Is This Minimalist Exfoliation Method the Secret to Clear, Glowy Skin?

Photo: Stocksy/Marija Mandic

Exfoliation has gotten pretty sophisticated. Now all-manner of skin-care scrubs, facial peels, exfoliating wipes, glycolic serums, and renewing masks want to help you keep your pores clear, your skin glowy, and boost your cell turnover (the rate at which your skin sloughs off and reveals fresh, new cells beneath).

While it's very tempting to load up on these legit skin-benefiting methods that all work in slightly different ways, a minimalist approach to facial scrubs is also growing in sink-side popularity.

Exfoliating face powders—totally dry scrubbing particles, often made up of food-grade ingredients like oats, turmeric, and rice grains—are the latest trend to sprinkle beauty shelves and bathroom sinks, even if they're super old-school and simple.

"They don't need any preservatives—since they aren't made with water, they'll stay fresh for a much longer time."

"Exfoliating powders, sometimes known as cleansing grains, are really a wonderful way to exfoliate the skin," says Hannah Brady, aesthetician at clean beauty boutique and spa Credo Beauty. "They're much more prevalent in the natural world because they don't need any preservatives—since they aren't made with water, they'll stay fresh for a much longer time."

Typically, these "grains" are either oats, almond flour, fine sea salt, or rice bran—all of which are considered non-abrasive, unlike certain plastic beads or jagged nut shells found in drugstore-brand scrubs (cough).

"They've been around forever in Ayurvedic skin care, but it's a new sub-genre of exfoliants in the clean beauty world," Brady says. "They're very minimal, and work in harmony with the skin's acid mantle [its protective layer and pH]," she adds, versus some traditional exfoliants she says could strip away the skin's balancing barrier.

While the category is booming, these dry powders require a little DIY action before they're ready for use (and, fun fact, they can be tricky to dispense when your hands are wet). So how do you use them cleanse your face?

Keep reading for pointers on how to use an exfoliating powder for clear, glowy skin.

how to use exfoliating face powders
Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma

How to use an exfoliating powder to cleanse your face

Good news: You don't need any fancy tools or ingredients to activate the powders—just a little real estate near your sink.

1. Add water. "Just put a teaspoon or two into your hand or a small dish and add water," says Brady. "Keep adding a tiny bit of water until you have a paste, which you'll then be able to gently buff with."

2. Add the scrubbing powder to your normal liquid cleanser, she says, which is a key beauty hack to live by for the busy (or lazy) among us.

3. Customize your scrub. You can tweak these for your ideal grit and texture, notes Brady, who enthusiastically says that all sorts of food ingredients work as mixing components. For example, "if you're someone who wants to silken it up a bit, you can add honey," she says. (I'll second the benefits of washing with honey.)

4. Make them into a mask: For some skin-boosting probiotic action, blend the powder with lactic-acid-rich yogurt; or up the exfoliation factor by mixing it into mashed papaya, which contains the effective exfoliating enzyme papain; or mix it with avocado, like Salma Hayek, and let it sink into your skin for added nourishment.

5. Use these pro tips: You want to keep your scrub dry in the bottle, so towel off your hands when opening it to prevent any clogging. Also, the wide mouth jars can be tricker for dispensing since you can't shake them (also do not open them near a fan!), so have a strategy for keeping your scrub particles from flying everywhere.

Which ones do we like? These cleaning grains that use ingredients like turmeric powder and raw cacao are the ones to add to your top shelf ASAP.

For more ways to get that coveted glow, this is the ultra-detoxifying facial that celebs are obsessed with. And this is how to keep your pores clear all summer

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