Exfoliation 101 – Your DIY Guide to Exfoliation From Head to Toe

What is it:

Whether for face or body, exfoliating your skin offers many benefits.   Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the skins outermost surface. Incredibly, the human body sheds almost 1 million skin cells per day and while some of these cells naturally slough off, others need to be removed manually or chemically.

Skin Cell Structure
Skin Cell Structure

 

 

The skin has 3 layers, the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous layer. The epidermis is the skins uppermost layer of skin where dead skin cells accumulate.

 

 

 

 

 

Chemical exfoliation involves the application of retinol, enzymes or hydroxy acids to the skin, these methods work by penetrating the upper layer of the skin and by dislodging and dissolving dead skin cells. Manual exfoliation involves the use of an exfoliant (i.e. sugar) to dislodge skin cells.

Why it’s important:

Exfoliating is important because it helps with skin cell turnover, makes skin smoother, reduces the appearance of fine lines, dislodges dirt and oil from pores, detoxes skin, improves skin tone, encourages cell regeneration and reveals beautiful radiant new skin. In fact, according to the Dermatology Clinic & Cosmetic Center, NOT exfoliating can be harmful:

If you allow dead cells to accumulate, you may experience clogged pores, unusual discoloration or pigmentation, and premature aging. Over time, you might begin wondering why your skin looks so dull and lifeless instead of youthful and glowing.

Exfoliation should be done all over your body, including your face, lips, hands, feet and scalp. With so much exfoliating where does one begin? Well, I’ll tell you where I begin. I normally do my scalp and body while I am in the shower and I do my face and lips after my face has been cleansed from makeup.  Although I should pay more attention to my feet, I always seem to forget this area while in the shower so I usually just set aside time each month and make a spa day of it.

I used to see exfoliation as another chore to add to my routine, but now I see it as an opportunity to take care of myself and my skin while gaining some valuable “me time”  in the process.   More often than not, this is the only time that I have to myself to be completely alone and I cherish it, I hope you will too!

 

What to do:  A Closer Look – By Skin Area

So now that I’ve explained what exfoliation is and how it works, let’s take a closer look at each part of the body, the benefits you can expect to see, the natural exfoliants and tools you can use, when to exfoliate what and most importantly, how to do it correctly.

Body Exfoliation

Exfoliating the body helps skin care products penetrate more deeply, results in smoother skin, a smoother shave, eliminates “chicken skin”, helps with dry skin and flakiness, increases circulation, increases cellular regeneration, minimizes the appearance of stretch marks, reduces the appearance of cellulite and is energizing.  After exfoliating I usually follow up with body jelly because it so soothing, for a DIY recipe click here.

Tools

  • Body Brush (dry brushing method)
  • Loofah
  • Mesh sponge
  • Shower body Gloves
  • Hands

Exfoliants

  • Salt Scrubs
  • Sugar Scrubs
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Botanicals
  • Oatmeal
  • Bentonite Clay

How often:  2-4 times per week

How to do it:

Dry Brushing – The body can take more exfoliation than the face and can be done 2-4 times per week. For dry brushing, use a brush designed for the body and use long , upward strokes. Start at your feet moving up one leg at a time. Then move up your torso (brushing both front and back) and across your chest towards your heart. Finish by brushing up your arms toward your armpits. Cleanse in the shower with your favorite soap or body wash using lukewarm water then do a final 20-30 second rinse in cool/cold water. Apply moisturizer, body oil or lotion.

Dry Skin Brushing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loofah/Mesh Sponge/Body Glove – When using loofahs, mesh sponge or body gloves, wet body first then apply product (body wash or soap) directly to exfoliating agent and rub onto body in a circular motion using the same method as the dry brush method, then rinse using lukewarm water. Complete with a final 20-30 second rinse in cool/cold water.

Sugar/Salt based Scrubs -Cleanse well before exfoliating.  Use hands to apply sugar/salt scrubs in the bath or shower then rub massage skin in a circular motion. Always be sure to use a bath mat, especially with oil based scrubs. Rinse well using warm water. Apply moisturizer, body oil or lotion.

     Note: I like to wash with soap first, then use an oil based scrub to exfoliate. I have very dry skin and I find that it helps a great deal with  hydration and moisture retention.

Soap based scrub – a soap based scrub is a handheld scrub made up of an exfoliant, oils, essential oils and soap that has been melted down and molded into a shape (i.e. sugar cube). To use, wet entire body and the scrub cube a bit. Massage body in a circular motion, then rinse.  To make your own soap based scrub click here.  Apply moisturizer, body oil or lotion.

 

Face Exfoliation

For oily skin, exfoliating will remove dead skin cells and excess oil resulting in fewer breakouts and less acne, and for dry skin, removal of dead skin cells will help your moisturizing products penetrate better. For all skin types it makes skin smoother, minimizes pores, helps counteract the effects of aging by reducing the appearance of fine line and wrinkles, exposes radiant new skin, & encourages cell regeneration.

