Exfoliants

Reviewed by Linda Nelson

Stripping away tired old skin by using an exfoliant can be a rejuvenating experience for your face. Exfoliants smooth your skin, jump-start the production of new collagen and may help improve the appearance of fine lines and mild acne.

Exfoliation is a process that sloughs dead skin cells from the top layer of skin, allowing new rejuvenated skin to surface. For infants, natural exfoliation occurs every few days. But for adults, this process slows down substantially. Exfoliation treatment helps make up for the lessening natural process, to preserve and enhance the tone and texture of your skin.

How Exfoliation Works

After an exfoliation treatment, new skin develops. Your new skin absorbs moisture more easily. Maintaining moisture helps slow the wrinkle process and produces a more glowing appearance.

Facial cloths, Loofah sponges, exfoliation brushes, and body scrubs stimulate the rejuvenation process.

Cloths, Sponges, and Brushes

Facial cloths are good for lighter treatments. They are designed with small fibers to cleanse and lightly exfoliate facial skin.

Natural loofah sponges tend to be more flexible than commercial sponges. Downy loofah sponges are less abrasive for sensitive skin. Tougher areas such as the heels, feet, or elbows may need a dense loofah sponge or exfoliation brush.

Exfoliation brushes may be very intense on the skin. Watch the effects of different types of bristles and different amounts of pressure applied — adjust as needed for best results.

Exfoliation Scrubs

Exfoliation scrubs can provide greater benefit than exfoliation with brushes alone. Salt-based and sugar-based scrubs are good options. Many scrubs today also contain ingredients that manufacturers tout as mood enhancers. Some of these ingredients include polyethylene beads, pumice, ground loofah, sand, crushed grape seed, aluminum oxide particles, ground fruit pits, sodium tetraborate decahydrate granules, apricot seeds, oatmeal, oat bran, natural honey, extracts of jasmine, ylang ylang, cactus flower, aloe vera, chia, and jojoba.

Granules found in exfoliant scrubs vary in size. Scrubs containing larger granules may be appropriate for less sensitive skin, while smaller granules are more appropriate for sensitive skin. The size of your sebaceous oil glands is another factor in deciding the right type of exfoliation treatment. Skin types with large sebaceous oil glands can sustain more abrasive ingredients than skin types with smaller oil glands.

Abrasiveness within the granule, including uneven edges and irregular shapes, can damage skin. Equally important, people with skin disorders, including those with acne or blemishes, have to be extremely cautious when selecting an exfoliation scrub. Dry skin can also be irritated by exfoliation scrubs.

From natural substances such as botanical extracts and almond shells, to alpha hydroxyl acids, every ingredient works differently. Use caution when applying a particular exfoliation scrub for the first time. Some ingredients, though natural, may be too harsh for your particular skin type. You'll have to experiment and make adjustments until you find the right products for your skin.

Consult Your Doctor

When you are deciding on the right type of exfoliant for your face, consult your doctor or a skincare professional. Your doctor can help you create an individualized facial-cleansing and exfoliation regimen, in concert with any combination treatment plan you may be following.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Linda Nelson is the director of education for ZO SKIN HEALTH, by Zein Obagi, MD. She is based in Irvine, Calif.