Facial exfoliation masterclass

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Information & Advice

Beauty Uncovered

WrittenbyKatie Campbellon18/05/2010

Facial exfoliation masterclass

Discover the dos and don'ts of facial exfoliation - from face scrubs to resurfacers and peels - in our facial exfoliation masterclass

The experts agree that careful, regular facial exfoliation is a great complexion-booster. Don't know where to start? Read on for our guide to facial exfoliators, scrubs and resurfacers.

If you're not regularly exfoliating you're missing a trick, say the experts. Why? Because the benefits are numerous. "Facial exfoliation helps to clear the skin surface of sluggish cells and thereby improve smoothness and radiance," explains Dr Lieve De Clerq of Origins. "It also helps to unclog pores and minimise surface imperfections."

Convinced? Here's an in-depth look at two key types of exfoliant, physical scrubs and chemical/fruit acid-based preparations, so you can find your perfect product.

Physical face scrubs

What are they?
Physical scrubs or beads that manually slough away surface dead skin cells. "Granular scrubs come in many forms, from natural grains that can be sharp, through to very smooth polyethylene beads that are very gentle," explains Boots' scientific skincare advisor, Stewart Long.

Rough scrubs:
"Sharper scrubs have a greater exfoliating action - dermabrasion uses sharp metal particles - and have the biggest impact on removing dry, rough skin, but should be used sparingly and never on sensitive skin," says Stewart.

Smooth scrubs:
"Smoother grains are gentle, suitable for all skin types and can be used regularly as they rarely irritate. The benefit may be slower to see though," Stewart explains.

Best for:
Instant results, particularly on rough, dry skin. "Dry skin generally needs more frequent use of scrubs than oily skin, as scrubs can improve flaky skin and dull complexion hugely," says Stewart.

How often can I use them? If you have dry skin, "use a sharp granular scrub once a week or a more gentle granular one twice or three times a week," says Stewart. "Once a week should be sufficient for oily skin." Mature skin? "A gentle scrub twice a week may help," advises Stewart.

Caudalie Gentle Buffing Cream
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Chemical or fruit acid-derived exfoliants

What are they:

Alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic and fruit acids) and beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid), also known as AHAs and BHAs, are derived from a number of sources, including milk, sugar cane, fruits and willow bark. They offer skin resurfacing/smoothing benefits and are available in a variety of forms, from face masks and cleansers to treatment products and peels.

How they differ to scrubs:

"Chemical peels at high concentration work deeper than the mechanical methods that remove the surface layers. AHAs and BHAs work by weakening the bonds between cells at the surface and stimulating their removal," explains Lieve De Clerq. "Manual and granular techniques mechanically remove the surface layers."

Best for:

"The benefits will be most visible on people with a greyish, dull or uneven complexion," says Lieve. Mature, congested or blemished skin will also benefit.

How often can I use them?

It depends on the product. Always read the advice supplied. For example, a cleanser containing AHAs may be designed to be used every day, but a peel may suggest no more than once-weekly usage. "When mildly dosed, certain fruit acids like the ones we use in the berry complex of Origins Brighter By Nature Peel Pads can be used twice a week without irritation. They give that slight extra boost to gently exfoliate and gradually improve the complexion," says Lieve.

Soap & Glory The Fab Pore 15-Minute Facial Peel
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Exfoliation dos and don'ts

  • DON'T over-exfoliate. "Excessive exfoliation will get skin into a defensive, reactive mode," says Lieve De Clerq. So avoid over-use. "Irritation causes redness and damage that speeds up the ageing process."
  • DO use SPF protection. "Severe, over-use of scrubs and chemical peels may thin the upper layers of the skin, making it more sensitive," says Stewart. "Always ensure that you use an SPF15 day cream to protect your skin."
  • DO follow the product instructions to the letter - leaving a facial peel on for longer than recommended won't deliver better results, but could damage your skin.
  • DON'T apply heavy pressure when using a facial scrub. Instead gently massage in circular motions.
  • DO be cautious if you have sensitive skin. Many exfoliators should be avoided by people with sensitive skins. "People with very sensitive skin should make sure they try any products on their hands first and discontinue if redness occurs," warns Lieve.

Read more like this:
Beauty blog
Face masks: The new problem solvers
Back to basics: Exfoliating your body
Five quick rules: Ageing skin and wrinkles
Five quick rules: Spots and blemishes

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