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Everything You Need to Know About Exfoliating Your Body

Soft, summer-ready skin doesn't happen on its own. After months of cold, dry conditions, your body is likely in need of a buff, polish and brightening treatment before coming out of hibernation. Luckily, the key to achieving instantly softer, fresher and even more hydrated skin—from head to toe—requires just one simple task: exfoliation.

A regular body exfoliation routine is essential to skin health on more than one level. Sloughing off dead cells not only helps to promote cell turnover and reveal softer and more even-toned skin; it can also help prevent breakouts, reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, stimulate blood flow and the lymphatic system and even improve the absorption of the other products in your regimen.

Keep scrolling to learn about the best practices, products and protocols for supple, healthy skin all year round. 

“When cell turnover is sluggish and slow, it leads to a buildup of dead skin cells which in turn can leave the skin looking dull and dry."

Benefits of exfoliation

Prevents breakouts and acne

By sloughing away dead and dry skin, along with dirt and debris, exfoliation keeps pores clear and congestion-free, preventing the formation of whiteheads and blackheads while  helping to treat acne. Regular exfoliation can also prevent ingrown hairs. 

Promotes cell turnover 

Healthy cell turnover not only helps to reveal newer, brighter, and more even-toned skin; it can also help to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, and make the skin feel smoother and softer.  

Stimulates collagen production

Collagen is essential to skin strength and elasticity, giving the skin a fuller, plumper and smoother appearance. By removing the surface layer of dead cells, the skin is triggered into producing new cells which helps stimulate new collagen production.

Evens skin tone and reduces hyperpigmentation

Dark spots, hyperpigmentation, melasma and discoloration left behind by blemishes are all forms of excess melanin. Exfoliation helps to break up these pigmented cells and slough them off, revealing a brighter and more even complexion.

Boosts circulation and the lymphatic system

Exfoliation promotes blood flow to the skin, which can help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells, improving the overall health of your skin and making it look brighter and more radiant. Exfoliation can also help to improve lymphatic drainage, which is the process by which waste products and toxins are excreted from the body. 

Helps other skincare products work more effectively

By removing dead superficial skin cells, exfoliation allows moisture and the active ingredients in your skincare to be better absorbed, work more quickly and be more effective. 

“By removing the surface layer of dead cells, the skin is triggered into producing new cells which helps stimulate new collagen production."

Different types of exfoliants for the body

When it comes to body exfoliators, products are usually broken up into scrubs using physical exfoliants, washes using chemical exfoliants and leave-on body lotions and serums containing enzymes or acids.

Physical exfoliants

Physical exfoliants use granules, beads or particles to physically remove dead skin cells. These can be made with natural ingredients, such as sugar, salt, volcanic pumice or ground seed and nut shells. It’s always important to use a gentle scrub as harsh exfoliants can lead to micro tears in the skin. 

Chemical exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants use chemical compounds, such as fruit enzymes, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). Exfoliants that contain enzymes work on the surface of the skin by breaking down keratin proteins on the outermost layer of the skin. Once these protein structures have been broken down, it becomes much easier to slough off those hard to remove skin cells. If you want your exfoliant to penetrate beyond the top layer of skin, reach for an exfoliant that contains AHAs or BHAs. 

AHAs

Examples are lactic and glycolic acid, which are natural, water-soluble exfoliants that penetrate deeper into the skin, removing dead skin and promoting the regeneration of new cells. While suitable for all skin types, AHAs gentler exfoliating nature means that they are often recommended for those with dryer skin in hopes of avoiding irritation. If using a body lotion or serum with exfoliating action, apply after showering or last thing at night and allow them to work while you sleep. AHAs can cause a mild tingling sensation due to their low pH, so do not apply them to freshly shaved skin.

BHAs

Like AHAs, BHAs, such as salicylic acid, are derived from natural ingredients, but are oil soluble. This means that they are able to penetrate deeper into the skin, targeting excess oil and sebum within the pores. BHAs are also antibacterial so they’re ideal for those who are prone to breakouts and acne. 

Dry brushing

This is another technique that can be used for body exfoliation. This involves using a dry brush made with natural bristles to slough off dead skin. Dry brushing also helps to improve blood circulation, promote lymphatic drainage and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.

“Exfoliation also improves the effects of topical serums, lotions, and moisturizers by removing dead skin cells,  and opening the pores and enhancing absorption.”

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