“I don’t know how to make people realize they need to exfoliate their skin.”
This was something a makeup artist and skin care expert once said to me that never left my brain.
I really wanted to do a whole post on body care but it got really long. (SHOCKING.) So I decided to break it down to what I think is the most important. First up: exfoliating and moisturizing. These are the two biggest factors when caring for your skin anywhere, especially your body. Besides that expert, a few more sources — a cosmetic scientist and a dermatology PA-C — backed this idea up over time.
Our bodies are amazing. They make new skin cells within the layers of our skin and shed off old cells on top all on their own. However, it’s nice to give it a little push. Let’s talk about exfoliation and its sister, moisturizing.
What to use
There’s a few options for body exfoliation from physical exfoliants (like salt or sugar scrubs, or exfoliating tools) or products with chemical exfoliants, all of which will work to break up bonds between skin cells and help to slough them off.
Exfoliating gloves are a quick, easy and cheap option. You can get them at pretty much any drugstore and they work really nice to make you feel silky all over. Like a loofah, they will become a breeding ground for germs and mold. I typically wash and hang-dry mine after use or, if they’re pretty cheap, toss ‘em.
Gloves also are an environmentally friendly option as some sugar or salt-based body scrubs contain microbeads which up in the ocean and harm the life there. If you would prefer a sugar or salt scrub, you can make your own (coconut oil + sugar + some essential oils for fragrance/added benefit) or find an eco-friendly one like Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish. I can attest it works great and makes you smell like an heiress.
For sensitive skin
If your skin is sensitive to manual exfolation like scrubs or gloves, I would stick with chemical exfoliation. Look for body cleansers with alpha hydroxy acids, which gently break up dead skin cells and slough them away. If your prone to breakouts, body washes containing beta hydroxy acids will exfoliate and penetrate into pores to dissolve oil and other stuff that causes backne, chestne and so on.
Bottom line: exfoliating in general will make you feel like royalty.
When and how
The best time to exfoliate is when your skin is soft but before you cleanse. The water should be warm but NOT hot. I know we all love long, hot showers but they will wreak havoc on your skin, removing surface lipids (fatty acids which make our skin feel soft) and allowing moisture to creep out.
Then, I work from my neck down in circular motions. If using gloves, I put a little cleansing oil on them to make my skin feel extra soft. You also can use a moisturizing body wash but I wouldn’t use anything that will strip your skin.
If you shave, after exfoliating is the best time to do so. Not only is your skin its softest but, since you exfoliated, you removed the layer of dead skin on top which will help to prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs.
About those rough areas
While exfoliating, you can concentrate on rough areas like elbows, ankles and knees. Our feet need a lil extra love. They really do take a beating, holding us up all day and carrying us from place to place, which usually leaves the skin on our feet looking worse than the rest of us. Pumice stones offer the easiest results in making your feet silky and soft.
I am obsessed with lava pumice stones. I like this one from Amazon. After your feet are wet and soft, use it circular motions on your roughest parts. As soon as I get out of the shower, I immediately lotion (Lush Softy is really nice) my feet first with a heavy foot cream and put socks on to let everything soak in/protect my feet.
Speaking of moisturizing …
After you get out of the shower, whether you exfoliated or not, you should moisturize your whole body immediately. Think of biology: water moves from higher concentration to a lower. When you come out of the shower, your skin has a higher concentration of water compared to the air so the water on your skin evaporates pretty fast. This makes your skin drier than before you got in the shower. Moisturizing immediately, all over, traps that water and keeps in naturals oils so your skin stays moisturized and soft.
These steps are not complicated and they’re inexpensive. Plus, they only take minutes, unless you want it to be a luxurious, spa-like process. Taking care of yourself is not gender-specific, either, and these tips can benefit anyone.
Besides, you are already going to shower — a few extra steps is a really small price to pay to feel good all over.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT