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How to exfoliate skin and get a smooth, radiant and glowing skin at any age

The Happy Sage purchased the recommended products mentioned in this article.

a woman exfoliating her face

What is exfoliation?

Exfoliation is a way of removing dead skin cells and dirt from the top layer of your skin. You can exfoliate the skin on your face and your body.

What are the benefits of exfoliating the face?

Exfoliating helps refine the surface of the skin by removing dead skin cells. It helps to:

  • unclog skin pores

  • boost facial circulation

  • stimulate collagen to help firm the skin and keep it flexible

  • allow any skincare product you put on afterwards to penetrate and work better

Exfoliating will usually leave the complexion looking brighter and more youthful. It will also refine the surface of the skin so that any make-up sits better on a more even surface,

How do you exfoliate skin?

There are different ways you can exfoliate your skin:

  • with a mechanical aid, such as an oscillating brush on the face or dry brushing on body skin

  • with a special cleansing cloth (see Baie Botanique Dual Action Face Cloth Review)

  • with a konjac sponge (made from vegetable root)

  • with a face scrub product

  • with a chemical product, such as one containing AHA's or BHA's

  • with products containing retinol which refine pores and skin and can be said to be a form of exfoliation, however never use a retinol product and exfoliate as well or you may end up with a retinol skin burn (see How to Heal a Retinol Skin Burn)

Should I exfoliate or cleanse first?

Definitely cleanse! If you exfoliate without cleaning off your makeup you are just pushing makeup into your pores. Even if you don't wear makeup you still have grease and dirt on your skin from the day along with dead skin cells. You should thoroughly cleanse the face before exfoliating.

How often should I exfoliate?

This depends on your skin and the products that you are using.

Exfoliating sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin then try using a cleansing cloth. Baie Botanique do an excellent double sided cleansing cloth with a soft terry like material made from bamboo on one side and muslin on the other. Use the soft side to clean makeup off with a gentle cleanser and the muslin side to gently exfoliate.

Sensitive skins can also try Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator from Green People with pineapple enzymes and bamboo stem. It gently illuminates and brightens the dullest skin and contains multiple active additives as well as regenerating rosehip oil. It's tiny exfoliating particles gently refine the skin without scratching and leaving small tears. Don't rub hard whilst exfoliating - use a gentle circular motion and rinse face in warm, not hot, water and pat dry.

Exfoliating super sensitive skin

If you have super sensitive skin you may still be able to exfoliate successfully by putting a small amount of cream cleanser on your face first and then applying a gentle facial scrub product (such as Green People's Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator) on top of the cream cleanser. Rub very gently in small circular motions and splash the products off with warm warm and pat dry. Make sure you moisturise afterwards.

Exfoliating normal skin

Normal skin can exfoliate more frequently. Be led by how your skin feels, if it feels relatively smooth then maybe just use a muslin cleansing cloth (try Baie Botanique's dual action cloth) or a facial scrub such a Sukin's Revitalising Face Scrub with bamboo extract, walnut shell powder, rosehip and jojoba oils and lavender, tangerine and mandarin essential oils. You don't want to be exfoliating for the sake of it or you will just irritate your skin and make it red and sore.

Exfoliating oily/combination skin

If you have an oily or combination skin then you could try an exfoliator containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid. do a good range of exfoliators containing various ingredients to help gently exfoliate and decongest pores to help prevent spots and acne.

Should you exfoliate mature skin?

Absolutely! As you get older, the skin cell turnover slows down so exfoliating is key to helping you keep radiant, smooth and glowing skin. There is no upper age limit to exfoliating as long as you are using the right products for your skin type.

When shouldn't you exfoliate?

As great as facial exfoliation is there are times when it is just not appropriate, such a:

  • you have cystic acne or really bad acne. Exfoliation can often make the situation worse so if you suffer from bad acne then see your Dr before using any exfoliating products. They may recommend a form of retinoid cream for you which will have a similar effect.

  • if you have a cold sore (see How to get Rid of a Cold Sore Naturally).

  • If you have sunburn

  • If you have rosacea

  • If you have an infection, cut or open wound on your face

  • if you have previously exfoliated and your skin feels tight, stings when applying products or is red or irritated (you may have over exfoliated - treat skin as for a retinol skin burn until healed

What do you do after exfoliation?

Moisturise! Rinse your face with warm water and pat (don't rub) your face dry with a soft towel. You need to apply your moisturiser whilst the skin is still damp to lock the water in. If you exfoliate at night the product you use on your face will get chance to work better. If you exfoliate in the morning then you will find that you get a great base for makeup.

Moisturising after exfoliating at night

At night I often use Aurelia Cell Repair Night Oil after exfoliating (see review of Cell Repair Night Oil). You wake up with soft plumped skin after exfoliating and using this fabulous face oil at night.

Moisturising after exfoliating in the morning

If I exfoliate in the morning I'll either use an oil, such as Neal's Yard Argan Oil on my face or Green People's Vita Min Fix 24 Hour Cream with baicalin which is clinically proven to protect and extend cell life, perfect for applying after exfoliating. Dr Organic's Rose Otto Intensive Daily Treatment Day Cream is also very good (available from Holland and Barrett).

One word of caution though. If you exfoliate on a regular basis make sure you wear a moisturiser or foundation with SPF in it to protect your skin against the sun.

Once you have a perfect base, take a look at a great natural liquid foundation you an use with hyaluronic acid by Inika Organic.

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