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Smoothing it Out: Exfoliate Your Skin

30 Days of Beauty, Day 4: Smooth Your Skin and Prep it for Makeup and Products With The Right Exfoliation

Skin exfoliation is a fancy term for scrubbing dead skin cells from the body. The very top layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, is composed of dead skin cells that help protect the skin from sun damage as well as toxins and pollutants. It also helps to lock moisture in the skin. But too may dead cells on the layer of the skin can cause the skin to look ashy or dull. Removing the dead skin cells also gets rid of the dirt and oils that have accumulated on the top of the skin and preps the skin for treatment ingredients or for a smooth makeup application.

Exfoliating Skin Care

Easy Exfoliation With Scrubs

The simplest way to exfoliate is to scrub the face gently with a scrub and then rinse with cool water. Even a rough washcloth rubbed with some pressure will provide light exfoliation. Facial scrubs come in many forms, but it is bet to look for something fairly gentle. Look for terms such as “light scrub,” “buffing beads,” or “sensitive skin” to avoid an irritating product. For those who are scrubbing fanatics and like a heavy scrub, ingredients such as sugar or apricot hull often provide a heavier exfoliation. Or look for terms such as “microdermabrasion” on the cream’s label

Need a simple and easy gentle scrub? Try this DIY tip from Elvira at The Pink Sith Blog:

“ A beautiful face starts with a great foundation.  If your skin is looking dull and tired and your foundation just isn’t applying the way you like, try a quick baking soda scrub.

Take about a teaspoon of baking soda and mix it with your regular cleanser (foaming or cream, it works with both) Add a little water to the Baking Soda/Cleanser mixture to make it foam a bit.  Gently massage the Cleanser/Baking Soda on your face making sure to avoid the delicate eye and lip area.

When rinsing off, move your fingertips in a circular motion all over your face.  Dry your face as usual and follow with your regular skin care. (Avoid AHA/BHAs if you have sensitive skin and if this is the first time using the baking soda scrub.) Your skin will be so smooth and perfect for applying foundation.

This is a great exfoliator for even sensitive skin, the amount of pressure you apply will determine how much scrubbing your skin gets. But remember when it comes to your face and exfoliation, less is more!”

Also don’t forget to exfoliate your lips!  Toni at ToniizBeauty provides this tip: “To exfoliate your lips, wet your toothbrush and gently rub on your lips. The apply your favorite lip balm for soft lips! This will also help your lipstick application to go on more smoothly.”

Chemical Exfoliation

Other exfoliation methods involve using toners, serums, or creams that contain chemical exfoliating ingredients.

Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A and can be found in creams. Dermatologists also use them to prevent acne, treat wrinkles and perform chemical peels on patients. They were first used to treat acne, then people noticed that they seemed to rejuvenate skin. What they do is increase the turnover rate of the skin cells on the surface of the skin, which causes new cells to grow and take their place. They also support the growth of the layer of collagen beneath the skin. Collagen keeps skin elastic.

Other substances that help to exfoliate the skin are fruit acids or alpha hydroxy acids, which are not all necessarily from fruit. One of these substances is obtained from sugar cane and another is lactic acid, from sour milk. They are often used in chemical peels, which also cause dead cells to slough away from the surface of the skin.

Fruit acids are rather mild exfoliates and like retinoids they have substances that loosen or destroy the protein bonds that keep dead skin cells attached to the layer of the skin. They also prompt the body to make more collagen. Very strong applications of these exfoliants might irritate the skin and cause redness, stinging and dryness. A person who’s being treated with alpha hydroxyl acids or with retinol should also use a sunscreen when they go out into the sun, as the dead skin cells that form a layer of protection have been removed.

Beta hydroxy acids are stronger than alpha hydroxy acids and can remove the dead skin cells more effectively. One beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid, which is related to aspirin. Trichloroacetic peels not only exfoliate, but can repair blemishes, fine wrinkles and discolorations. They are sometimes used with retinoids or fruit acids.


For even deeper exfoliation, some people turn to microdermabrasion. This is a gentler form of dermabrasion. Both procedures remove the skin’s outer layer and do much more than remove dead skin cells. Microdermabrasion is an outpatient operation that’s done in the dermatologist’s office. In one type, miniscule crystals of aluminum oxide or another substance sand off the top layer of the skin. At the same time a vacuum tool sucks up the excess exfoliant and the dead skin cells. In another type of microdermabrasion, the dermatologist removes the upper layer of dead skin cells with a wand tipped with an industrial diamond. Home Microdermabrasion has also now become popular, with a number of great home products on the market.

What do bloggers prefer?

Beauty bloggers in general love exfoliation, whether it be by scrub, cream, serum, microdermabrasion or peels.

In regard to brands, Emma J. the model and blogger behind The Journey of an NY Actress  says “I am a huge fan of  Burts Bees citrus facial scrub, it keeps my skin from looking dull. It is gentle enough to use daily. Living in a city we have pollution coming from every direction so our skin really has a lot to deal with on a daily basis.” Emma also swears by monthly Microdermabrasion.

Here at Beauty and Fashion Tech, we love the Personal Microderm and the Skinsonic or Clarisonic for home use. Read more about them in our Home Microdermabrasion Buyer’s Guide.

For scrubs and serums, we are fans of DermaDoctor Poetry in Lotion, a retinoid lotion. You an read our previous review here: Poetry in Lotion Review.  We also love Bioelements Pumic Peel, a fine grain scrub that can give light exfoliation with light pressure and heavy exfoliation with heavy pressure. Here is our Pumice Peel Review.

Finally for at home peels, the Brazilian Peel is a great at home Glycolic peel that is on the gentle side, yet packs a powerful punch.

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