I exfoliate my face like it’s my job. Because…it kind of is. My beauty cabinet is chock-full of chemical exfoliating enzyme face masks, (non-walnut) facial scrubs, and exfoliating peels to keep my complexion clear and glowing. But my body? It’s consistently covered in flakes. That’s because I literally never think about exfoliating my body, despite how many more square feet of skin it covers compared to my face.
“The benefit of exfoliating your body is to break down and remove dead skin cells from the top layers of the skin and unblock pores to reveal healthy skin cells beneath for a smoother appearance,” says Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual. “Body exfoliation also helps to stimulate and increase blood circulation to achieve healthy and glowing skin, and leaves the newly revealed skin hydrated and nourished.”
But exfoliating your body is a bit different than the practice than you’re used to with the skin on your face. “It’s not the same rules when you’re exfoliating your body,” says Shirley Chi, MD, a California-based dermatologist. “The skin on your body is different. First of all, the skin is thicker. And it’s also drier than the skin on your face because there are fewer oil glands—that’s why on the body you tend to be more prone to dry skin.”
In other words, getting that lizard-like, scaly skin is a totally commonplace situation between your head and toes. “This happens when the weather changes,” says Dr. Chi. But you have as many different options to exfoliate your body as you do your face—you’ve got physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants, which can both do the job. “There are a lot of different ways to exfoliate your body—with chemical options, I think a light acid is good,” says Dr. Chi. “My favorite for the body is lactic acid, and LHA which is a lipo-hydroxy acid. These are less irritating than, say, glycolic for people with sensitive skin.”
As far as physical scrubs go, Dr. Chi recommends sugar, coffee, and salt—the basics (which, BTW, are great to DIY). “If you’re going to do mechanical scrubbing, just stay away from microbeads and stick with naturally occurring products,” she says. Pink is also on board with the more natural physical exfoliants: “I recommend an organic coconut sugar and organic jojoba oil based exfoliation,” she says. “Coconut sugar is a softer exfoliation than cane sugar, salts, or nut shells.” Fun fact: Coconut sugar is a natural source of glycolic acid, and it’s packed with essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, sodium, magnesium, B vitamins, and amino acids, according to Pink.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed because you now have to remember to not only exfoliate your face but your entire body too, don’t worry—the pros say you actually don’t have to do it that often. “Ideally it’d be nice if you did it once every 10 days,” says Dr. Chi. That said, Pink recommends one to two times per week if you have sensitive skin, and three to four if you’re on the oily side. Whatever it takes to keep the scales at bay.
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