Exfoliation is one of those things that we need to do year-round, but we must adjust the way we do it as temperatures change. Now that the weather is warm and our skin barriers are stronger, we can incorporate gentle(!) manual exfoliation into our body-care routine. This means physically scrubbing to exfoliate instead of relying on chemically exfoliating acids. To do it right, Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, Califonia, is a big fan of using exfoliating mitts around this time of year.
"When used properly, exfoliating mitts can really give a nice, gentle manual exfoliation, where you can gently remove the buildup of dead skin cells on the stratum corneum, your top layer of skin, and the accumulation of skin-care products," says Dr. Lee. "We're spending a lot of time outdoors, and exfoliating is a great way to make sure you don't have buildup from layers of sunscreen, insect repellent, sand, sweat, and all of that."
If you find yourself shaving more often, an exfoliating mitt, like the Ameliorate Exfoliating Body Mitt ($14) can help "prevent or relieve ingrown hairs so they don't cause irritation or folliculitis," says Dr. Lee. Plus, it's a great first step before using a self-tanner. "Self-tanner, which is the safest way to actually get a tanned look, goes on a lot more easily and much smoother application if you exfoliate beforehand."
To get the best use out of your exfoliating mitt, Dr. Lee says there are three rules you must follow.
How to use an exfoliating mitt
1. Don't overdo it
The key to getting the most out of your exfoliating treatment is to make sure you don't overdo it. Let the mitt do its thing without applying a ton of pressure. You're buffing your skin—not trying to scrub it raw. You also want to make sure you're exfoliating healthy skin. If you're using it on skin that's super dry and flakey or has any sort of irritation, you could make the issue worse.
2. Pair with the right products
Before you start your exfoliating routine, wash your body with a gentle non-soap body cleanser to ensure you're starting with clean skin (your standard body wash should do). Then, once you're finished, apply a lotion or oil to keep skin smooth.
3. Keep the mitt clean
It's critically important to keep your mitt clean and dry. Rinse it out with your soap after use, ring out excess water, and hang it so it can air dry. "If you don't hang it to dry and let it really aerate, you can have a buildup of bacteria that if you then use it on your skin, you could potentially cause a bacterial skin infection, bacterial folliculitis," says Dr. Lee.
4. Replace it often
Even if you're doing your best to keep your mitt clean, it's not designed to last forever. "If you're using it on a daily basis or every other day, you should probably replace it every month," says Dr. Lee.
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