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Skin Happy

Why body exfoliation could be your next skincare secret weapon

A woman receives a body exfoliation massage as salt is rubbed into her back.
Liz Thompson
Liz Thompson August, 06, 2019

Freelance writer, green beauty expert, coffee drinker, beach bum wannabe

Considered by many to be the ultimate skin smoother, the benefits of body exfoliation go way beyond a simple slough. Hopefully your face isn't the only area getting in on this essential treatment! Once you hear about all the advantages exfoliation offers, it's likely to become an unskippable step in your self-care routine.

You might methodically bust out the body scrub once warm weather — and shorts season — arrives, but this skincare step is a year-round must. Body exfoliation is a hands-on path to softer, firmer, glowing skin, and it delivers the best results when it happens regularly. Sensitive skin types, have no fear; there's something here for everyone!

Why body exfoliation is all that

Aside from resulting in seriously smooth skin, body exfoliation helps diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, brightens skin and makes it look firmer. Your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells (millions every day, actually), but certain factors can cause this process to slow down — things like aging, improper cleansing and moisturization, as well as dry weather, sun damage and, you guessed it, lack of exfoliation. As skin cells build up, dullness, congestion, blemishes and wrinkles often come along for the ride.

As with most skincare routines, body exfoliation is not one size fits all. It's a straightforward process, but it might take some experimentation to find the product and method that works best for your skin.

What products should you look for?

Young woman applying scrub on shoulder, closeupThe most well-known type of exfoliators are the physical sloughers. You probably know them as the main ingredients in body scrubs. They work particularly well on areas of skin that are thicker, such as elbows, legs and feet. Here are a few physical exfoliators you may be familiar with — and might even have in your kitchen this very moment:

  • Sea salt. Lends a super softened and detoxified feel, making it perfect for calloused areas and those with dry, dull skin.

  • Sugar. Perfect for use on the whole body, clearing pores and using its humectant properties to prevent moisture loss.

  • Granulated coffee. Makes skin feel silky smooth (plus, the caffeine has a tightening and toning effect that visibly improves cellulite).

  • Grains. Moisturize and calm the skin while they slough. They're great for those with dry or sensitive skin. A common favorite is oats.

Chemical exfoliants are acids and enzymes that loosen sebum, freeing dead skin cells for removal. These require little to no scrubbing and can be found in body masks, serums and cleansers. These might also be found in your pantry:

  • Glycolic acid in honey. Gives skin a smooth, soft and supple feel.

  • Lactic acid found in yogurt. Gently exfoliates, moisturizes and clears the appearance of acne and clogged pores.

  • Citric acid from citrus fruits. Provides a brightening boost and lightens the appearance of dark spots and discoloration.

  • Malic acid in apples. Works wonders on acne-prone and mature skin.

How often should you exfoliate?

This totally depends on your skin type. If you have dry skin, you'll probably see the best results by exfoliating two to three times each week with a product that contains moisturizing oils as well as sloughing ingredients. Those with sensitive skin should opt for one weekly exfoliation and use gentler ingredients. If you fall somewhere in between, see how your skin handles exfoliation once per week and go from there. Most skin types do best with one or two exfoliations a week.

Let your skin tell you whether it's time to exfoliate. If you notice irritation or have any open cuts or sores, even a gentle exfoliant can exacerbate these problems. Wait until your skin has healed before getting your slough on.

The key to making your efforts last is moisturization. Apply a body oil, lotion or cream daily, even on days you don't exfoliate. Massaging a cream into your feet and hands before bed helps prevent callouses. Who doesn't love waking up to super soft skin?

Need one last reason to get in on the benefits of body exfoliation? It's an absolute essential first step to a smooth, even sunless tanner application. Go ahead and treat your skin!

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