-yourselfers can whip up an at-home facial scrub with ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen, including oatmeal, milk, olive oil or baking soda.
For those who want to bring in bigger tools for the job, consider a chemical peel. While there was a time when you needed an appointment with your dermatologist to get this type of product, there are now over-the-counter non-prescription versions of peels. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are commonly used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars and other pigmentation. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol options are able to provide more serious treatment of deep wrinkles, as well as freckles, pigmentation and precancerous growths.
And finally, let's talk about what to do after you exfoliate to get the best results; in fact, you may already use this key piece to the exfoliation routine: Moisturizer. While you probably have already figured out that facial moisturizer helps keep your skin hydrated, you might not realize that same moisturizing lotion is also key to the exfoliation process. While exfoliation removes dead skin cells and other impurities, it can also be abrasive -- moisturizer helps keep your skin soft, plump and hydrated by encouraging new, healthy skin cells to grow.
Moisturizers seal moisture in (think of it as a barrier on top of your outermost layer of skin). Some moisturizers also draw water from the air to help replenish the water in your skin; these are called humectants (look for ingredients such as AHAs, for example). There are also emollient moisturizers, which help improve the overall look and feel of your skin by replacing fats (lipids). Emollients, themselves, are often thick and oily, so if your skin is oily or blemish-prone look for noncomedogenic products, because they won't block pores.