Exfoliation is a sensitive subject: you want glowing skin, but all you get is redness and irritation. You want a brighter complexion and smoother texture, but you don’t know whether to go for a physical or a chemical exfoliant.
It can be confusing, but when you incorporate it in your skincare routine correctly, exfoliating can be super beneficial. It removes dead skin cells so newer ones can surface, resulting in softer, smoother, and brighter skin. It also deeply cleanses sebum (oil build-up) and impurities from your pores, which means fewer blackheads, whiteheads and breakouts. On top of that, it helps the rest of your skincare products absorb much better, so they can work more effectively.
The problem is, when done incorrectly, it can trigger both short and long term damage. So, knowing the major do’s and don’t of exfoliation is important. Once you’ve got the absolute basics down about how to exfoliate your skin properly, here are the top 10 things to always keep in mind when adding it to your weekly routine:
1. DO go for chemical exfoliants over physical, for any skin type
There are two types of exfoliants: chemical and physical. Physical exfoliators work by using ground up granules (like fruit pits, nutshells or sugar) to buff away dead skin mechanically. Note: the more coarse the particle, the more harmful it is for your skin.
Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, use chemicals (acids and enzymes) to gently dissolve dead skin by breaking the bonds that hold these cells together. Contrary to popular belief, this can be much gentler and safer for your skin, since they don’t involve aggressive rubbing and tugging.
2. DO only exfoliate at night
When you exfoliate, you are exposing a fresh layer of skin. This means your skin is now vulnerable and sensitive. If you exfoliate during the day, your skin is more prone to sun damage than usual. It’s safer to exfoliate at night to minimise your skin’s exposure to the sun and to let it heal while you sleep.
3. DO wear sunscreen
You should always apply SPF in general, but it is especially important post-exfoliation. Your skin will remain sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays for a few days after exfoliating, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
4. DO continue your AM and PM routine as normal
When buffing away dead skin cells, you are also buffing away part of your skin’s barrier function. This is what helps keep it healthy and hydrated! So, just like SPF, you always need to follow exfoliation with your regular skincare routine, including toner, serum, and most importantly, moisturiser. This will ensure you restore your skin’s moisture barrier and it will keep your skin from drying out.
5. DO exfoliate your body too!
Dead skin cells are everywhere! Just like your face, the rest of your body needs exfoliating. Aside from smoothing your limbs, this also means you can tackle body acne – say bye to pesky backne!
1. DON’T over-exfoliate (once or twice a week is enough!)
It’s tempting to want bright, smooth skin, every single day. But it’s important not over-exfoliate because you can permanently damage your skin’s barrier function which serves to protect it from the elements and prevent moisture loss.
This can lead to skin dehydration, redness and peeling, and can ultimately make acne worse. It can also cause irritation because you keep removing the top layer of skin before the fresh layer can heal. Stick to exfoliating just once or twice a week, and definitely do not exfoliate every day.
2. DON’T exfoliate after bleach, peel or laser treatments
One major rule to stick to when exfoliating is: be gentle with your skin. Don’t ever exfoliate if you’ve recently undergone any type of laser treatments or chemical peel facial (which are maximum-strength exfoliants). This will be far too harsh on your skin and can cause permanent damage. Additionally, bear in mind that waxing is a form of exfoliation, as it can strip the top layer of your skin.
3. DON’T keep exfoliating if it causes redness or irritation
If your skin feels sensitive or tender, becomes red or flakey, or stings after exfoliating, stop immediately! You could be causing more harm than good. Give your skin a break for a week or so, then attempt exfoliating again, but make sure you do your research and use the right method of exfoliation for your skin type.
4. DON’T apply too much pressure
Especially when you’re exfoliating mechanically. Be cautious and listen to your skin and how it’s reacting, and always be as gentle as you can. There is no reason to exert pressure or scrub vigorously to exfoliate effectively, and this can actually lead to micro-tearing.
5. DON’T rinse off a chemical exfoliant
There is no need to rinse a chemical exfoliant off, as it actually takes a while for the ingredients to work and dissolve dead skin cells. Let it sit on your skin for at least 15-30 minutes post-exfoliation (which is also why we recommend to only exfoliate at night) and don’t forget to follow with your PM skincare routine.
Exfoliating is tricky business, but when done right it can do wonders for your skin. Just make sure to always pay attention to how your skin is feeling and reacting, so you’re getting the most out of it and not damaging your skin beyond repair.
P.S. if you’re on the hunt for a super gentle chemical exfoliant, try out our brand new Clean Slate Exfoliating Pads, powered by clean, plant-based ingredients! Check it out below.
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