Flaky, dehydrated and dull winter skin means it’s time to bring out the big guns. Proper exfoliation with the correct products leaves skin soft, glowing and refreshed. If you’re not sure why or how to do it, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about exfoliating your face.

Let’s start with the “why.” Getting rid of the dead, dry cells will immediately make your skin look brighter and feel silky to the touch. It cleans out oils and debris from your pores, which means less spots and blackheads, it can help to fade hyper pigmentation and help to boost collagen production. Not to mention, without the layer of dead cells sitting on the surface of your face, your serums, lotions and creams are easily able to penetrate deeper in to the skin, allowing them to work a lot more effectively.

Exfoliants generally fall in to two different categories: physical and chemical. They basically have the same purpose- to slough away dead cells- but they do so in very different ways.

PHYSICAL EXFOLIATION: literally scrubbing or scraping away the surface layer of the skin.

  • Using a product that contains granules or beads. Try to avoid products that contain artificial microbeads! These are terrible for the environment and cause the death of thousands of sea creatures a year. They’re actually banned in most major countries around the world. A good alternative is the soluble jojoba bead.
  • Electronic cleansing brushes like the Clarisonic
  • Daily use of a flannel or washcloth

Professional treatments include:

  • Microdermabrasion which is when the aesthetician uses a device that simultaneously blasts tiny crystals on to the skin and sucks away debris. This is ideal for people with scarring, prominent wrinkles or dark areas.
  • Dermaplaning which uses a scalpel to remove the fine outer layer of the skin and downy hair- it sounds much worse than it actually is. The at-home version of this gained popularity this year after many high-profile beauty bloggers claimed that they swear by shaving their faces uses tiny Japanese blades.

CHEMICAL EXFOLIATION: applying an acid solution to the face to gently dissolve dead cells.

There are two main types of acids to look out for: AHAs, alphahydroxy acids, and BHAs, betahydroxy acids.

AHAs are derived from fruit enzymes. The main acids to look out for in your products are: glycolic (made from sugar cane), malic (from apples), citric (from lemons), lactic (from milk), papain (from papaya) and bromelain (from pineapples). The fruit enzymes break down the keratin in skin and target only the outermost layer of the epidermis; so they are generally suitable for all types of skin, even the most sensitive of complexions will benefit from using them.

BHAs are oil-soluble molecules that reach much further down in to the skin, meaning they provide a much deeper exfoliation. This type of chemical exfoliator is recommended for those with acne-prone and very oily skin. If stubborn blackheads are a concern, BHAs are the way to go.

I try to stick to twice a week, but how often you exfoliate really depends on your skin type. If you’re oilier go for twice to three time a week , once will do for drier types.

Signs you could be over-doing it include:

  • Tightness
  • Flaking
  • Increased sensitivity to your normal products
  • Burning
  • Increased dehydration
  • Redness
  • Acne breakouts
  • Hyper pigmentation
  • Broken capillaries on the cheeks, nose or chin

Things to remember:

  • Do not use cleansing brushes or washcloths in conjunction with scrubs. If you use your Clarisonic, then a scrub, then a peeling overnight product or retinol, your skin will be stripped bare and feel raw.
  • Be gentle with your face, neck and décolleté. They’re more delicate than the body.
  • What we take away we need to replenish, so be sure to moisturise well afterwards.
  • If you have the symptoms of over-exfoliation, SPF is your priority. Your skin will need maximum protection until it regains its natural protective barrier.

Below are a few of my personal favourites that smooth and brighten without causing redness or discomfort.

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