The Whys and Hows of Exfoliation

We constantly hear how important it is to exfoliate, but chances are you are not doing it properly. You can both over-exfoliate and use the wrong ingredients, both will cause damage to your skin. So while it is important to make sure you exfoliate (as dead skin cells left on the surface of your skin can do everything from reduce the efficacy of absorption from the products you apply, increase dryness, aging and irritation to clog pores), it matters with what and how often. Most people are not exfoliating properly.  


I often get asked questions about exfoliating. Is necessary, how often, with what??  In order to maintain healthy, youthful, glowing skin we do need to both remove old dead skin cells and encourage proper cellular turn over. Exfoliating both removes the old dead skin cells and speeds up cell renewal and enabling new healthy skin cells to grow.

Your body is continuously producing new cells to replace those that naturally die off. As we age cellular turnover slows down, especially skin cells. This slower turnover and excessive dead skin laying on the surface, is one of the causes for dull, lackluster, unhealthy, wrinkled skin.  Additionally dead skin cells clog your pores and create blockage, wreaking havoc for your skin.

Knowing the why is only half of the story when it comes to exfoliating. It is equally important that you know the how so you do not cause damage to your skin in an effort to keep it beautiful.


There are several different kinds of exfoliates. They all work differently and are not all effective or safe for skin. Products can contain fruit seeds (apricot), nut shells (walnut), salt or sugar, chemicals, acids, ingredients that “digest’ your dead skin cell, circular exfoliates (jojoba beads), grounds nuts, grains and flours.

Long gone are the days of abrasive over scrubbing. It scratches, tears and rips your skin causing micro abrasions. These tiny abrasions damage your skin and accelerate aging. Avoid any products that containexfoliates with jagged sharp edges that do not dissolve such as pit fruit seeds and nutshells. 

In the case of salt and sugar where they are square (and do start with sharp edges), they dissolve with water and with the circular motions of applying, become circular, thus preventing any skin damage. Spherical exfoliates are gentile and safe for skin, but there is environmental concerns with some.

Chemicals, acids, peels and micro derma abrasion can burn, blister, cause redness and swelling, thinning to your skin as well as age the appearance of skin over time. You may feel more youthful looking after the first few sessions, but in the long run they can accelerate aging and damage skin. Some can be safe and effective in small doses.

Natural ingredients that “digest your dead skin cell, grounds nuts, grains and flours are effective, safe and work wonderful to slough of dead skin in proper formulations. 

Exfoliating Tips

  • If you have sensitive skin, you should test a small patch of skin before using any product. Even the purest ingredients can set off someone with sensitive skin. I have seen pure strawberry jam make someone’s skin turn bright red and burn.
  • People with acne should not exfoliate at all until the break out clears as it can spread acne.
  • Dry skin sufferers should use cream based and moisture rich exfoliates.
  • Skin that is oily should avoid oil free products.
  • To determine how often you should be exfoliating, talk to your skin care professional. Climate, skin type, skin history and other factors make it an important conversation to have to determine what is correct for you. A good rule of thumb however using the above mentioned healthy methods is: 1-2 times a week in your 20’s, 2-3 times a week in your 30’s and every other day MAX there after.
  • Always rinse with luke warm, not hot water.
  • Use the ring and middle fingers and apply products in an upward circular motion with out lots of pressure.

Make Your Own (good for all skin types except those with acne present)

Facial Scrub

  • 1/2 tablespoon almonds
  • 1/4 tea honey
  • 1/4 soymilk
  • 1/8 tea green tea

*Please note: there is no essential oil in this formulation for a reason. Please do not add it. Essential oils should only be used on your face as part of the “active” ingredient in a formulation, not for smell. Your skin is better off without them, unless it is for a specific issue and used as the active, resist the urge to add.

Make a paste with the almonds in a food processor. Do not make butter; stop when the almonds are ground before they go to creamy butter.

Add other ingredients, pulse a few times, and remove from processor.

Will keep in refrigerator for 3-5 days. This is an amazingly effective at home scrub. It is filled with EFA, skin repairing and mending ingredients, plus it has the added benefits of easing wrinkles and both meal to remove the cells as well as ingredients that will “digest” the dead skin cells.

Body Scrub

  • 1/8 cup oat flour (you can substitute the flour with finely ground rolled oats, ground in a coffee grinder. Don’t worry about any coffee residue, it wonderful for cellulite)
  • 1/8 cup sea salt
  • Olive, safflower, almond or pistachio oil
  • Mix flour and salt. Add oil in 1 tablespoon increments until the salt/flour mixture lightly is coated.
  • 2 drops of essential oil of your choice optional

The addition of oats is so soothing and softening to your skin, you will feel the difference right away.

These formulas are not a “fun” DIY home product they are made for results. When I give out formulas for the DIY-ers, I formulate from your cupboards for results!

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