You've probably heard your fair share about exfoliation and all its skin-saving benefits. It's true that whether you exfoliate chemically or physically, you're supporting cell turnover by sloughing off the remnants of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin and revealing younger, brighter skin underneath.
Meet the experts
Joelle O’Connor, Skin Care Specialist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New Jersey
Tahl N. Humes, M.D., Medical Director and founder of VITAHL Medical Aesthetics
Olivia Rose, N.D., Naturopathic doctor and founder of Reliv Organics
Best Ways to Exfoliate
"When we exfoliate, we are getting rid of the dead skin cells that can potentially cause acne breakouts and blackheads as well as accentuate fine lines and wrinkles," explains skincare specialist Joelle O’Connor.
Chemical and mechanical exfoliation are excellent ways to stimulate cell renewal as we age. They use skin-friendly natural acids, such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), to loosen the bonds between the dead surface layers and the newer, more radiant skin underneath, O'Connor explains. This dissolves the dead skin cells without the use of abrasive force and its associated irritation.
Physical exfoliators, on the other hand, work manually to remove the dead skin cells and other debris from the surface of your skin. "Physical exfoliators in skincare products generally take the form of an abrasive scrub or paste containing things like crushed nut shells, sugar, salt, or jojoba beads," O'Connor says. "Gentler forms of physical exfoliators contain enzymes from fruits like papaya and pineapple as well as finely grained rice powder."
During the winter months, Dr. Tahl N. Humes recommends a gentle chemical exfoliant over a manual one. "It’s less harsh than a grainy scrub or rough brush," she says. "Chemical exfoliation will stimulate collagen production, minimize fine lines, and lift hyperpigmentation."
We need both in our regimen, so we've rounded up some great ways you can exfoliate at home to reveal fresher, healthier skin.
10 Best Natural Skin Exfoliators
A wonderful choice when you want a good overall body exfoliation, salt can eliminate the rough, dry patches of dead skin. This Citrus Salt Scrub is one option, while a Papaya Sea Salt Scrub might be your preference. If you’re looking for a scrub designed for hands, check out this Sea Salt Hand Scrub to help with dry skin, calluses, and cuticles.
And lastly, but not to be forgotten, salt can be used as the perfect scrub for your feet, a requisite place to exfoliate with a scrub.
Keep in mind that some people with sensitive skin or breaks in their skin will experience a burning sensation from a salt exfoliator, so it isn’t for everyone all the time.
If you're looking for an effective exfoliant that’s gentle enough for your face or other sensitive skin areas, you'll want to use something finer than salt, as it can be a little too abrasive. This Pumpkin Sugar Facial Scrub is both simple to make and delightful on your skin.
Sugar can also be used to exfoliate your body, especially if you tend to shave your legs and scrub at the same time. That’s a good time to choose sugar over salt to avoid the expected sting. You could try out this Pineapple Sugar Body Scrub or consider a Mango Body Scrub to see which scent appeals to you. And never to be forgotten are your lips because they need exfoliation, too.
If your skin tends to lean to the sensitive side, you might want to check out the gentle effectiveness of organic oats as a physical exfoliant. The key to using oats is to grind them in a food processor prior to using. "You need to grind them to the consistency of fine flour so you are not rubbing the whole grains on the body, which can be very irritating," says O'Connor. "You can mix it with coconut oil to make a nice paste and gently massage it into your skin in circular motions."
4. Apples + Apple Cider Vinegar
Alpha-hydroxy acids are extremely beneficial for loosening dead cells and revealing the new skin beneath [source]. Malic acid, found in apples, is a fantastic choice for an exfoliating mask. This Apple Cider Vinegar Peel is also an option to use as a chemical exfoliant.
One of naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose's favorite physical exfoliants is something you probably drink every morning: coffee. "Not only does it help your skin maintain its hydration level and offer UVA and UVB protection, but caffeic acid has been shown to reduce the signs of premature aging and support healthy collagen production," she says.
Ground coffee can treat cellulite as an exfoliant or be molded into cubes to battle stretch marks. Feet can also benefit from a thorough scrubbing with coffee grounds—who knew!? Add a drop or two of peppermint essential oil to help with achy feet and add a fresh, natural scent.
6. Exfoliating Bars
When combining body and skincare tasks, exfoliating does not always have to be a separate step in the shower. You can easily create an Exfoliating Soap Bar that is gentle on the skin, using ingredients like seeds, cornmeal, coffee, or oats.
Or using a Soap and Scrub Cube made ahead of time with your favorite ingredients is a simple way to exfoliate your body in the bath or shower.
The lactic acid in milk can quickly go to work to remove dead skin cells [source]. To use it on your face, pour a small amount of milk onto your palm and massage it into your skin. You can also combine whole milk with a whipped egg for dry skin or add aloe vera for sensitive skin.
Yogurt masks are an excellent and relaxing way to exfoliate. Get head-to-toe milk benefits by adding 2–4 cups of plain, unsweetened yogurt to your bath water.
For a gentle exfoliation, try ground flaxseeds, which are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds also help hydrate and are safe for acne-prone skin [source]. Add a tablespoon or two to this super soft daily cleanser.
9. Baking Soda
One of the most versatile items you probably already have in your home is baking soda. It can be used to lighten underarms, to make deodorant, in a bath soak, or to whiten your teeth. This easy cleanser recipe is great for all skin types. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into your facial cleanser or make a paste of just baking soda and honey.
The texture of ground rice is gentle enough to be used on the face and the body. We especially liked the feel of this oil-free pre-tan body polish and face scrub (plus, it tastes amazing).
No matter how you choose to exfoliate your skin, make sure it's a part of your routine!
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.839