I went on vacation to a recently hotel where they didn’t provide any hand or body lotion, and I hadn’t packed my tried and true skincare buddies. After a few days, when I got on the plane to go home, I noticed that my legs were quite dry and itchy. And when I looked at my black pants and socks at home, they were full of…well…there is no nice way to put this..littls bits of dry skin that looked like dandruff….Oh yes, it was pretty gross. And while I’d moisturized my face, it too, was a bit dull without my usual skin care routine.
The first thing I knew I needed to do, was a thorough exfoliation of my skin, to get rid of the rest of the dry, dead, scaly skin that was just sitting on the surface, sloughing off bit by bit, by itself. And then I had to use some really great moisturizers on a regular basis, and for some time, to bring my skin back to a normal state.
When it comes to your face, the build up of dry, dead cells on the surface of your skin not only dulls your natural glow, it can make fine lines and wrinkles a lot more obvious and on your body, the itching and flakes are really a bad thing. A rough, uneven surface also prevents moisturizers, serums and other treatments from penetrating the upper layers of the skin. So exfoliation of face and body really is a must-do, and it should be done on a regular basis. But as someone who has tried and reviewed literally dozens and dozens of face and body exfoliators over the the years, I also know that exfoliation done wrong, can do as much damage as it is meant do to “good.”
According to dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY. “The key is not to exfoliate with harsh products or a heavy hand.” In fact, according to Dr. Graf, rather than “shrinking” pore size, using harsh, gritty products and/or overusing exfoliators with low pH acidic ingredients can also lead to pores that look larger!
Here are some of Dr. Graf’s tips on how to do facial exfoliation without irritating your skin (and much of this goes for body exfoliation as well):
For light, superficial exfoliation, do choose gentle exfoliating scrubs and cleansers, such as formulas with rounded microbeads to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells. Abrasive ingredients such as apricot pits and walnut shells and overusing low pH acidic ingredients can injure the skin, increasing the enzymes that degrade collagen. When collagen is damaged, the skin’s structural support is weakened. And when skin loses this support, pores expand and appear larger. Harsh ingredients can also cause micro-tears in the skin and damage capillaries.
For brightening , line-smoothing and/or oil-control, consider at-home peels with ingredients such as fruit enzymes, alpha hydroxy acids such as Glycolic acid or Lactic acid, or beta hydroxy acids such as Salicylic acid. Along with dissolving the bonds that hold dead skin cells together, which helps to increase cell turnover for smoother skin, peels can also help to control excess oil and brighten skin tone.
Use a light hand with exfoliating tools. Sonic and rotating brushes help to work up a glow and give skin a smooth finish by buffing away dead surface cells. These spin-brushes are also especially effective for dislodging dirt and oil from pores for an efficient deep cleanse. The trick is to choose a brush head that’s best for your skin type, whether you have acne or your skin is sensitive. *the Advice Sisters recently did a review of the Clarisonic Mia, considered one of the best on the market.
Don’t exfoliate skin that is irritated and don’t exfoliate more than once or twice a week. This seems pretty obvious, but if you’ve squeezed pimples (and you know you really shouldn’t) or you’ve been sunburned (and you know you shouldn’t do that either–read this very important Advice Sisters feature on Sun Protection with more advice from Dr. Graf), or you’ve shaved your legs right before you plan to exfoliate, all of these are not good times to use a scrub on your skin.
Drink water – To keep your skin’s own natural exfoliation process running smoothly, drink plenty of water—with a squeeze of lemon whenever possible—and eat an alkalinizing diet. This helps to balance your body’s pH level, which improves the skin’s enzyme function among other benefits. When your skin’s enzyme function is balanced, this in turn helps to normalize your natural exfoliation process. Overall, you want to eat a colorful Mediterranean diet both high in fiber and rich in Omega fatty acids, which includes food such as halibut, salmon, olive oil, flaxseeds, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens and winter squash. Alkalinizing grains include oats, wild rice and quinoa. Examples of alkalinizing fruits are apples, pears, blackberries, cantaloupe and grapes. Not only will natural exfoliation be more efficient, your skin will also glow as an alkalinizing food plan also improves blood flow to the skin.
