There are few things more satisfying than using a grainy scrub on your skin. All that sloughing makes you feel like you’re taking a layer of grime off your face and, with it, every blemish or imperfection you may have.
However, in reality, exfoliating can actually give you more skin problems if you’re not doing it correctly — or using the right products. We turned to the experts to find out exactly how to get the most out of our favorite step in our facial cleansing routine.
1. Don’t do it daily.
Do not use exfoliating acids or exfoliate every day, says celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau. Acids that are left on the skin, such as acid-based serums or moisturizers, can actually cause inflammation (even if this is not visible), which will accelerate the aging process. Acids can be used every other day while, for most skin types, a facial scrub should be used no more than three-to-four times a week, she says. Your skin needs a certain amount of protection to retain moisture levels and to prevent over-exfoliation.
2. Pick your scrubbing agent carefully.
Stay away from large grain exfoliators, says beauty expert David Pollock, as they are too harsh on the skin. (Facial scrubs containing apricot kernels, walnut husks or other natural grains have sharp edges that can scratch and lacerate the skin, causing irritation, adds Rouleau). Scrubs with plastic beads are also problematic, at least from an environmental perspective. (All that waste accumulates, plus, why would you want to use plastic to clean your face?) Instead, Pollock suggests looking for low-level gentle exfoliators that use jojoba beads or crushed rice grains and won’t over exfoliate the skin.
3. Watch your pressure.
When massaging a facial scrub across your face, use light pressure in circular motions, Rouleau advises. Even though you might feel like you’re getting a deeper cleanse by using heavy pressure, scrubbing too hard can cause irritation.
4. Never exfoliate dry skin.
Particularly for those with sensitive skin, make sure to only apply facial scrub when your skin is damp, Rouleau says. Using the product on damp skin will dilute the facial scrub, by making it less aggressive and keeping any potential irritation at bay.
5. Avoid fragrance.
Particularly with facial scrubs, it’s best to avoid a synthetic fragrance or perfume, Rouleau says. The addition of fragrance in a facial scrub can irritate the fresh, new skin cells revealed through the exfoliation process.
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