Hold up: We’ve All Been Exfoliating Our Skin Wrong This Entire Time

Photo: Getty Images/ LWA/Dann Tardif
Just as there are many ways to eat an avocado or do an oblique exercise, so too are there many ways to exfoliate your skin. As a beauty editor, I thought I'd heard them all (and knew exactly which ones not to try for myself), until Ada Polla, CEO of Swiss brand Alchimie Forever, brought an entirely new method to my attention: Scrubbing your skin with an oil-based exfoliant when it's dry, instead of wet, will help you reap its maximum skin-softening benefits.

Because oil and water don't mix, using an oil-based exfoliant (like Alchimie Forever's Gentle Refining Scrub, $45) on dry skin is the best way to ensure it's working to its full potential. “Physical exfoliation to dry skin is very much an 'old-style European' way to exfoliate the skin versus the American way that incorporates a lot of water in all skin-care steps," says Polla. "Part of the benefit comes from massaging the product into the skin in true European gommage fashion, which does not work on wet skin."

In case you're reading this and wondering, "WTF is a gommage?!", allow me to explain: The term gommage comes from the French word "to scrub," and usually refers to products that utilize a combo of gentle physical and chemical exfoliants to remove dead skin cells from the surface. And while it may seem like the question of using them on dry versus wet skin should come down to preference, it actually comes down to formulation.

"When it comes to using a physical scrub or gommage to exfoliate the skin, whether or not you wet the skin first depends on the entire formulation of the product," confirms dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD. "If the base is more foamy or gel-like, wet the skin first. If the base is oil like that of an oil cleanser, it’ll work better on dry skin because water repels oil." This, it's worth noting, holds true for both face and body exfoliation, so before you do either, be sure to check your ingredients list.

Before you grab for a gommage, here's how to tell if your skin-care routine has already got too many ingredients in it. And if you really want to treat yourself to some skin-care porn, peep this $265 moisturizer that's destined to be the next La Mer. 

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