How to exfoliate your body & what are the benefits to body exfoliation?

How to exfoliate your body

When we think of exfoliation, we usually think of facial exfoliation. But the rest of your body can benefit from a good exfoliant too. The question is: what kind of exfoliant is best to use? An exfoliating body scrub? A loofah? A body brush? We go over the DOs and DON'Ts of body exfoliation and explain why the best body exfoliant is a leave-on body exfoliant.

What are the benefits of body exfoliation?

You might be wondering why we should exfoliate and why full body exfoliation is beneficial. With age and accumulated sun damage the skin’s natural ability to shed dead surface cells slows down – sometimes stopping altogether. The result is a build-up of dry, ashy-looking skin that can make your arms, elbows, legs – pretty much everywhere – look dull, uneven and older than they really are.

Should you use a body scrub?

The cosmetics industry traditionally offers one type of product as a solution: an exfoliating body scrub. You’ll find scrubs that contain different types of exfoliating ingredients from polyethylene (also known as plastic microbeads which are being phased out due to environmental concerns) to walnut shells, pumice, volcanic ash, sugar and sea salt.

Why it's best to avoid most body scrubs
With very few exceptions, almost all body scrubs are too abrasive for the skin. They do exfoliate but at the expense of causing tiny micro-tears in the skin. This gradually erodes your skin's protective barrier, leading to dryness, sensitivity and other skin concerns.

Body scrubs are often formulated with fragrances and essential oils, which can cause further issues and trigger irritation (though they do smell good, which makes them tempting).

Loofahs and dry body brushes are no better; in fact, their rough, firm textures and manner of use can make them even worse than scrubs for full body exfoliation, leaving skin redder and rougher than it was before.

What's the best exfoliator for the body?

So what should you use to exfoliate your body? The research is clear: The best way to exfoliate the body is in the form of a leave-on AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant. When well formulated, these exfoliants gently dissolve the bonds holding dead skin to the surface, revealing fresh, healthy-looking, bump-free skin beneath.

Use an AHA body exfoliant that contains glycolic or lactic acid to improve the look of dry, crepey, sun-damaged skin. If your body has drier skin, read more about AHAs and how they help enhance the skin's ability to hold onto vital hydration and promote visibly firmer skin, like no body scrub ever could.

If your skin from the neck down is prone to clogged pores, blemishes and redness or if it is rough and bumpy, look no further than this BHA body exfoliant. Application once or twice daily of this chemical exfoliant for the body will make a world of difference. Read here for the science behind how a BHA is able to make that difference for your skin.

You can consider gentle, fragrance-free body scrubs as a way to deliver extra cleansing to the skin, but not as a solution for the many bodycare concerns that leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliants target.

How often should you exfoliate the body?

How often you should exfoliate your body depends on your skin type:

Normal skin type: If your body has a normal skin type, then we recommend chemical exfoliation twice or three times a week. You can always exfoliate more often if your skin is tolerant to the exfoliant.

Oily skin type: If your body's skin is oilier, you can exfoliate more often. For example, a body with an oilier skin type can exfoliate daily, once you've noted your skin's response.

Sensitive skin: For a body with sensitive skin, we recommend exfoliating once a week at most.

As long as it is applicable to your skin type, consider twice daily application for stubborn skin concerns (think rough skin on your elbows and feet, bacne, or bumpy arm skin) to get the issue(s) under control.

How to exfoliate your legs

Regularly using a leave-on AHA or BHA body exfoliant is a great way to exfoliate legs, a process that will make hair removal in this area much easier, with fewer ingrown hairs.

How to exfoliate legs before shaving is as simple as applying a thin layer of AHA or BHA lotion the night before. The next morning, wash the area when showering – you can use a washcloth if you prefer – and shave as usual. After patting dry, apply a light layer of smoothing body cream to prevent moisture loss and to reinforce the soft, even texture that the leave-on exfoliant provides.

Tip: Do not apply an AHA body lotion to freshly shaven skin. Your skin is more easily irritated just after hair removal, and an AHA exfoliant may cause a stinging sensation.  

If you experience ingrown hairs on your legs, choose a BHA exfoliant instead of an AHA, since BHA is better at loosening the clogs that help create ingrown hairs. 

How much body exfoliant should you use?

When using a chemical exfoliant for the first time, introduce it into your routine slowly. Start by using your exfoliant every other day and then increase usage to once or twice daily based on your skin’s response. Dispense a small amount into the palm of your hand and apply to targeted areas. For daytime use, be sure to follow with a sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher.

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