Tools

  • Facial brush
  • Fingertips/Pads of fingers
  • Face exfoliator brush (i.e. Clarisonic)
  • Body Glove
  • Textured Washcloth + facial cleanser

Exfoliants

  • Baking soda
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cornmeal
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Botanicals
  • Nut flours
  • Oatmeal
  • Clay

How often:  Once per week

How to do it:

Dry Brushing – For dry brushing, use a brush designed for the face and use light, gentle strokes. A great discussion of this brushing technique “The Specific Road Map” along with directions can be found at http://www.skin-brushing.com/facebrushing/

The Specific  “Road Map” Face Brushing Technique

 1) Décolleté: brush towards your lymph area from shoulders and breast area inwards.

2) Neck – brush upwards the middle and sides (towards the chin and ears). Brush lightly under your entire chin in short strokes to help firm the skin and bring it stimulation (this area can sag as we age).

3) Chin – Use inverted U strokes on your chin

4) Cheeks – Make circular motions up and outwards, and then back to where you started

5) Upper lip – Start in the center and lightly brush outwards, to the left on your left side, from the middle to your right on the right side.

6) Nose – make small circular motions on your nose tip. Then move lightly up your nose to the middle of brow area.

7) Around the eyes – Lightly stroke upward and around your brows, encircling the eyes lightly in a circular motion as shown above.

8) Finally, end at the forehead. Start in the middle and move right on your right side and leftwards on your left side.

** After you have dry brushed, rinse with water and then apply your favorite moisturizer or serum to hydrate.  It is  recommended that you drink a glass of water after this treatment to help flush toxins.

 

Face Brushing Map
Face Brushing Directional Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrubs – Cleanse your face  first, then using hands, apply exfoliant direct to face and rub gently in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes. .   Rinse well warm water, then splash 20-30 seconds with cold water. Finish with facial serum and/or moisturizer.

Body Glove – I know what you’re thinking. Probably not the most ideal way to exfoliate your face, but sometimes I just like handling all my exfoliation at once.   I keep an extra set of body gloves in the shower just for this purpose. I make sure to rinse them very well after each use and I wash them frequently. With this method, no other exfoliant is needed. I apply my cleanser directly to the gloves, rub my hands together to build up a foam, then rub VERY gently (these are made for the body afterall) in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes. Finish with facial serum and/or moisturizer.

Textured Washcloth – This is simplest and most gentle method of all. On the days that I’m not doing a deep exfoliation, I use this method for a very light exfoliation and cleanse.   Apply cleanser to face. Use a washcloth to exfoliate gently in a circular motion.  Rinse well, then apply facial moisturizer. For a deeper exfoliation, try adding a 1/2 teaspoon or so of baking soda to the cleanser. Finish with facial serum and/or moisturizer. 

Bentonite Clay – very mild exfoliator. Great when you also want the benefits of a mask. Simply mix equal amounts of clay and water or apple cider vinegar to form a spreadable paste. Apply in a circular motion to face and let dry for 15-20 minutes. When dry, rinse well with warm water rubbing in a circular motion to remove. Remove any remaining residue with toner, witch hazel or apple cider vinegar. Finish with facial serum and/or moisturizer.

For a gentle, softening DIY facial scrub recipe click here and for a gentle exfoliating bentonite clay mask recipe click here. The most important thing to remember is to follow up with a facial moisturizer for your skin type. You can use a lotion or cream, my preference is facial oil. Don’t know which oil to use? For more information on how to select an oil for your skin type, including oily, click here.

Lip Exfoliation

Exfoliating your lips helps to remove dead skin cells which will result in softer lips and a reduction of dry chapped lips.

Tools

  • Washcloth
  • Soft bristled toothbrush
  • Fingertips/Pads of fingers

Exfoliants

  • Baking Soda
  • Sugar
  • Cornmeal
  • Coffee Grounds

How often – 1-2 times per week

How to do it – Use washcloth with oil (try olive or almond) or toothbrush dipped in baking soda to rub lips gently in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes. Rinse well, pat dry, then apply a moisturizing lip balm. For a lip scrub using sugar, cornmeal or coffee grounds, mix 2tsp exfoliant with 2 tsp of oil. Using pads of finger tips, apply scrub rub gently for 1-2 minutes. Rinse well, pat dry, then apply a moisturizing lip balm. My favorite is this DIY lip balm or the same DIY jelly I use for my body. You can also use a 50/50 blend of sugar and oil and 2-3 drops of an essential oil.  With this method, mix your ingredients well, then apply to lips with fingertips and rub gently in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes.  Rinse well, pat dry, then apply a moisturizing lip balm.

