MAR 18 2016

Physical Exfoliants: Your Cleanser's BFF

Given that we've been focusing on cleansers this month, we can't forget exfoliants. The two go hand in hand: you want to use a physical exfoliant before using your cleanser. By exfoliating first, you get a deeper cleanse, more efficient delivery of active ingredients and more robust cell renewal. Why am I calling it "physical" exfoliation? To distinguish from "chemical" exfoliation. "Physical" exfoliation is when we use some type of rough material - grains, beads, loofahs or brushes. By rubbing these materials against the skin, we buff away the layer of dead skin cells, and newer skin is revealed when we rinse off. "Chemical" exfoliation occurs when we use fruit enzymes, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, or retinoids (I'll discuss chemical exfoliation in a later post). 

Dr Harold Lancer, the renowned Beverly Hills dermatologists who counts everyone from Kim Kardashian to Victoria Beckham as a patient, provides my favorite analogy for exfoliation:

"Say you wanted to replace a tile floor. If your epidermis is the floor, then exfoliation is the gentle lifting process that breaks up the old, worn out tiles. Next you have to scoop up and sweep away the debris - that's the cleansing step. Finally, fresh tiles have to be laid, which represents the nourish [moisturizing] step."

Dr Lancer goes on to explain:

"Exfoliation creates a 'controlled injury'. Gentle exfoliation sends a message to the dermis that repair should begin and fresh cells are needed, expediting the turnover of cells in your epidermis. The controlled injury achieved by exfoliating turns back the clock by re-energizing the repair process, giving skin a younger, fresher look. The next step is cleansing, which helps to get rid of everything that has been loosened up by exfoliating."

This exfoliation-followed-by-cleansing method optimally prepares the skin for the products that follow. So, when you apply your serums and moisturizers, the antioxidants, vitamins and other beneficial ingredients they contain will be absorbed effectively into the skin.

I had the pleasure of being treated by Dr Lancer in L.A. last year, and I can tell you that he and his staff put a heavy emphasis on exfoliating. Meeting him renewed my commitment to using a physical exfoliant before cleansing.

For the body: daily or every-other-day exfoliation usually works best to keep skin smooth. Particularly on the feet, which are more prone to dryness. I'll be honest, I don't get around to a full-body exfoliation every day. But I do make sure to use a foot pumice on my feet daily in the shower to prevent the dry and cracked skin that can develop there (my favorite is the Tweezerman Pedro Callus Stone). Using the rough end of the pumice, I scrub all around the heel, the sides, and bottom of my feet in short, quick motions. Every time I go for a pedicure, the esthetician will comment on how soft and smooth my feet are, and I always tell her it's because I use my trusty foot pumice in the shower every day. It takes literally less than a minute to exfoliate both feet and is so worth it.

There are three products in particular that I love for exfoliating my face: One Love Organics’ Brand New Day Scrub, Ren’s Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser, and Acure’s Argan Stem Cell Scrub. Each one is gentle yet effective, and will make you love how smooth your face feels. Read my review on each of these products and decide which one is right for you!

Sonia xo