*about Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D. – Dr. Graf is well known for her lifestyle and nutritional approach to skin care. A former fellow of NIH, Dr. Graf is consistently featured in national publications and scientific journals for her dermatology, skin science and anti-aging expertise. Dr. Graf is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in NY, and is the author of the best-selling book, Stop Aging, Start Living, in which she recognizes the impact of pH balance on the way we look and feel. For more information please visit www.askdrgraf.com .
The Advice Sisters have reviewed a LOT of exfoliators for face, and for body. We have tons of reviews and recommendations of them in our Beauty Column archives on this advicesisters web site and even more reviews of products going back to 1999 in our What Works Beauty, Fashion and and Lifestyles archives. There are exfoliators with every type of scent (or unscented), natural and not, in different types of packaging, and with textures to suit your personal taste. But once you have sloughed off all those dead, dry skin cells, it is important to moisturize that newly-exposed skin surface. Again, there are so many choices! Check our archives, or if you want a bit of an adventure, just go to your local drugstore and poke around on the shelves
Today, being mindful of the fact that many people are still struggling with holiday bills, I’m suggesting two body-centric moisturizers that are inexpensive, and yet quite pleasant and effective!
One brand that has always been fun to use and very affordable is GUD from Burts Bees. The Advice Sisters first reviewed this fun line in January 2102. The line features hair, body and hand care in budget-friendly, nicely scented products that are nicely packaged in plastic pump bottles, tubes and jars, with colorful graphics. There are no phthlates, petrochemicals or parabens (naturally) and none of the products are tested on animals. The products are just pampering and fun, but they’re also good for your skin. The fragrances were developed with fragrance expert Roger Schmidt, and the famed fragrance house of Givaudan. New to the line, is Mango Moonbreeze, touted as feeling like you’re “on a tropical retreat at twilight on a moonlit island.” While I wouldn’t go that far, top notes of nectarine. lemon, plum and bergamot stand out while mid notes of black currant, pineapple, strawberry, apple. mango and jasmine fill your nostrils with a lighthearted fruit basket of fun, and bottom notes of musk and white woods keep the cocktail from being too crazy, and add a sensual touch. Since the products are all just $6.99 (Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash and Body Lotion) you can’t go wrong. I’m suggesting the Body Lotion as a light and easy way to get through these dark days of Winter. Super hydrating shea butter is the third ingredient in this product, and while shea butter can be heavy, it’s not in this body lotion. The lotion absorbed quickly and even though my skin was flaky, after exfoliating and using the GUD Mango Moonbreeze Natural Body Lotion, the flakes subsided quickly and my skin went back to normal. Not bad! Get GUD from Burts Bees a drug, grocery and mass market retailers and on gudhappens.com
Another inexpensive super hydrator is Suave Advanced Therapy Body Lotion (srp. $9.99 18 fl. oz.) with vitamins and glycerin to help heal even severely dry with a Dermatologist tested formula. There’s nothing fancy about this product in terms of scent (none, really) or packaging. It’s in a a plain white lotion in a pump bottle with a silver cap. But fancy packaging and nice scents are not the only reason to choose one product over another. Inf act, after I returned from my trip where the hotel left me literally “dry” to the point where I was scratching it on the plane coming home. I chose this product to use first on my skin. The Suave Body lotion took a little longer to absorb than some lotions, and honestly, it felt a bit sticky at first, but it also kept the flakes from falling everywhere, and it soothed the itch, immediately. After a few days, this lotion, plus gentle exfoliation, brought my skin back to life. For under $10.00, the generously sized bottle gets my vote for a good, budget-minded choice for the entire family. You can get Suave products in your local mass market retailers and drug stores, and since this one is a large bottle, you’ll be able to slather away without worrying that you’ll blow your budget on having to purchase another bottle next month, too! *Suave just came out with a new line of Suave Natural Infusions shampoos and conditioners–watch for the review, coming soon. For more information visit: http://www.suave.com/