Scalp Exfoliation

Exfoliating the scalp on a regular basis is essential especially if you have a dandruff or an itchy scalp.  By exfoliating your scalp you will remove dead skin and dandruff, detox your scalp, dissolve dirt and bacteria, remove hair product build up, stimulate hair growth and relieve itchiness.

shampoo-brush

 

 

 

 

 

Tools

  • Pads of fingers – fingertips
  • Shampoo massage brush

Exfoliants

  • Sugar
  • Baking soda

How often:  1-2 times per month.

How to do it :

Before you  wash your hair, combine 3TB sugar (brown or white) with 1 1/2 TB of oil and 2-3 drops essential oil , if preferred, and mix well.    Part hair in sections and apply scrub to scalp in each section until entire scalp is coated. Massage scalp for 1-2 minutes with fingertips in a circular motion then shampoo and condition as usual. Alternately, you can add a tsp of baking soda to your shampoo or to your conditioner or you can even add 1/2 tsp to the scrub.  Another way to exfoliate your scalp is by using a shampoo brush.   With this method all you is apply your shampoo and use the brush to rub, massage and exfoliate your scalp.

Hand Exfoliation

The hands are the most used and exposed part of the body.  It is no wonder that can get worn and tired looking very quickly.  Have  you ever heard the saying that you can tell a person’s age by looking at their hands?  Exfoliating  your hands will help to smooth and soften them as well as to help reduce the signs of aging such as, age spots, lines and wrinkles.

Tools

  • Body Brush
  • Loofah
  • Mesh sponge
  • Hands

Exfoliants

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cornmeal
  • Oatmeal

How often: 3-4 times per week

How to do it:

In the shower

After exfoliating body in the shower or bath with a scrub move to your hands . Rub gently in a circular motion making sure to get knuckles and in between fingers. Rinse well, then apply moisturizer or body jelly.

Hand soak: Fill a hand bath or bucket with warm water and ½ cup of baking soda and let your hands soak for 15 minutes. Apply an exfoliating scrub and rub the front and back of hands in a circular motion paying particular attention to the area between the fingers. Rinse well, then apply then apply moisturizer or body jelly.

Foot Exfoliation

Just like our hands, our feet get tired, worn out and beaten down as well.  Most of us don’t care for our feet as well as we should especially in those winter months when no one will see them. This can result in the build up dead skin on the soles of the feet which lead to painful corns and calluses.  Regular exfoliation can help reduce or eliminate these problems and leave you with soft, smooth and silky feet.

Tools

  • Body Brush
  • Loofah
  • Mesh sponge
  • Pumice Stone (for the soles of the feet)
  • Hands

Exfoliants

  • Salt Scrubs (salt + oil)
  • sugar Scrubs (sugar + oil)
  • Coffee Grounds + oil
  • Salt and/or baking soda + oil
  • Epsom Salt

 

How often: 3-4 times per week

How to do it:

In the shower: Be extra careful if you Before getting out of the shower, use a pumice stone to slough off dry skin. Rub across the soles in a circular motion. Alternately, if not done in the shower, soak feet for about 15 minutes to soften skin, then use a pumice stone or scrub. After shower apply moisturizer. I like to do this at night. For feet, I like to apply a thick moisturizer, body butter or body jelly and then put on a pair of socks.

Foot soak: if you neglect your feet sometimes like I do, this is the way to go. Fill a foot bath or bucket with warm water and ½ cup of baking soda and let your feet soak for 15 minutes. Use a pumice stone to slough off dry skin in a circular motion paying particular attention to the heels, then rinse and wash.  Alternately, you can also use a sugar/salt scrub.  Afterwards, apply a thick moisturizer, body butter or body jelly and then put on a pair of socks.

Wrapping Up

As you can see from the list of exfoliants, there are numerous ways to craft an effective exfoliating product for yourself.  I encourage you to experiment to find your personal preference.  I generally use a variety of methods depending on how much time I have,  what I have on hand and what I feel my skin is crying out for.

 

Exoliation Chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes

Sugar Soap Scrub Cubes

Cornmeal Oat Face Scrub

Chocolate Mint Lip Scrub

Brown Sugar Mint Scalp scrub

Honey Lemon Hand Scrub

Coco Mint Sugar Foot Scrub

Sweet Orange & Honey Lip Balm

Body Jelly

 

 

Resources

https://thedermatologyclinic.com/tips-for-effective-skin-exfoliating/

http://www.skin-brushing.com/facebrushing/

Photo Credit

http://www.skin-brushing.com/facebrushing/

http://flowingfree.org/discover-what-skin-brushing-can-do-for-your-health-and-complexion/

http://www.nuaholistic.com/dry-skin-brushing.html

 

 

 

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