Each season brings a wonderful opportunity to examine your skin’s needs and make any needed adjustments. Exfoliation is crucial in our skincare regimen. Being that there are so many misconceptions about how and why to exfoliate, I thought a fall-themed facial scrub and a few tips and tricks would be the perfect accompaniment to transition to autumn.
Why do we need to exfoliate? Dead skin, makeup, oil and free radicals (another term for the yucky pollutants in our air) all take a serious toll on our skin. In fact, as we age we have a slower and slower self-exfoliation rate. When we are kids, our skin does a fabulous job of sloughing off those layers. But as we get older, it gets tougher for our skin to do the job on its own. What happens is our pores end up getting clogged, and our top layers get dull and thick, creating unevenness in our skin tones. So we exfoliate to help our skin do its job!
What Do I Use to Exfoliate?
There are two types of ways we can exfoliate, chemical and physical. Chemical exfoliation uses products containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), such as glycolic acid or lactic acid, and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), such as salicylic acid.
Such compounds help dissolve the bonds that help hold our dead skins together and clog pores that lead to cosmetically displeasing acne break outs. Sometimes you will find them in peels, serums, or even in a facial moisturizer.
Physical exfoliation can be done by your dermatologist or with at-home scrubs wherein certain tools are used to manually scrub off the dead skin and open up pores (i.e. facial scrubs). Both techniques are helpful to incorporate into our weekly routines since they serve different purposes.
I recommend to my facial clients using a physical exfoliant (scrub) about 2-3 times a week. I also like to recommend a chemical exfoliant (alpha hydroxy—all dependent on their age, skin type, sensitivity) to use several times a week as well.
What’s the Right Way to Exfoliate?
For a physical exfoliation you’ll want to start with a clean face. It doesn’t have to be dry if you’ve just washed your face. Take some face scrub in your fingertips and wet your hands slightly. Using your pinky and ring fingers only, gently move in circular motions around your face, avoiding your eye area.
If you are using a scrub that is designed for the body or has salt in it, do not use it on your face. If a scrub is too abrasive it can leave tiny scratches on your skin or break blood vessels. You do not need any extra pressure for the scrub, just moving the scrub around your face is plenty of pressure to get the job done. Wash off with warm water and follow with a moisturizer.
Chemical exfoliants need to be carefully applied based on the product’s instructions. Chemical peels may be irritating and may result in skin rashes, especially in areas on the face where the skin is most delicate and thin (i.e. around the eyes).
Be sure you’ve done a test patch either on the inside of your elbow or behind your ear to test for any skin irritation, burning or rashes. If the peel recommends only 5-10 minutes, don’t assume that leaving it on 10-20 means it’ll work better.
Follow the directions on your serum or moisturizer as well. Some chemical exfoliants are to be used for a few minutes and washed off, others are designed to be applied and left on, like a serum. So read your labels!
Now let’s get to work making our own autumn scrub!
Pumpkin Spice Facial Scrub
- 1 cup brown sugar (the finer the better)
- 1/2 cup jojoba oil for oily skin, or 1/2 cup coconut oil for dry/normal skin
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- oil from a few vitamin E capsules, or 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Apply to clean skin using your ring and pinky fingertips and warm water. Gently move the scrub around your face and neck, avoiding the eye area. Once you’ve done a few rotations over your face, rinse with warm water. Remember, the lighter the pressure the better!
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Rina Mary Allawh, M.D., a dermatologist who performs adult and pediatric medical dermatology, skin cancer treatment and cosmetic 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.216