As far as exfoliation goes, I think I’ve worked my way through all the stages.
Stage 1: This is where we all start. Our skin is relatively perfect, but maybe we’ve recently turned 13 and started reading Seventeen. Suddenly, we become aware that something is wrong with our skin and we need to scrub all the layers off. That ad for St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub starts looking mighty tempting and plus, it’s only like $5, so your mom will definitely buy it for you. Or maybe she still has a tube of it in the shower—bonus! You start using it religiously, even though it kind of hurts. It does smell good, at least.
Stage 2: we’ve grown, we’ve evolved, and yet that tube of St. Ive’s is still mocking us, calling our names. But it leaves our skin so smooth. We read blog posts about other things and have our doubts… but St. Ive’s… so smooth.
Stage 3: We throw away the St. Ives and try to find something else. It might the most expensive thing the sales associate at Sephora recommends to us. We aren’t sure if it is any better than St. Ive’s, but hey, it’s worth a shot.
Stage 4: We stop exfoliating because we read a bunch of scary articles about it. Microtears!? Advanced aging?! No thanks.
Stage 5: We accept exfoliating—a gentler, kinder form of exfoliating—back into our lives.
For years, I read things saying that exfoliating would make my acne worse, or better. That it would worsen my scarring, or make it better. I never felt like I had a straight answer.
If you’re looking for a straight answer, I’m not sure I can provide one. Here’s what I can say: if exfoliating in any way makes you feel like your skin is better, why not do it? If you don’t connect exfoliating to any ill effects, go for it. Some skin types will benefit more from exfoliating than others—and deciding if it is for you is entirely personal.
So, when it comes to gentle exfoliating, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 products that I can’t live without. If you’re looking to up your exfoliation routine, I recommend these. And the best part? They’re all highly affordable.
1. A Face Sponge or Brush
I use a charcoal konjac sponge I got at TJ Maxx to gently exfoliating with my favorite cleanser a few times a week. It was about $2.99 if I remember right, but you can find very similar products at Wal-mart, Ulta, Target, and much more—all for under $10, mostly under $5. I have used a face brush in the past (a $6 one from Sephora brand) and while I liked it, I found it was much more difficult to keep clean. No matter what, it should be something that’s not super harsh.
2. A Gentle Exfoliating Product
I love my Holika Holika Pig Nose exfoliator; as I said when I reviewed it, it’s an acidic exfoliator that doesn’t require scrubbing, but rather helps to pull dead skin away. I use this a little less than once a week now—maybe once every 10 days or so—on my T-zone and chin. It has made a huge difference in the appearance of my acne scars, as well as my pores. It’s one of my favorite products of 2018! It only costs about $2.99 if you can find it at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, but you can also order it from Amazon quite affordably.
Other products might work better for you. I’m quite intrigued by the new L’Oreal Pure Sugar scrubs, so they’re on my list to try. One thing I do try to avoid is 1) plastic microbeads, as they are terrible for the environment and 2) anything with walnut shells, as they are too harsh to use on my skin.
3. A Great Cleanser
We tend of think of exfoliating as something we should do only once a week… because that’s what we’ve been told. But the truth is, when you wash your face, you exfoliate. It’s just a natural part of the process. We know now that that thing about hot water opening pores and cold water closing them is a myth (I know, that’s a hard one to shake!); and we also know that we don’t need to physically scrub our skin all the time for it to be properly exfoliating. A combination of good daily cleansing, acidic exfoliation, and using a sponge a few times a week can help us have great skin that doesn’t get dull due to congested or dead skin.
I really like Pure Clay cleansers, as well as the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil facial cleanser. One important thing I started doing in 2018? Washing my face for 60 seconds each night. Yes, that’s right: 60 seconds. On average, we tend to only wash our faces for 15 seconds, perhaps 20. But if you spend a little more time rubbing small circles with your fingers over you skin with your cleanser for 60 seconds, you’ll notice a huge difference in your skin’s texture. Trust me.